Increasingly, new businesses concepts are looking to leverage innovative technology – particularly on smart devices, to access their marketplace. Mobile devices and smart technology have connected the world like never before, and offer a seamlessly managed interaction between vendor and customer. The mobile device and smart apps provide a mobile shop front; easily accessed, anytime, anywhere. But the longer we live with smart technology as part of our day-to-day lives, the clearer it becomes that we are only scratching the surface of its overwhelming potential. When applied to higher-minded ideas, smart technology can have real world impacts that exceed convenience or commercial value.

The runner up in the 2017 MITEF Saudi award in the startup track does just that. Using innovative technology, the iBOAT smart app is making Saudi waters safer for boaters – with the added benefit of protecting the environment at the same time. iBOAT harnesses the power of the ‘internet of things’ (IOT) to sync the marine Automatic Identification System (AIS) to create an identity for every boat, integrating the boat’s existing AIS with a mobile app.

The Smart Navigational Captain System enables users to capitalise on the GPS technology in their smartphones, constantly reporting their position and status – making search and rescue much simpler should the need arise. iBOAT has also created a sea lovers’ platform where all can share their trip’s records, with pictures, reviews, and a rating system for boat-owners and end-users of rented boats. iBOAT is now working on a prototype ‘smart’ boat using a single on-board computer that connect the boat’s marine devices to the cloud using international IOT simcards, Sigfox, and Lora technologies.

Environmental protection will be enhanced by some of the smart boats having water sensors to measure sea pollution, ion levels, temperature, and pH – data that will be invaluable in monitoring and regulating marine resources. The business began in 2013 as the iDiveTeam, based on the founders’ love of the sea and marine activities since childhood – swimming, fishing, snorkelling, and scuba diving.

Mohnnad A. Babaeer CEO iBOAT said; “In the beginning we used to go with friends or sometimes rent and plan a fishing trip among ourselves. “After finishing college abroad, I came back home and saw the huge increase in the number of diving shops, divers, and diving instructors. What really interested me was seeing the number of enthusiasts in my home city of Jeddah, so in 2013 we decided to establish a small boating agency.

“We started with one boat that we bought and operated ourselves. We made money and bought the second boat. After that, we thought we didn’t just want to keep on buying boats. “Why not change our business model and make a partnership with every boat in the MENA region by creating the perfect smartphone app that would solve all the problems of boating and renting?

“Our GPS-based app enables boat owners to make money by operating rental trips and tours – a shared economy model that helps sea lovers who always rent boats to go fishing, diving, or even just for cruising so that they can find the best boat for their weekend’s trip. “We start when roads end – always providing our users with high-quality trips. The app has Smart Blue Charts (sea maps) in unique machine-learning algorithms that give the navigational captain guidance on where to go for the best fishing or diving according to the season. “As a Saudi-based company, the iBoat team has worked hard to overcome the challenges presented to it. Tertiary service-based industry, particularly in terms of home-grown technology concepts, is often difficult to develop. Access to market, and creating brand awareness, can be challenging obstacles to overcome in-country without support.

“We have grown through word of mouth, promotion on social media, and using free trending e-commerce websites that relates to our industry. Our success is very much due to my amazing team – I believe in them and vice versa. And because we enjoy doing what we do, no one could be better at it than us. “We always have a strong will to take the right steps to fulfil our vision and our commitment to innovation.”

Like so many other entrants, iBOAT has benefited from the guidance, mentorship, and support provided by MITEF. Mohnnad A. Babaeer describes his experience with MITEF Saudi as “incredibly amazing – we have learned so much and networked with such inspiring people in the ultimate ecosystem to support entrepreneurs in the Kingdom and all over the world.

“The experience will definitely benefit our success. The expert feedback has made us stronger as we now advance to the MITEF Pan-Arab competition. We will continue developing the app, building strong infrastructure, increasing sales, and making sure iBOAT is the best tool for all sea lovers. “I would recommend all fellow entrepreneurs to get involved with MITEF Saudi and advise them that if they want to be winners they must dream big and follow that with hard work to build sales by making their product to the very best standards of quality.”