Quill: scripting an idea

Circadian in 2016

The Quill service allows Enterprises to recognise its own customers and weed out imposters.

It seems like quite the leap from our fintech origins, so how did it come about? A review of the big steps of 2016.

The concept slowly came into being as two separate work-streams merged. As keen dataphiles, for some time we had been quietly experimenting with the internet of things, physical movement and trying to capture measures of "flow".

Flow-capture workings then collided with the very public problems we were all following (and still are) in the password / authentication space, and the idea of using physical motion as a method of recognition was born. Although, if I'm very honest, I have, for as long as I can remember, harboured the suspicion driving Quill, namely that our mannerisms and physical tics are like accents, instantly recognisable to those who know us.

First MVP
The first Quill prototype (a walking definition of MVP) was nervously shown in public in Q2 2016, and, much to our surprise, wasn't torn to shreds by an audience with the credentials to do so. I'm not sure if this is the textbook use of an MVP, but this certainly gave us a massive confidence boost - validation if you will.

Accordingly, it was time to begin taking the project seriously and begin devoting resources full time.

Of course, getting carried away with the fun of engineering meant we had it all backwards: the original MVP (and its immediate descendants) was created in a rather blue-sky way. Sure we knew we hadn't personally experienced something akin to Quill, and could evidence the credential problem, but that didn't mean Quill lookalikes weren't already in existence elsewhere.

Conceit Testing
Q3 of 2016 was spent primarily on market research. And, lo-and-behold Quill wasn't totally new: there's a thriving, and fast-moving, Online Fraud Detection market out there. Once recovery from the egotistical shock of realising one's uniqueness is less so, it is of course a massive comfort to know that there is a market.

The reverse case is probably awful, but in our case we know that people want, or rather, are prepared to pay for, services akin to Quill; success will come from finding, inhabiting, and tending to, your own niche.

It would be remiss to go through a market research phase without actually talking with customers, and some tentative, non-salesy calls were made to potential customers (leveraging the networks of friends and colleagues) where we would pack in as many questions as possible (we had a flowchart to keep on track) until the counterpart began to lose interest.

It's a topic for another blog (you'll have to trust me for now), but, as it happens, Quill is different, coming at the problem slightly askance. On the other hand, it would be entirely vainglorious, and foolhardy, of me to suggest that Quill exited the market research phase looking exactly as it had entered.

R&D Grants
Sometime near the end of Q3 2016 we knew we had a kernel sufficiently developed that we began the application process for an R&D grant.

I'm probably singing to the choir, but grant application is difficult, arguably, with good reason. Without any rationale expectation of success, the hours it takes crafting responses can be draining. Setting aside the financial support (which may be motivation enough), when ennervated, it might be worth focusing on how transformative R&D grants can be: winning one is not only another visible milestone for any project, but with it comes plenty of further validation that can be taken from winning another Keynesian beauty competition.

End of Year
In Q4 2016 Circadian ultimately won its R&D grant to develop Quill. The work that the grant supports continues yet, but the first version of Quill offered as a service, and recognisable in its current guise, was demo'd to a friendly audience in December.

Posted in cyber security.