Meet the Team – Mark Applin, Founder

This month we introduce you to our founder, Mark Applin.

Mark is an accomplished communications professional and founder of both Intermedia and Signly. He has provided strategic communications and tactical support to many clients for many years.  His clients span internal and external audiences in ATM, loss prevention, retail and beyond.

Recent work includes co-authoring The Little Book of Loss. Now in it’s forth edition with global sales of over 45,000 copies. Translated into Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Polish and German. Furthermore, The Little Book series has also been extended into a collection. The collection now includes titles relevant to Customer Service, Health and Safety and Cyber Security.

Mark has a passion for communication, problem solving and technology. Signly was conceived and developed in 2015 by Mark and a charity with a committed to transforming the lives of d/Deaf people through technology.


Signly team members
Signly team members Tim Scannell and Mark Applin.

Passion for change

In partnership with the charity, both the charity and Mark had a passion for making a change. Mark tells us:

“The charity had been working for over 30 years to empower d/Deaf people to lead more fulfilling lives. To do this, d/Deaf people need equal access to information, advice and services. Signly has and will continue to play a significant role in extending this equality of access. Signly delivers smart British Sign Language (BSL) signed content directly to the user’s mobile device.
Until now, using augmented reality seemed a little contrived. Applying the technology to create signed content for the d/Deaf and hard of hearing seemed obvious. Yet no one had done it. As a long-time supporter of the charity, Intermedia shared the idea with the charity to help deliver the project.”

Making a difference

Signly started, and remains, a small team of individuals seeking to make a difference. Thus using their collective experience for the greater good. Since the first installation of Signly at The Roald Dahl Museum and Storytelling Centre  in 2015 the Signly app has received BBC news coverage. It has also run pilot trials with Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) and supported Network Rail with their Level Crossing safety campaigns. 2017 saw LBG commence a customer facing trial and Network Rail commit to a years worth of Signly-enabled campaigns.

One in six of the population has some form of deafness – and everyone likes video. We insert a smart layer of signed (or spoken/filmed) digital information onto the screen of a user’s own mobile device. This animates, translates and invigorates their experience by revealing essential BSL information. Open the app, point it at the Signly Signpost and signed content will appear. As if by magic.”

The Signly team are honored to have received global recognition for their work:

  • First of all, Winner of the 2017 Jodi Award in partnership with The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
  • Followed by a special mention at the Heritage in Motion Awards 2017.
  • Then nominated as a semi-finalist of the 2017 European Social Innovation Competition – Equality Rebooted. One of 30 semi-finalists chosen from nearly 800 entries from across Europe and made it to the last ten.
  • And finally finishing the year a winner. Financial Innovation Awards 2017  winner for Best Financial Inclusion or Outreach Initiative for Lloyds Banking Group in partnership with Signly.

Signly have produced an infographic that is most noteworthy. To read more about Why the world needs Signly’ view the infographic here

Signly Team at Awards
From right to left: Claudia Winkleman, Dominique Bragança, Mark Applin, Rachel Vann, Philip Boyle, Timothy Scannell, Paul Lynam.

What’s next?

2017 was ended on a high as Signly won Financial Innovation Awards 2017 for Best Financial Inclusion or Outreach Initiative for Lloyds Banking Group in partnership with Signly. Mark would describe himself as passionate, creative and a great project manager. Key traits to take the Signly team forward. It seems like Signly is on a positive path and we’re all excited to see what 2018 brings!

For the latest Signly news and updates read this blog, follow us on twitter @SignlyApp and visit our website.

Signly wins in London at the Financial Innovation Awards

The Signly team glammed up and headed to London on Thursday 7 December to join Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) at the Financial Innovation Awards 2017 for an evening of entertainment, networking and sector recognition. 

Hosted at Hilton Bankside, London the venue was glistening with Christmas decorations, entrance hall displays and a buzz of excitement. Celebrating their 20th Financial Innovation Awards the evening was hosted by the fabulous Claudia Winkleman and celebrated customer excellence.

Record number of entries

With a record number of entries, the room was filled with the best of the best from the banking and finance industry. Joining Lloyds Banking Group were peers from all around the world Barclays Bank UK, Investec, First National Bank South Africa, Sberbank, NatWest, HSBC and Ziraatbank to name a few. With an impressive line up of judges chaired by Paul Lynam, Chief Executive Officer, Secure Trust Bank the judges decisions were not easy. The full judging panels can be viewed here.

Claudia Winkleman
Hosted by Claudia Winkleman

Sector First

Acknowledged as a sector first, Lloyds Banking Group introduced the innovative and unique Signly technology to their industry peers. Providing the opportunity to improve financial capability and ensure that their customers received and understand the information they need. Using Signly app, deaf and hearing-impaired customers can scan Signly-enabled written materials on their mobile device. Providing translations onto British Sign Language (BSL) through augmented reality, with someone signing the content on the customer’s smartphone.

Nominated for the first award of the night, the team were lost for words when Signly was announced as the winner of Best Financial Inclusion or Outreach Initiative and called to the stage. The team were excited and overwhelmed. The first award of the night, and what a night it was.

“It was such a great feeling to hear Signly called out. We believe in Signly so much and it was so wonderful to have the acknowledgement that others believe in it too. The pilot with LBG was such a rewarding project to be a part of,” says Nikki Spencer, Signly
Lloyds Banking Group and Signly Team
From right to left: Claudia Winkleman, Dominique Bragança, Mark Applin, Rachel Vann, Philip Boyle, Timothy Scannell, Paul Lynam.

The Signly team are looking forward to adding the award to their mantel piece. Having ended the year on such a fabulous high, what’s next for Signly I hear you say?! Keep an eye on this blog and their twitter feed for up to date news and Signly app updates.

View the full list of awards and finalists here.

Meet the Team – Tim Scannell

This month we introduce you to our Social Media Ambassador, Tim Scannell.

Watch (or read) and learn all about Tim’s journey and why he joined the Signly team.

I was born profoundly deaf due to my Mother contracting German Measles whilst pregnant. Doctors advised my mother to focus on getting me to hear and speak, and not to learn sign language.

I went to a primary school that focused on teaching me to speak; as a result, my education suffered. Due to my deafness I was sent away to boarding school (the taxi drive there was 3 hours). Lack of specialist schools meant I had to travel far. At that time technology was limited, there was no way to contact my family other than through a telephone land line. Messages from my family had to be passed on to me via a member of staff.

At the age of 14 I had saved up enough pocket money to pay for a flight to California. I attended a deaf camp in Wrightwood and Pinecrest Pines. I loved it so much I returned every year for 6 years and was privileged enough to end up working there in a leadership/management role.
I discovered a passion for travel and over the years went on to visit many countries including Jordan where I stayed on for over a year. In Jordan I volunteered to teach deaf children at a local school. One of my most memorable experiences was when I was almost kidnapped by a local taxi driver! Fortunately, I ended up at the British Embassy where I lived to ‘tell the tale’!

All throughout my education I was not taught sign language, in fact you were punished if school staff caught you using it. At one point I was given 3 disciplinaries followed by a suspension for using BSL to talk to my deaf peers! At the age of 16 I attended Derby College for Deaf People. Lots of the deaf students there knew BSL and mocked me for my poor attempts at using a language I couldn’t use adequately. Eventually, however, I learnt BSL and even achieved qualifications in the subject.

Having acquired a new language, opportunities arose for me both academically and socially. I was able to enjoy roles such as becoming a committee member for a local Sports and Deaf Centre, and I was involved in setting up the first ever Deaf United in Derbyshire F.A. football team.
Around 1995 I remember possessing my first useful bit of communication technology – a pager. When people wanted to contact me, they could leave a message and the pager would vibrate to let me know.

As a deaf child and young adult, any medical appointments were attended along with a family member for communication purposes. Medical staff always directed conversations at my family member. I would continually ask ‘what are you talking about?’, but still struggled to understand their response as lipreading was difficult; I lost most of the meaning and content of the conversation. These situations always left me feeling frustrated.
It is only this last year that the NHS introduced the NHS Information Accessible Standard. Now when I have a medical appointment I can access a BSL interpreter which is fantastic. However, there is still ongoing tension over the prices interpreters charge, and concerns that interpreters will still charge 3 hours’ work for a 10-minute appointment.

When it was time to hit the road, a family member had to teach me to drive. The theory part was tough as reading the manual was incredibly tough; it was over 300 pages and in English, my second language, so took me a lot longer to study.
Travelling at airports and railways always posed a problem, it still does today. I can’t access announcements and have to fix my eyes on the screens for live updates on departure and arrival information. Safety instructions aboard aeroplanes are paramount and I never had a clue what was going on which was disconcerting to say the least.

Once, I informed British Airlines of my disability in advance, hoping to resolve any communication problems with the safety demonstrations. They responded by handing me a portable DVD player to watch a video on arrival at the airport, but it didn’t even have subtitles!
Learning BSL at college and making new friends gave me back a sense of independence that I had lost over the years of having to rely on others.
When I attended University to study Computer Science (Multimedia Systems Design), I was exposed to the lack of adequate support for deaf students. Sometimes I had to attend lectures with no interpreter or note taker. Often lecturers would not give me written material in advance, so I could go through the English with support. I felt I had to work harder than most students to first understanding the English before I could even attempt at learning the subject matter. Simple issues such as subtitles for video content was not provided which meant I missed out on a lot of information.

As a married family man communication still poses a problem in some areas. The school run can be isolating as I watch all the parents chatting in the playground. No-one approaches me as they are too nervous or just simply do not know how to communicate with me. I find extended family gatherings incredibly difficult. People are talking very quickly to one another around the dinner table and it’s nearly impossible to lipread, especially when there are more than one conversation happening at the same time! Most family and friends members cannot sign so find it difficult to talk to me, and even when they do, I don’t understand what they are saying, and I find myself nodding in agreement which makes me feel embarrassed.

I am always missing bits of information due to communication issues. Apparently, there have been many twin births in my family’s history, but I only found out when my wife fell pregnant with twins! Why did no one tell me?

On a more serious note, when my father died suddenly I was surrounded by confusion; details of how it happened were not explained to me, a) because people viewed my deafness as making me ‘vulnerable’ and unable to cope with the truth (I was an adult when it happened), and b) when conversations regarding his death were being spoken of around me, I couldn’t access that information.

All the household bills are in my wife’s name solely due to companies not offering a way for me to communicate with them other than over the telephone. I once tried to cancel a mobile phone contract over the phone, but they refused as they ‘didn’t understand my voice’. I had to write a letter instead; this process took over 3 weeks before I was able to cancel my contract!

My experience in the work place is not much better. I once contacted a company that I wanted to work for about possible employment. They were very enthusiastic about me visiting the company to see what role they could potential offer me that would suit my qualifications and experience. After much conversation through email I informed them that I would need an interpreter and that I was profoundly deaf. The tone of conversation changed, and eventually they stopped responding to my emails.

I tend to look for jobs where my deafness is not an issue or is possibly an advantage, although this can still be an issue due to my limited English skills. This has forced me into a specific line of work and limited my job opportunities vastly.

I have a passion for technology and have been fortunate enough to work in this industry for many years. I spend a lot of time researching the latest gadgets and gismos, taking a special interest in technology that can improve deaf people’s lives by aiding communication. The use of mobile phones to text and send video messages has been invaluable to me; my wife and I often Facetime and converse in BSL freely.
Video Relay Services set up in 2000 in the UK and has helped me hugely in being able to contact people, especially in my current role as a Freelance Consultant; I can converse with clients using a professional and reliable service.

As mentioned before English is a second language to me and to many other BSL users. It poses a huge barrier in terms of accessing written information. Signly is an exciting App that can solve that problem. The App’s ability to change written language into Sign language is welcomed by the deaf community and has the potential to resolve many communication barriers if companies get onboard and offer it as a service.