Bryter Digital, a unique digital agency, won a project with Hornby to help modernize and attract a new generation of enthusiasts to their iconic model railways, leveraging their expertise in smart systems and complex web development.
Bryter Digital is a digital agency that builds, designs, and develops websites and mobile applications. Though they’re not your typical website designers – they work with smart systems, complex back-ends of websites, and bespoke CMS. It was this expertise that won them a project with Hornby, British-owned model railways manufacturers and brand leader of 00 gauge trains.
The models hold great sentimental value for our parents and grandparents, but Hornby is innovating to attract young railway enthusiasts as well. Bryter Digital has been pivotal in this journey.
Bryter Digital’s Managing Director, Jack Dent, shares how the partnership with Hornby arose and the support they’re offering to modernise the train sets.
We’ve been around for over a decade, based in Canterbury in Kent, with Hornby nearby in Margate. Around five years ago, I spotted one of Hornby’s marketing team asking for support on LinkedIn. They wanted an agency that could work with a number of technologies and provide app development.
Hornby supplied technology-driven locomotives. However, they needed applications and Bluetooth to drive legacy controllers. I contacted them, and we had a couple of meetings. We went in with a prototype of an app that would work with their new technology.
We won the project and have since built a strong partnership…
HM | DC
We’ve worked together on several projects, the first of which was to create an app that allows for control of analogue locomotives. We developed a Bluetooth app (HM | DC) that can run any Hornby locomotive using an older electric controller via the app. This encouraged people to get their legacy sets out of the cupboards and control them with a new power supply.
HM | DCC
We followed up by developing an app for their state-of-the-art digital locomotives – each train is intelligent, equipped with its own chipset that carries sounds and specific controls.
Up until recently, Hornby trains were controlled by old plug-in controls and wires – but they’ve now developed a new wireless and Bluetooth-enabled chip for the controllers (‘HMDC 7000’).
Our brief was to design and develop an app that could communicate with the new controllers via Bluetooth – and needed to work with multiple locomotives for big train layouts using Bluetooth Mesh. As a result, our app has Bluetooth networking for multiple controllers, enabling users to program the engines and update sounds. It’s wireless, so users aren’t tethered to control boxes.
The project involved significant research and development – much of which took place using Macs and MacBooks from Lease Loop.
We developed a version of the app for both iOS and Android devices, and we’re constantly maintaining and refining it – particularly with every iOS update. We’ve just started leasing iPad Pros to look at the next stage of the project, which will involve wider use of the screen estate. It’s an ongoing process to upgrade programming for device screen size changes.
The app has been really well-received in the marketplace. We have future plans to increase its functionality, responding to what users want. It’s crucial to us that each and every version is an improvement with new features.
Leasing from Lease Loop
We’re a long-term client of Lease Loop – they’ve always been there to help us with our device needs. When Apple insisted that any new app developments use the latest Xcode, we had to upgrade our MacBooks very quickly. Lease Loop provided the devices the next day. They’ve even supplied us with iPad Pros the same day. We can rely on them to support us with the right equipment as and when we need it.