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The Magic Box, the software that brings smart padel courts to life

Iván Fernández, chief technology officer of the Spanish app developer, believes that this service would not be possible without “feedback from the clubs and the reservations apps”.

Illustration of a long shadow personal computer with a paddle racket

Reservations made on mobile phones, lights that turn on by themselves and courts that host padel matches at all hours without the need for club employees being present—all this can be seen at courts such as those of the Padel Indoor Center (PIC) in Bizkaia and at more and more clubs throughout Spain.

Who’s behind all of this? Who is responsible for carrying out all these processes without any personnel in sight?

The answer is The Magic Box, the Spanish software developer that automates smart courts in Spain and in many other countries.

Opening doors, turning lights on and off, heating and other climate control systems—the functions that The Magic Box system can currently carry out are very specific, but it’s only the beginning of a trend with a very clear purpose: the comprehensive automation of padel courts.

Automating padel courts: an implicit need

According to Iván Fernández, the chief technology officer, The Magic Box serves “a set of needs that have always been there”. “It is true that as a result of the pandemic, the number of users going to padel courts has increased,” he said.

There is no doubt that the “contact restrictions” have made padel win out over other sports.

It has also impacted the management of sports facilities, where the option of “not always having a person at the reception” has become increasingly attractive these days.

For Fernández, the growing interest in padel clubs during this time of restricted contact is due to the “opportunity cost”.

“You have a person in charge of the lights … Well, maybe their time is better spent serving users,” he explained.

“There are also cases in which the person in charge of reception is also a padel teacher,” he added.

The thing is that you have to “dedicate time to customers, which is where you are going to gain loyalty, not working the court’s lights”.

The benefits for the user seem undeniable, as they translate into more and better service. But the main reason for these automated systems is to streamline the management of a padel club’s resources.

At least, that’s how Iván Fernández sees it, who makes it clear that “the goal is not to dispense with personnel”. The idea is to “occupy staff with productive tasks that instil customer loyalty”.

For a padel club, the first sale is important, but what’s more important is that “the customer returns, that the people who go to the club feel good there”.

Digital culture

 Although today many padel clubs are seeking out the software developed by The Magic Box, the truth is that, at the beginning, there was a need to “create a culture”.

Fernández acknowledges that in Spain there are “barriers to entry” for this type of automated system.

“In northern Europe, it is much more common. They see it as a profitable investment,” he told us.

The economic savings The Magic Box generates for padel clubs are indisputable, since “in practically a year, you’ve amortised the entire system”.

“It’s also true that barriers to entry are decreasing,” said Fernández.

There is no longer so much misunderstanding about the “nature of these systems; now the clubs are approaching us”.

 The role of the booking app PlayTomic

 Although the origin of The Magic Box goes hand in hand with Led Projects, the company that provides the lighting for the World Padel Tour, its expansion would not be possible without PlayTomic.

It’s the leading sports facility booking app, the one that laid the cornerstone for today’s automated systems. And it’s also a Spanish company.

“Our Magic Box talks to the PlayTomic app; it works hand in hand with it,” he said. After all, “it’s one of the largest reservations apps in the world, so it is fundamental that we have a good relationship.”

Users register on the app and manage their reservations and payments for the padel courts from their mobile phones.

Then the services provided by The Magic Box come into play: allowing users to open and close doors and turn the lights on and off, among other things.

That said, Fernández acknowledges that “other apps have knocked on our door”. And the truth is that they are not closed off to anything either, since their system “can talk to third parties”.

“It’s an undertaking of integration and collaboration with all these reservation software developers. We are open to exploring collaborations,” he explained.

In any case, the relationship between The Magic Box and PlayTomic speaks volumes about what can be achieved by investing in research and development.

A scalable product

 But all these recent achievements are just the beginning of something much greater.

“Now we are working with the lights and the doors, but the idea is to add intelligence to every aspect,” said Fernández.

“You have to consider how the software will react when we have 200 installations. And when we have 2000?” he wondered.

It’s clear that The Magic Box software still has many objectives to meet.

“All these things have to be anticipated in business planning. That’s what a scalable product like ours consists of,” he explained.

“What’s fundamental is the feedback we receive from the clubs and reservation apps such as PlayTomic,” added Fernández, who sees this trend in systems automation as “unstoppable”.

Now the only question that remains is how a business model like this can evolve.

Iván Fernández, chief technology officer of The Magic Box, is certain about what that involves: “creating a product using customer feedback. A viable product that is evolving, scaling”.

 

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