We think in code and pixels, but we’ve got stuff to say too

To new beginnings


Simon Woodside founded Monolith in 2009, when men were real men, women were real women, and the iPhone didn’t have copy-and-paste. There was a huge demand for mobile development services, and Simon got a call from Cam Hay, CEO of Unitron, a hearing aid company in Kitchener. Simon created a hearing test application for them, and with that first step, Monolith was born. The hearing app hit a million downloads within the first year, instant validation that quality code and commitment to user experience would be rewarded in this brave new world.

The story continues with Monolith staffing up as Michael Sgambelluri joined the team in 2010 to help build Kik’s first chat app MVP on iPhone, an early part of their story which has them now a genuine Canadian unicorn with > $1B valuation and > 250 million users. Simon, Michael, and the rest of the Monolith team continued on to even more successful engagements, including a connected car app with GM R&D.

Through the years, Monolith has grown and achieved much in the world of mobile development. We were pulled further into health apps to create an electronic health records front end on iPad and a complete cross-platform hearing testing and programming system for UnitedHealthCare in the US. Following more successful engagements, Simon recognized Mike’s contributions to the company and the two became full partners in the business.

Over the years working with many clients in the health space, Monolith discovered that the current process for HIPAA (and PHIPA) compliance is a difficult and involved road. Working in Health (and specifically the Digital Health space) we developed an impressive library of over a dozen health-related applications. Throughout this work we discovered again and again that many health apps require the same capabilities: the storage of health data, secure communication between patients and health practitioners, and the collection and aggregation of anonymized data. This clear market need combined with a life-long desire to bring people together and create a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, prompted Simon to create a new company: MedStack. MedStack is a service which provides medical grade cloud infrastructure for quick and easily development and deployment of health apps.

Those of us who are addicted to the rush of rapid prototyping and the joy of seeing the things we build being used every day are continuing to push the boundaries of custom app development. Mike took those lessons to heart in his newly created company Tuq, a doubling down on his core beliefs: quality apps with high production values. Whether it’s a chat app, a race-day assistant, or a healthcare provider’s toolkit, we have a proud history of work that we’re proud to call our own. Tuq’s passion is in creating deep, technically challenging, beautifully designed applications that require an expertise like no other. The name is an affirmation of our belief in Trustworthy Uncompromising Quality.

Mike and Simon remain committed to each other’s businesses — Mike has taken the role of interim CTO at MedStack, and helped build the MVP. Simon is active in advising Tuq and working with existing clients to ensure strong relationships. Like a proud parent it is now time for Monolith to step aside and let it’s children, namely Tuq and MedStack, grow and flourish on their own merits; though, much as siblings do, the two will continue to help each other out whenever possible.

We look forward to this next phase in our journey and look forward to working with you!

We’d love to catch up, so feel free to drop us a line,

Mike - michael@tuq.ca

Simon - simon@medstack.co

WATERLOO, Ontario - Sept. 22, 2015 - It was late in 2009 when Ted contacted us to build his MVP for the Kik chat app. He had already created a chat app for blackberry called Unsynced, and he wanted to take it to the next level. Even at that early date, he wanted to create a unicorn app that would be embraced by millions of users. In order to achieve that he knew that he had to be on the hot new iPhone, and that meant calling someone who could create an exceptional app on an exceptional platform. He called Monolith.

Over the next half year the Monolith team worked with Kik’s developers and designers to build the Minimum Viable Product. We built a powerful chat engine and integrated with an all-new backend server that could power the mega-growth that Ted was expecting. We put in pixel-perfect art, added SMS and address book integration, and generally were involved in the genesis of something totally amazing. It was a great time to be at work.

We knew that Kik had something special. We found out just how special it was when the app suddenly exploded by over a million users in under a week. That was just the beginning of the road to today — 200 million+ users, and a valuation of over ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

Kik’s explosive (and well-deserved) growth has confirmed our belief that proper architecture and system design is something that must be an element of every project from the start. We’re proud to have been a part of this awesome process and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Kik.

Congrats Kik!

About Monolith Apps

Monolith is a mobile custom development shop in Waterloo, Ontario and Toronto, specializing in apps for healthcare, wearables, audio, and in user experience design. We use a lean design and development process, develop both web and native apps on Android and iOS, and integrate with existing backends or build them in Ruby on Rails. For more: http://monolithapps.com

Contact Simon Woodside 15A King St. North, Waterloo ON simon@monolithapps.com 519-589-9939

Chris Liscio is one of the most talented iOS developers in Canada. We are lucky that Chris calls Kitchener / Waterloo home. Those of you that made it out to iOSKW last week at Communitech’s space in downtown Kitchener got a chance to meet Chris, and learn about his decade-long experience as a Mac and iOS developer, including creating Capo, an application that helps you learn to play the music in your iTunes library. Chris received a prestegious Apple Design Award for Capo in 2011.

Chris Liscio at iOSKW

Chris gave us some serious code to look at, using Swift to do vector math with the Accelerate framework. He explained the following: Accelerate is a C library which means that dealing with multiple types can result in an ever growing number of extremely similar functions. For example, suppose you want to take the average of a Swift array [Float]. That’s one C function. If you want to add support for Swift subarrays (without copy) you additionally need to handle Slice, adding another C function. Chris presented a way to DRY your code by using withUnsafeBufferPointer. He also posted some of the details on his blog but you had to be there to get the entertaining stories and photos about his experience baffling Apple engineers at the last WWDC.

Thanks again to Chris and everyone that attended iOSK last Thursday night. We tested a new interactive segment called “Open Mic, which saw members of the audience take over the role of presenter to discuss things they had learned and current projects. The response was positive so we will continue to include time for audience participation in future Meetups.

More information about iOSKW can be found on our Meetup page, and by following @iOSKW on Twitter.

The next iOSKW will be April 16.

Simon & Matt



Let the Games Begin!

On a wintery night, at the UW School of Pharmacy, in a lounge high up on the 7th floor overlooking the Tannery, gathered over 30 eager (but unsuspecting) mobile health developers. So what happens when you get 30+ mobile health developers into a room for show and tell? Community building, that’s what!

It was a great venue for conversations. Simon Woodside did a quick intro to DemoCamp rules (basically, you get 5 minutes to present and give a live demo, and 5 minutes of audience interaction), and then we dove right into the first demo.

The demos were great (and I’ll tell you about them in a moment). But even better was the interaction. There’s nothing quite like the sense of shared purpose and community when people who are passionate about a subject come together. Mobile health is a field that ripe with possibility to change the way that medicine works, and a perfect combination of circumstances makes this region a fantastic place to do it. Side by side we have world-class medical researchers and practitioners, and world-class technologists. What we need is opportunities to bring them together. Right now, we are spread out and it’s hard for us to meet. But with this event, we saw relationships being born, and opportunities being created. I felt privileged to be there.

Now, to the demos. Which were awesome.

First, Dan Finnigan showed off Simply Obstetrics, a a point-of-care reference App for managing pregnant patients in primary care. Dan is looking for developers.

Next Leo Godreault gave us a tour of SmartMED, a medication reminder application that lets you easily know when your next medication is due, when your prescription is finished or needs to be refilled.

Third up, Paolo Di Donato had his 3D printed blood glucose meter. Paolo’s is unique in that all the bits - test strips, lance, bluetooth connection, are all contained into a simple unit, and what’s more that unit is a case for your phone. His product responds to a basic need among diabetics to simplify their life and not worry about carrying around a pouch of equipment to do their regular self-tests.

Now we come to our heroic keynote speaker, Adam Cole, who fought his way through 4 hours of traffic from Toronto to be with us. Adam is a veteran of building practical electronic health solutions, an entrepreneurs, has worked for all kinds of eHealth companies, and is now CTO of Newtopia which recently raised $5M to do behavioural health. He inspired us to push harder to find viable business strategies so that our products can reach more people.

We took a short networking break and enjoyed some fine healthy snacks, then we got back into the demos.

Ruslan Dorfman is the founder of GeneYouIn, and showed us PillCheck, personalized drug reference tool that can help you to optimize treatment for multiple medications, based on a DNA screening.

Bruce Baskerville presented his app Crush the Crave, an evidence-based tool for quitting smoking.

And last, but by no means least, Rachel Friesen showed us EyeCheck, a system to bring better eye health to rural and developing regions, in particular India.

And, of course, there were drinks at the Firkin!

mHealthDemoCamp will be back!

mHealthDemoCamp3 will be at the AppsForHealth conference in Hamilton on Thursday April 30th.

Join our meetup group to find out more.

Simon Woodside, CEO

Another One Bites The...


Sing baby, sing!

Has it really been four months already? My first term at Monolith is over, but when I consider the things I’ve done, it’s surprising that it was all only in one term. During my time here, I’ve eaten more pizzas and dabbled in more languages than I could have imagined possible. Starting with Objective C, I’ve worked with Ruby on Rails, various JavaScript libraries, stats programming with R (Shiny pls), and recently went back to Java for Android development. I learned fundamental concepts of programming like the MVC (model view controller) programming structure. When MVC was first introduced to Cam and I, it was with an iOS app, but seeing its benefits of modularity, we tried to apply it to all the projects that we worked on. MVC is like a burger, with the model and view like buns, and the controller being the meat in the middle that interacts with the two. Or perhaps instead of the meat, the controller is actually the burger, with the model and view each being a pizza instead of buns. Yes, like the pizza burger.

And on that note, I would like to get to my actual topic of this blog, the pizza burger. On our second last day at Monolith, Mike brought in two pizza burgers for dinner. Each consisting of two extra large pizzas, and 10 McDoubles sandwiched in between. It stood a colossus amongst us mere mortals, and had Anton cowering in fear and disgust after his first slice. I however, was prepared for it, living the university student life, living off of granola bars, and take any food handed to me. But alas, Cam and I both fell victim to our third slice. For me, it wasn’t the amount of food I had ate, it was the quantity of salt that was in it that had done me in. Both ingredients of the pizza burger (namely pizza and burger) are made with mountains of salt that could bury a man. I’m certain that I drank water equivalent in volume to the pizza burger I had, and that still couldn’t quench my thirst.

All in all, the pizza burger was pretty extraordinary (only could have been topped by perhaps a low salt variant), as I am a firm believer of quantity over quality when it comes to food, and oh boy was there quantity. It was a fun and crazy way to end the term, not unlike the pizza burger, and fun and crazy is what my first term at Monolith was all about.

Sen Yang, Junior Developer

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