How the YMCA of Greater Toronto leveraged a Data Fabric to rapidly deliver a solution that allowed members to safely return to their facilities during COVID-19


The Challenge

After nearly four months of COVID-19 closure, the local government gave the YMCA of Greater Toronto notice that they could soon reopen their doors… if they could meet strict new policies that had never before been considered and that none of their systems were ever designed to facilitate.

The Outcome

“Cinchy allowed us to quickly deliver a solution to the association to facilitate all of this within a couple of weeks, which we would never have been able to do before. We’ve been able to deliver something that previously would have been fantasy.”


-Craig Bradley, SVP, Information Technology, YMCA of Greater Toronto

The YMCA of Greater Toronto is the largest YMCA market in Canada, using its multimillion-dollar budget to operate nine health and fitness centres across the Greater Toronto Area. Each centre offers multiple programs to boost well-being for more than 150,000 members of all ages.

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Health & Fitness

YMCA Greater Toronto

Adapting quickly to new customer experiences due to COVID

When it was time to reopen their doors after four months of COVID lockdown, the YMCA of Greater Toronto knew they needed to work quickly to deliver a solution that would make their membership happy and meet strict government guidelines. They needed to be nimble and agile, leveraging existing data to optimize build times. Speed was essential; they needed to be ready to facilitate a safe return for their members by the time the government-mandated reopening date arrived.

The YMCA planned to provide a single interface for members to reserve facilities ahead of time, starting with their health and fitness facilities as a pilot program and eventually rolling out to all of their other services. They also wanted to provide members with a way to see a room’s capacity at any given time and to include predictive modelling for no-shows in order to allow for walk-ins. Rapid digital transformation would be the driving force in all of this.

Speed was of the essence. Not only were YMCA of Greater Toronto members eager to get back to the facilities, but the YMCA was spending significant resources to manually monitor entries. They required a staff member to be on hand from open till close, checking IDs and cross-referencing reservations to make sure visitors were entering and exiting at their reserved times. These necessary operations took staff away from their regular roles and strained operations.

“As a result of COVID, everyone has had to modify their work habits and be more open to quickly adopting technologies and products that they may have been hesitant to adopt before. It’s forced people to think and work differently, and they understand that it’s just the new norm. They have to be open to doing things differently in today’s day and age. It’s an opportunity to do things that we previously might not have been able to do, to accelerate solutions that people may have been resistant to.”

Craig Bradley

SVP, Information Technology

YMCA of Greater Toronto

How Application Augmentation allowed for a robust solution without replacing legacy systems

The YMCA of Greater Toronto wanted to connect their membership database, their mobile app (VirtuaGym), and their swipe-card entry system in order to give members a contactless method for reserving and entering facilities.

To those outside of the IT department, like the YMCA employee who suggested the solution to management, linking these different systems probably didn’t seem too difficult. They all use variations of the same member data, right? So why can’t they talk to one another?

Unfortunately, this is exactly the sort of complex integration project that traditionally takes months to implement—the complete opposite of what a business needs when opening its doors after COVID. Fortunately, YMCA of Greater Toronto wasn’t taking a traditional approach. They were using Cinchy.

Instead of point-to-point integration, the YMCA simply had to connect each of their applications to Cinchy’s Autonomous Data Fabric. Each one-time integration takes only hours, and once the systems are connected to the Fabric it becomes easy for them to share data. This let the YMCA quickly create a solution by adding new functionality to their legacy systems, instead of building something from scratch. Using this approach, the YMCA was able to create their new, contactless reservation and entry system in just three weeks.

Their members can now reserve a facility at their desired time using the mobile app and enter the facility 15 minutes before their reservation by swiping their ID card at the door. It’s worth noting that this interval was originally set for five minutes, and that the YMCA was able to easily make the change to 15 when they found their returning customers needed a little more time to prepare for their workouts.

Because the systems are all linked on the Data Fabric, reservation times and membership numbers are automatically cross-referenced when the user swipes their card. If everything lines up, the doors unlock and the Y member is granted entry to the facility. They don’t need any additional devices or technology; everything works with their current ID cards and existing mobile app, allowing them to get back to enjoying their memberships.

With tight restrictions on how their facilities could operate, the YMCA of Greater Toronto required a solution to meet the requirements of local health authorities that also provided a comfortable and safe experience for their members.

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Using a Data Fabric quickly leads to compounding benefits

In addition to automating the entry process by combining data from the membership database, entry system, and mobile app, the YMCA is now able to take advantage of the following capabilities:

Facilities can track and report exactly how many people are present, and how many showed up at any given time. This information is valuable to members, and essential for meeting government safety guidelines