This Haifa-based company – now on Kickstarter – has developed the next generation of locating tags, potentially changing the lives of the perpetually forgetful
Everyone has their own ritual before they leave the house. Check that the gas is switched off, feed the cat, close the doors, etc.
Perhaps just as important is if I have everything in my bag. Laptop, headphones, camera if need be, and of course the chargers for everything. Going through the checks is a hassle yet crucial.
This process can be even more important for professionals like photographers who need every bit of equipment, from stands to lenses to that big bright flash to blind everybody with. Forgetting a single piece can ruin a shoot. What is worse is if they leave a location and forget an item there.
In hopes of cutting out some of this stress, Haifa-based startup GearEye has announced the launch of their Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $60,000 to build the perfect solution. As of the time of this writing, they have raised more than half of their goal with 59 days to go.
Founded in 2014 by CEO Yulia Lerner and CTO Maxim Berezin, this startup is working with RFID technology to help professionals find a better way to keep track of their equipment.
Coming from a background in electrical devices and software with a degree from the Technion, Lerner tells Geektime that she has always been a forgetful person. She says that once, she received an envelope in the mail containing her passport after a good Samaritan found it. She claims not to have known that it was missing.
Working with Berezin, who is pursuing a Ph.D. from Ben Gurion University in electromagnetic fields, they began developing a series of smart antennas, utilizing the RFID technology, capable of keeping track of items.
What emerged were a set of RFID tags that can be stuck onto items, and emit a signal that is picked up by either a dongle or a case that goes on the user’s smartphone. Each tag generates a signal, sending out its unique ID. The dongle or case then receives the transmission and passes on the information to the phone. It can assess the signal strength, letting the user know how close they are to the tagged item. If the tag has been connected with a registered item and labeled on the app, then the phone will know which item it is. You can make different lists of items, and if the sensor notices that one of the items from the list is missing, then it will alert the user.
“Everyone wants to be connected to their stuff and we found a way to do it with our phones,” Lerner tells Geektime.
With this basic concept in hand, Lerner and her team were still lacking direction on where to find their market. Since they have managed to put their miniaturized RFID tech on stickers, their product comes out at a slightly higher price point than some of the competing solutions like TrackR and Tile that sell at $25 a pop.
The base package comes in at $119, and includes the dongle or phone case, as well as 20 gear tags. This price is expected to jump to $199 when it goes on the market. In this instance, the buyer receives more stickers, but the starting price is a bit higher.
It is worth noting that while GearEye may appear to be going head to head with products like TrackR and Tile, they are actually working to solve two slightly different problems. The competitors with their Bluetooth solutions are aimed at helping forgetful people locate specific yet separate items like their wallet or keys, a bag, or bicycle where bulkier tiles can be used.
“It’s an issue of resolution,” she says, comparing her technology to the other solutions on the market. “Bluetooth casts too wide a range. We can cover other use cases where someone needs to be closer, with a precision of 3 meters, and even up to 20 cm.”
What GearEye addresses is perhaps better understood as sets of items that all go together.
This is why all professionals that carry their gear with them should see this as an ideal option. Without having to check manually, this product can tell them if something is missing, giving them a peace of mind.
None of the competitors have the same communication and ability to make automated checklists on the phone that GearEye is offering.
“I think that after we start, maybe we will have competitors [who] want to use RFID with their smartphones,” says Lerner, “But we hope that because we will be first in the market, people will recognize us as the first. We definitely think that it will spread and that people will want to use it in their day-to-day life.”
So far the company has raised some money from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist, but they hope that this Kickstarter can help propel them forward on their path to starting production.
“We’re close to finalizing our R&D, and I think that March is a realistic date to start manufacturing,” Lerner tells Geektime. “We want to make sure that our design is robust, as well as work on cost reduction.”
She believes that the device will most likely be made in China but adds that they are still on the lookout for other potential locations to manufacture it.
“We need to see how it goes,” she says when asked if they plan on developing cheaper products down the line for the non-professional forgetful folks, adding that they want to discover which audience they are able to find solutions for their pain, and then develop custom solutions. She thinks that maybe they can make special bags with RFID or GPS inside.
One of the next steps Lerner foresees will be the release of an SDK so that other developers can build apps on top of their technology for navigation. She believes that due to the precision of her RFID technology, there are potential uses for the visually impaired, helping them locate items in their homes.