By Mari Silbey
Posting in Technology
StickNFind has created colorful sensors the size of a quarter, its own Bluetooth software stack, and an open developer platform. What more do you need for the Internet of Things?
Lose your keys? Your cat? The TV remote? StickNFind has an app for that. Better yet, StickNFind has colorful sensors the size of a quarter, its own Bluetooth software stack, and a developer platform that could turn this crowd-funded Indiegogo product into a foundation piece for the coming "Internet of Things" revolution.
StickNFind Technologies, based in Davie, Fla., shipped its first products in March after raising nearly a million dollars in a campaign that ended earlier this year. The company's low-power Bluetooth sensors are irresistible for the most mundane of reasons. Put a StickNFind sticker on virtually anything, and you can track it from your smartphone up to 100 feet away. In the company's own survey of 12,000 users, about a third put the stickers on their keys, 20 percent on their wallets, and another 20 percent on pets (mostly cats).
"Some guy, he emailed us that he lost his keys at the beach," says CEO Jimmy Buchheim. "He opened the app, and he found it in a matter of seconds. And he was really thankful because [the keys were] actually in the sand."
Buchheim notes that about 40 percent of users are also female, making StickNFind "a product that actually breaches this orthodox of the male geek consumer."
It's not just the key-finding function, however, that makes StickNFind so compelling. The commercial potential is huge, both for the company's existing tracking application, and for its forthcoming task-launcher feature. The launcher will automate smartphone functions based on proximity to a Bluetooth sticker. Location plus automation means smarter homes, cars, factories and more.
One developer has suggested creating an application that sends out an automatic check-in email when a user gets home. Another wants to prevent texting while driving by setting a lock on smartphone keyboards that activates when a user gets into a car with a Bluetooth sticker in it.
StickNFind wants developers to get creative, and the company has released a software development kit (SDK) to encourage innovation. "We have our own team of developers ... but we realized that we cannot make everything so we released the SDK," Buchheim says. "[It's] completely open."
So far, the commercial applications getting the most attention include inventory management, security and indoor navigation. One bakery is using StickNFind for automatic inventory counts in its walk-in freezer. A retail company is investigating the possibility of using the Bluetooth stickers to trigger a display of product details on in-store screens when a tagged package gets within range. And StickNFind says it's working with two large security companies to replace employee passcards with Bluetooth stickers and a smartphone application.
While it would be easy to get carried away with the application potential, Buchheim says his first priority for StickNFind is to keep improving product quality. The company is working on supporting more mobile platforms, adding directional capabilities that don't require GPS services, and making the hardware smaller and cheaper.
"We are working with the chip manufacturers, the Bluetooth chip manufacturers. We are working with them, and we're trying to see how we can present together with them in lower cost solutions," Buchheim says.
Future ambitions aren't stopping StickNFind from selling products today, however. The startup has shipped close to 300,000 stickers and has its first retail distribution deal with Brookstone. Current features for the smartphone application include radar visualization for tracking the distance to tagged objects, and a virtual leash that notifies users when a sticker comes back within range.
Buchheim believes StickNFind "can actually help change the world for the better." Maybe it can. One sticker at a time.
(Images courtesy of StickNFind)
Jul 22, 2013
This type of mere design is not precise. Not constructive as I can see. If design objective is searching an electronic item by another electronic item, design should be unique; like creating communication between both electronic serial numbers of objects. In this case, like someone else's comments here, I am seeing more invitations to daylight destruction and crimes.
Mobile devices already consume the full power of the largest nuclear reactor and are set to triple that consumption in a few years. So, why not add other reasons to make goofy devices that consume resources & power and make our mobile devices consume even more power plants? ;] When our descendents find this crapola all over the place, while they're struggling to survive the effects of the >500 billion tons of carbon we've put into air & seas just so far, well one can imagine their thoughts about our sanity. And, I'm speaking as an electronics & network engineer.
I think it's fantastic seeing all the new areas people are pushing technology. Sure, there is room for abuse, but that doesn't mean we should stop encouraging innovation out of fear.
Of course, just about everything has potential for abuse, but this item: "One developer has suggested creating an application that sends out an automatic check-in email when a user gets home"? Check in with whom? A stalker who has managed to drop one of these things in your purse? A nefarious government agency (almost redundant)? The possibilities are endless. Also, if these things become ubiquitous, and you are on the beach and can't find your keys and several other people have also misplaced theirs, are you going to find someone else's or are there different frequencies involved? The comment about the radar pic is right. Their Web site shows that which would lead one to believe it shows direction, but the FAQ says it only shows approximate distance, not exact direction. Hopefully, that will change.
Contrary to what you see on the screen of your smartphone, the device only gives you an approximation of distance. It does *NOT* give you direction. That fancy scanning radar thingy is just for show. Your item could be behind you for all that display is telling you! And as far as distance? If your battery is running low on the little buttons, the distance may be *MUCH* further than the application may lead you to believe. Plus, the price...this is very expensive! If you misplace things regularly, then yes...this will help you find things...but for the average person, this thing will do nothing but empty your wallet!
How bout on the tv remote? Seriously, it could be put on things like tablets or brief case and notify you if it is moved more than 50 feet away from your phone. Or warn about burglaries.
At least you can call your phone and it'll ring. (Unless it is on silent or vibrate or the battery is dead....)