I get lost in supermarkets. Not the existential “Oh my god, this consumer vortex is misdirecting me from my innate humanness and killing my soul,” second-year psych major kind of lost, though, more the “I have no idea where I am or where I am going,” imagine-sleeping-in-the-store kind of lost. It’s been a problem my entire life, but it seems there might be a light at the end of the cereal aisle.
ByteLight, a Boston-based startup that raised a $1.25 million round led by VantagePoint Capital Partners in October, takes that light comment pretty seriously. The company has announced a partnership with Solais Lighting, allowing the luminary manufacturer to produce lighting products that interact with ByteLight’s indoor positioning tech.
Basically, ByteLight calibrates the signals given off by LED lights and prepares a smartphone to receive the signals via its camera and then process the information to suss out its current location. The company claims that its tech can find a precise location, give or take a meter, in less than a second, making it easy to find and track your location and offer directions elsewhere in the venue.
The company says that this will benefit both consumers and retailers who want to know more about the people in their stores. ByteLight could help a retailer visualize its foot traffic, for example, or display “hyper-local” ads and deals. (It’s worth noting that stores already monitor foot traffic with cameras and employees, so ByteLight isn’t crossing some privacy threshold here.)
Other groups, including a Nokia-led alliance of 20-plus companies, are trying to solve the indoor location problem as well. ByteLight’s value proposition is that it’s quick, accurate, and – most appealing to businesses – as long as they’re using LED lighting anyway, doesn’t require any new equipment.
“The nice thing about working with lights is that there are plenty of them,” ByteLight CTO Dan Ryan says. “From a perspective of the lighting guys, it’s a question of ‘why not.’ It’s turning a light source into much more than a light source. All these guys are trying to figure out how can they offer a more compelling experience.”
ByteLight has launched a number of pilots in the Boston area, and Ryan says that they’ll be branching out to other areas and piloting with more companies in 2013. It is currently looking to expand its team and reach out to retailers while improving its technology. If all goes as planned, 2013 may be the year ByteLight flips the switch on indoor positioning.