If you’re al­ways los­ing your keys or that #[email protected]&%*! Ap­ple TV re­mote, then you need a Pixie

▶ A bou­quet of sen­sors con­nects the low­est-tech items to the Web ▶ “Con­sumers are be­ing bom­barded by con­nected devices”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents -

Amir Bas­san-eske­nazi is walk­ing around an In­dian restau­rant in Los Al­tos, Calif., search­ing for his keys with­out ever look­ing up from his iphone. On the screen, a di­rec­tional in­di­ca­tor that looks like a com­pass point steers him to­ward a ta­ble in the middle of the room. When he holds up the phone, its cam­era view of the room in­cludes a cir­cle flash­ing over the keys’ lo­ca­tion. He still can’t see them, so he waves his phone over the cir­cled spot, and it starts chirp­ing like a metal de­tec­tor that’s found a quar­ter on the beach.

Bas­san-eske­nazi is con­duct­ing his search with Pixie, a lo­ca­tor tool he cre­ated that re­sem­bles a jumbo gui­tar pick and can be stuck or chained to fre­quently lost items such as keys, wal­lets, purses, ipads, or TV re­motes. While that might not sound revo­lu­tion­ary, Pixie’s lo­ca­tor chips and soft­ware make the de­vice more pre­cise than many ri­vals. The tech­nol­ogy isn’t im­paired by walls or other ob­sta­cles, so if you’re in the liv­ing room and point your phone at the ceil­ing, it can show that your wal­let is in the bed­room up­stairs.

The metal de­tec­tor-style ping is sim­i­lar to the prox­im­ity alerts of other stuff-finder tools, such as the suc­cess­ful Kick­starter pro­ject Tile. Like Tile, Pixie com­mu­ni­cates with an iphone via Blue­tooth. Un­like Tile, it’s sold in packs of four, which the app can name to keep each one iden­ti­fi­able. To­gether, three of the Pixies ping out sig­nals to bet­ter tri­an­gu­late the lo­ca­tion of the one you can’t find, at a range as far as 50 feet in­doors and 200 feet out­doors. Out­side that range, it’ll re­mem­ber the item’s last lo­ca­tion. “It’s an ex­tremely com­plex sys­tem,” Bas­san-eske­nazi says. “None of this was done be­fore.” Pixie has presold about 10,000 of the four-de­vice packs on its web­site; early back­ers paid $35, but now

buy­ers will pay $70. (Tile costs

$25.) Peter Mid­dle­ton, an an­a­lyst with re­searcher Gart­ner, says Pixie’s tech­nol­ogy is more so­phis­ti­cated than the rest of what’s on the mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly its layer of map­ping soft­ware that high­lights an item’s lo­ca­tion in what looks like the phone’s cam­era view.

Bas­san-eske­nazi got the idea for Pixie in 2011, when he was sell­ing his pre­vi­ous com­pany, the video net­work­ing ser­vice Big­band Net­works, for $172 mil­lion to telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion­se­quip­ment maker Ar­ris Group. As he was leav­ing for a meet­ing with his at­tor­ney to re­view the terms of the deal, he couldn’t find his daugh­ter’s cat, Ouzo, and had to choose be­tween be­ing late or find­ing the pet. “The cat is at the top of our fam­ily food chain,” he says. He found Ouzo un­der a bed. (One of Pixie’s first beta testers at­tached the de­vice to her cats’ col­lars.)

Mid­dle­ton says Pixie’s chal­lenge will be stay­ing ahead of copy­cats. It also lacks Tile’s GPS tracker. Ji­ten­dra Waral, an an­a­lyst for Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence, says con­nected-de­vice mak­ers need to fo­cus on sell­ing to cor­po­ra­tions or mak­ing com­po­nents for other devices. “Con­sumers are be­ing bom­barded by con­nected devices and prob­a­bly aren’t ready,” he says.

Pixie, which isn’t yet prof­itable, has raised $12 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing. Bas­san-eske­nazi says he plans to ex­pand the 25-em­ployee com­pany’s fo­cus be­yond con­sumer sales, po­ten­tially em­bed­ding the lo­ca­tor tech di­rectly into car keys, re­mote con­trols, and tablets. This month at the an­nual Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Ve­gas, he set up shop at a booth spon­sored by In­tel, pitch­ing the lo­ca­tor’s ap­pli­ca­tions to other de­vice mak­ers.

Back at the In­dian restau­rant, keys in hand, Bas­san-eske­nazi says he’ll soon an­nounce an agree­ment to place Pixie in the stores of ma­jor re­tail­ers, which he won’t name. “We want this to go into dif­fer­ent hard­ware. It’s a log­i­cal step,” he says. Then, when the bill ar­rives, he be­gins ri­fling through his bag and pant pock­ets to cover his half. Should’ve brought a se­cond Pixie: He’d mis­placed his wal­let.

The bot­tom line Pixie has presold 10,000 sets of its lo­ca­tion-track­ing Blue­tooth devices and plans to di­ver­sify more quickly than its cheaper ri­vals.

Edited by Jeff Muskus Bloomberg.com

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