March 1, 2012

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There have been several city-wide initiatives launched to attract entrepreneurs, start-up businesses and industry players to Chattanooga. Gig City is the latest venture, placing the ever-attractive prospect of cold, hard cash right at the fingertips of those looking to move here and start a business or who have technology at the forefront of their effort.

Then there are people here in our own backyard working on ideas, products and technology in various states of development. These are the visionaries Co.Lab brings to the table. This neighborhood collaborative hub provides entrepreneurs with a physical environment for face-to-face interaction and programmed events.

“Will This Float?” is one such program. During “WTF?” five finalists pitch their ideas in five minutes or less, hoping to convince a panel of judges they have an idea that has what it takes to attract business and thrive in the rough waters of the open marketplace. The winner receives cash and a suite of business services aimed at pushing the idea further to market.

Dr. George Yu was one of the presenters at “Will This Float?,” held Feb. 23. Yu is CEO of Variable Technologies and a visiting professor at UTC. His company has worked with NASA and the Department of Homeland Security, concentrating in the field of sensory technology. His invention is Node, a cylindrical device about the size of a roll of quarters. The Node takes advantage of the sensory elements built into smart phones, like the microphone, compass and gyroscope. Mobile applications commonly use these sensors, but what about developing applications that require sensors that aren’t built into the phone? Creating new sensory devices along with new apps is expensive and time consuming. This is where Node steps in.

The technology is based on the idea of interchangeable modules that attach to the body of the Node. These modules communicate a myriad of data to your smart phone through the Node’s sensory device. Yu plans to launch four modules in the next six months: An infrared thermometer, radiation sensor, chemical gas sensor and a game controller.

“It fills needs within both the device world and the app world,” Yu says. “The Node collects, processes and distributes data as a physical device and it connects apps that require data in order for them to realize their usefulness.”

The most popular and useful apps in the ever-expanding market connect us with our physical environment in meaningful ways. This is where the Node clearly has a firm foundation. Its versatility is limited only by what can be measured through a sensory device and it communicates the data collection to a device you already carry—your cellular phone.

“Each module that’s developed has the ability to create it’s own markeplace,” Yu says.

A Kickstarter campaign is currently running through March to fund the manufacturing and marketing of the Node and its first set of modules. Yu is gearing the campaign toward locals who might take an interest in his invention and want to help fund its development.

“I’m interested in local investment primarily, but investments in the Node’s development can come from anyone,” he says.

Impressive, useful and expansive in its application, the Node’s technology was invented in Chattanooga and aims to make the city a smarter, more connected place to be.


March 1, 2012

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