How a cat inspired start-up’s ‘Internet of Lost Things’

Misplacing keys, wallets, and even pets is now a thing of the past, thanks to Pixies

Pixie's Augmented Reality-connected location technology in action (Photo credti: Courtesy)
Pixie's Augmented Reality-connected location technology in action (Photo credti: Courtesy)

There’s the Internet of Things (IoT), where everything from a car to a refrigerator turns “smart,” with sensors that vacuum in data and upload it the cloud for analysis. Now, an Israeli start-up called Pixie has a new twist on that idea – a system that uses the cloud to find lost items hidden in plain sight.

Call it “the Internet of Lost Things.” Instead of sending data to a server for data-crunching, Pixies takes the signal emitted by an object – say your keys, wallet, or anything else you attach a Pixie sticker to – and interfaces with an app on your smartphone, signaling its exact location within fractions of an inch. So, instead of spending precious minutes in the morning rush looking for an essential object – like the car keys – Pixies users can just turn on an app, which will quickly track down the location of those keys.

“IoT is very useful for a lot of purposes, but it doesn’t help with location,” said Pixie CEO Amir Bassan-Eskenazi. “We have produced the world’s first LoT – Location of Things – platform. Our Pixie Point stickers go on anything and track anything inside a building. Our app connects with the Pixie Point network created by the stickers which communicate with each other, and with the app, giving you the exact location of an object – even if it moves around.”

In fact, it was a moving object that inspired Bassan-Eskenazi to invent Pixies.

“In 2012 my former company, BigBand, was being acquired, and we were about to begin the process of due diligence,” he said. “I had planned to leave in plenty of time, but as the kids rushed off to school, the front door ended up wide open, long enough for our cat to make his getaway. I spent a frantic half hour turning the house upside down and inside out, until I finally found him…in stealth mode…smirking in a niche behind our bed that I was previously unaware of.”

Amir Bassan-Eskenazi (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Amir Bassan-Eskenazi (Photo credit: Courtesy)

That half hour made Bassan-Eskenazi late for one of the most important business meetings of his life. Fortunately, the executives at US network firm Arris liked BigBand’s digital video and data processing tech enough to wave off the late arrival – but it gave Bassan-Eskenazi some food for thought.

]“It struck me how odd it was that technology had moved with such incredible velocity in the digital world, but had lagged so remarkably in the physical world. It was so easy to locate and retrieve the most obscure digital files, images or documents – about things that happened a decade ago. We could retrieve it, compare it, trend it, and organize it, in a few keyboard strokes. But in the physical world, there was no equivalent. That seemed like a disconnect that was simply unacceptable.”

To solve that, Bassan-Eskenazi created new technology – there are eight patents on the Pixies network process – to build a mesh network that acts as a location system for objects, inside or outside. Not based on Bluetooth or GPS, neither of which would be as accurate as Pixie Points according to Bassan-Eskenazi, the system uses wifi and other networking technologies, enhanced by proprietary algorithms, that connect the items to each other and to the app.

“You can find individual items, or even a group of items,” said Bassan-Eskenazi. “For example, I have my keys, wallet, and charger bundled as a ‘smart kit,’ so when I open the app I can find the location of each on the screen just by pointing my device in the direction of the missing objects, and where they are relative to each other.”

You can also set the app to alert you if the object in question gets too far away from your device – useful, said Bassan-Eskenazi, for situations such as when you forget your laptop bag in a coffee shop and the like. “We have a threefold mission – locate, protect, and organize. With Pixies you always know where your stuff is, because your device keeps track of the network automatically.”

Pixies has been under development for two years, and just went on the market several weeks ago. For $39.95, buyers can order a four-pack of Pixie Points, appropriate for objects or pet collars. Currently, the range of a Pixies network is up to 150 feet, with 50 feet its “typical indoor performance,” but the technology exists to significantly expand that network. “Our platform is open, so other networks can be integrated into the system. Piggybacking onto longer range networks, like the Internet, you could theoretically use Pixies to track down the location of an object on the other side of the world, down to the inch.”

That, perhaps, is in Pixies’ future; for now, the company is concentrating on local LoT tech to help find items at home.

“We’ve created an innovative and secure platform that links the physical world to the digital world in a way that has never been done before,” said Bassan-Eskenazi. “We all own more sophisticated and expensive possessions that we depend on, while we’re increasingly on-the-go and are multi-tasking more than ever. Pixie uses sophisticated technology to create a simple and effortless solution to life’s moving parts that is universally beneficial no matter the age or lifestyle.”

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