Pittsburgh-based Yodel Labs wins AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup
Have you ever had a hard time finding an item you needed in a densely packed supermarket? “Where in the world is the aisle that has my eye drops?” you may have asked yourself.
Well, now there’s an app for that, thanks to Yodel Labs, a Pittsburgh-based company and Carnegie Mellon University spinout. You will soon be able to use your mobile device to locate items in a store with something called the Acoustic Location Processing System (ALPS). It operates indoors similarly to the way GPS does outdoors.
Its development enabled Yodel Labs to take the $50,000 grand prize in the 2019 AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup, an international pitch competition for early-stage hardware startups with at least one physical product component.
This year, seven U.S. regions and four other countries sent their finalists to the Hardware Cup Finals in Pittsburgh on May 15. They included a Raleigh based company called VitalFlo that created a device that predicts asthma attacks before a patient has one. A Baltimore company called AlgenAir that has developed the first natural air purifier that uses algae to combat the problem of indoor air pollution.
“Being a Pittsburgh based accelerator, it’s exciting to see a Pittsburgh winner shine among all of these really talented startups,” said Leah Simoncelli, coordinator of the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup. “Yodel Labs has some exciting traction already with this high accuracy indoor localization system.”
The way it works is that the system knows where you are in the store thanks to ultrasound beacons that find the precise location of standard smartphones and tablets. It gives you turn by turn directions and uses “augmented reality” to create things like directional arrows that show up on your phone to point you in the right direction. Yodel supplies a software framework that retailers use to create their own applications.
“There would not be a single application that works everywhere. You have a store app for a particular brand of stores. So you would have your Giant Eagle app, your Walmart app, your Lowe’s app and they can all use our system,” said Patrick Lazik, Chief Technology Officer of Yodel Labs.
“A store is a very challenging environment, but it applies to more than retail. It applies to airports, it applies to hospitals, visitors and patients finding their way around. Down the road there will be applications that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
Lazik said winning the Hardware Cup has boosted Yodel Labs profile to the point where they are getting serious interest from investors.
“It’s connected us with a bunch of people who are interested in location technology, retailers, hospitals. It’s still in the early stages as a whole but we’re going to see a lot of progress very soon with this,” said Lazik. “It’s connected us with so many people that have these problems that we’re trying to solve. This is getting the word out there. It’s also connected us with new employees. We are hiring by the way.”
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].