December 30, 2013
During their time at UCSB, Christian Smith and Chris Herbert were affiliated with a technology management program that challenged students with constructing a business plan for a competition. Try as they might, Smith and Herbert couldn’t land on a solid idea.
They were musing over dinner in the commissary when the third member of their group walked in, profusely apologizing; he had lost his phone. Just then the idea blindsided the team, because they had all lost keys, wallets, and their patience at one time or another.
Successfully tracking objects in the “Internet of things” became their plan, and they developed the idea to ultimately win the class competition. Then in 2010, they took it a step further, officially started Phone Halo, and launched their first TrackR product.
“The average American searches for things in their house for about 15 minutes a day,” says Smith. “That adds up over time to about 100 hours a year, and it’s a major problem for some people.”
The device comes in three flavors to satisfy all parties; a wallet insert, a keychain model, and a sticker. The device connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and if you walk outside of the 100-foot radius, the Phone Halo app will send you a push notification to let you know you have forgotten something.
“In 1999, how many phone numbers did you have memorized? More than you do now,” says Smith. “All that information was put it in smartphones and freed up mental CPU room. We’re taking that mental CPU of ‘where are my things’ and putting it on your phone just the same.”
Smith and Herbert have taken that mentality to grow Phone Halo into a true leader in the item tracking space. However, one of their biggest hurdles along the way has been getting the word out to people that a viable solution for this issue exists.
That has prompted them to cook up some interesting marketing strategies to get their product into public forums and tell their story. They actively sought a mutual partnership with Cobra Electronics and Audivox to give the customers a stable user experience.
Phone Halo tackles all of the software while the big names handle the hardware side of things with their reliable backgrounds. This helped them further lock down their foothold in a still early adopter market since they were the first to deploy with a major carrier.
Aside from their partnerships, Phone Halo works to stay on top of future planning to avoid being taken over by competitors. They are currently working on a crowdsourced model for tracking objects that will be implemented in the near future.
If you leave something behind but somehow miss the notification from your app, Phone Halo will tap into other users in range to anonymously and confidentially let the servers know about it. You then get a personal notification from the company about where your item is so you can reclaim it.
“We definitely think necessity is the mother of invention,” says Smith. “And that’s what drives me as an entrepreneur: to keep pushing.”
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