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Proximity Is Where It's At

Intel- and Deutsche Telekom-backed tech startup doesn't need a network to make smart, wireless proximity applications

Phil Harvey

February 25, 2013

2 Min Read
Proximity Is Where It's At

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2013 -- "So what are you up to?" I asked Dave Mathews, founder and CEO of NewAer. "I'm building Skynet," Mathews deadpans. He certainly knows how to make an editor break stride. Of course, Mathews isn't building an artificial intelligence network that will deploy war machines and attempt to enslave humans. If he were, I wish he'd hold a press conference here. It'd be nice to see folks spitting out the press room coffee for some reason other than its taste. Instead, what Mathews has created is a technology that is "aware" of any radio in any device in range of his smartphone. When he demos this technology, in the form of an app called Toothtag, his smartphone shows a list of local radios. Some are phones, some are laptops, some are set-tops, some are Bluetooth headsets. If he knows what radio is associated with what app -- like the radios in my iPhone, for instance -- he can label that radio "Phil" and have his phone do a number of things that phones can do -- email someone, send a text, ring, find a website, vibrate, etc. -- every time I get within a certain physical distance of Dave. Helpful if you want to give your kids an old, non-smart phone, and have your smartphone ring you when they wander out of "sight." It's also helpful if you want to avoid running into a rival, ex-spouse, or boss on the floor of a giant tradeshow. Even better, no Wi-Fi or cellular network is needed for NewAer's proximity app to work. It's like social GPS, but it works inside buildings (where it's needed most). NewAer's next move is to get developers building the technology into different apps and products. It's not normally the kind of thing I'd spotlight at this show, but now that Intel Capital and T-Venture, Deutsche Telekom's VC arm, have invested in his less-than-10-person startup, I figured it was one of those things we should keep an eye on. And, of course, we're always wondering what Dave will say next. — Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the foundational technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000.

After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing columns about tech advances in everything from supercomputing to cellphone recycling.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector – if you accept that compulsive shopping and "collecting" are the same.

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