Proximity Is Where It's At

Phil Harvey
The Philter
Phil Harvey, US Bureau Chief
2/25/2013



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

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