Technologist Billy Meadow spent much of his career consulting for universities on marketing and licensing patents for innovations across various industries. In the last few years, as he saw the potential for Internet of Things technology growing in the logistics space, he kept an eye out for innovations in universities.
“I did a concerted effort looking around universities for innovations that could potentially improve location tracking and something that could potentially go into smartphones,” Meadow tells Hypepotamus.
He didn’t spend too much time searching — in 2012, he came across a patent filed by the University of Oxford for the world’s first solid-state miniature atomic clock.
Current GPS technology is based on atomic clocks that exist in satellites overhead, says Meadow, and those atomic clocks have been largely operating in the same way for the past 50 years.
“I realized if you could put an atomic clock into a tiny little chip inside a cell phone, suddenly all cell phones could do location tracking indoors, where GPS signals from satellites can’t reach.”
“The end result is you could have continuous location tracking with very, very low power,” he says.
Shortly after licensing the patent, now-CTO Meadow founded LocatorX to bring low-cost real-time tracking to physical assets. The nanotechnology startup has three versions of its offerings to fit the needs of partners in different industries.
The first product is a unique 2D Barcode, called Certified Quick Response (CQR), that puts location tracking on the product labels of consumer devices (think food products, beverages, and more).
LocatorX has already acquired two large customers in the consumer brands space, each with billions of dollars in revenue.
“Product barcodes have been around for 20-plus years and now smartphones can read them, especially QR codes, with their cameras. As part of our atomic clock solution, we’re able to build a small chip that you can put into a product label and track where it is and where it’s been through a smartphone,” says Meadow.
Each CQR label comes with a unique barcode, connected to a blockchain and location-tracking log. The manufacturer can then track the product through the entire shipping life cycle, as long as workers scan the barcode as it moves through different facilities.
The barcode also contains what Meadow calls, “a dynamic product page” which comes into play when the item reaches the end-consumer. That product page allows the manufacturer to add coupons and other information for consumers onto the label itself.
Manufacturers can update their packaging to inform consumers how to scan the barcode using a smartphone, and include any information from their marketing or brand teams to increase customer engagement with products.
“Normal barcode systems haven’t been deployed in high-volume consumer applications because they weren’t uniquely coded with a security framework,” says Meadow. Because of their increased security and unique identifier codes, he says they can also help brands distinguish counterfeit or copycat products.
The labels can be printed at the same cost as previous ones and companies are charged per each barcode scan. The end customer will always have an option to opt-out of sharing their location.
To lead the company through commercialization and bringing this first product to market, in 2018 Meadow brought on IT executive Scott Fletcher, who has more than 30 years of experience in the technology space. CEO Fletcher was previously VP of HR technology company Ultimate Software, where he helped the company surpass $1 billion in annual revenue.
At the beginning of 2019, LocatorX moved from Jacksonville to Atlanta to be closer to the city’s large logistics hub and many enterprises.
Building on what they learned through the 2D barcode launch, they will be releasing their next product, an NFC/Bluetooth chip, next month.
The chip will allow manufacturers to more accurately pinpoint and transmit location and status of a product automatically, without the need for scanning a barcode. The data coming from both the chip and the barcode will be displayed on a secure dashboard for manufacturers to keep tabs on their assets.
The data from these two products will help the startup build up to phase three of their product development — the Global Resource Locator. The product, currently under development, will allow companies to track any asset, anywhere — fast.
The startup is currently in fundraising mode. Fletcher will direct the funds raised toward expanding the team from the current 10 to 25 by year-end.