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Mister Beacon Episode #64

The Internet of Finding Things

February 05, 2018

Personal Asset Tracking has been one of the great success stories of the Beacosystem. Companies like Stick-N-Find, Trackr and Tile were some of the first vendors and they have been selling many millions of beacons. Haystack Magic is a new challenger to the approach these incumbents have used, with a software solution that uses lower cost general purpose beacons. The Haystack Magic user interface is designed to use the way the human mind works to track things.


  • Narration 00:00

    The Mr. Beacon podcast presents the Internet of Finding Things with special guest, Misha Nossik, CEO of Haystack Magic. The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.

    Steve Statler 00:16

    Misha, thanks so much for coming on to the Mr. Beacon podcast, we're going to talk about asset tracking and crowdsourcing. And this is fairly unusual. Normally, we have companies on that are well into market and so forth. But I really like what you're doing. I think it's a great idea. So we wanted to see if we can help bring some attention to that. So thanks very much for joining the show.

    Misha Nossik 00:44

    You're more than welcome. And thanks for having me.

    Steve Statler 00:46

    So, where are where? Where is Haystack Magic based? Where is your company?

    Misha Nossik 00:51

    Haystack Magic is headquartered in Canada in the capital city called Ottawa. R&D is in Israel. So we are a global, truly global company.

    Steve Statler 01:04

    Fantastic. Well, some are very good developers in Israel. So good choice. Can you just summarize what your product does?

    Misha Nossik 01:13

    Our mission in life is to map all the physical objects in the world and make information about them universally useful? It may sound familiar, but yes, that's the ambitious goal that we set for ourselves. And our motto says, you know where everything is. So that knowledge of where things are? I think it's very important to the to the humans.

    Steve Statler 01:42

    Well, so you know, what you do, you have a mobile app, and it can be used to track things. And the mission is kind of a, or inspiring, maybe daunting one. But at a very practical level, it seems like what you can do is help people find their, their keys and the remote control, and it will talk about what else you can do. But how does what you How does your approach differ from the kind of very familiar names who've shipped millions of beacons already the likes of of tile and pointer, and so forth.

    Misha Nossik 02:17

    We're not a consumer electronics company. We are a software company, and we deliver our software as a service. Therefore, we are fairly agnostic to the hardware, as long as this hardware is standard, all of the current tracker companies, and they're about 20, probably more than this, all of them were started just before specifications for beacons, first by Apple and then by Google that were published. And that led to a very rapid and very dramatic commoditization of the hardware, you can now buy a beacon for $1. And everything that I'm that we're seeing suggests that it will be much less very soon. But even at $1, you can put these beacons on many more things than you can put the current 20 $25 trackers on. And therefore, when you have the massive amount of things, and places marked by beacons, you can have a very different approach. And when you get when you mentioned that it's keys and wallets because it's the first thing people think about. And that's what they hear of losing. However, they really lose these things very infrequently. What happens more frequently, as people misplace things, both at home and in the workplace. And I believe that wherever people are in the workplace, in all of the verticals, and all of the industry verticals and in their private lives, they need the solution that kind of works the same and is based on the same technology. That's what gives it scale. And that's what that's what lowers the price.

    Steve Statler 04:00

    When you say the same technology, what do you mean by the same technology?

    Misha Nossik 04:03

    The same technology means the same standard, the commodity consumer grade, okay? Technology, which on one hand, is exists in the form of standard beacons iBeacon Eddystone. Today, these are two competing protocols that most standard silicon implements on the same silicon so we can have both supported by the same chips. So in most phones that can receive signals in both formats.

    Steve Statler 04:31

    If we compare you to and I think I said pointer points as an indoor navigation company, so tracker, so if we compare you to track a and tile, then you're not in the hardware business, and therefore you can offer the benefits of the huge choice of different beacon technologies and you talked about some very low prices. Obviously, with that company. I have my day job With is working on that, but But tell me about what you know what pricing? Are you seeing for beacons? Where can I buy a low cost? Battery Powered beacon from and what kind of pricing? Can I expect to pay?

    Misha Nossik 05:12

    They already advertised on Alibaba at one door. And what we see is that Bill of Materials rapidly shrinks, I envision within the span of a year and a half, we will get to 57 and 227 vehicles. And as Wilier promises us some of these beacons will be without the battery, only need the battery. If you want this beacon to shine and slight far away, we don't believe there is a need for that. As you will see, in our demo, we actually work better with beacons are seen from a very close proximity. Why is it important because there are phones that roam the earth, they come close, eventually, some phone will come close to a beacon, and we'll pick it up. So there is no need for this beacon to be visible from 30 meters away, because somebody will eventually come close to it at a distance of one to two meters. We talk to a center to chip vendors. And we see that and even in 100,000 volume, the prices for the for the for the chip itself or the SOC that powers all these beacons is way less than $1. And when we're thinking about millions in volume, not even hundreds, hundreds of 1000s. Okay, it's because we'll be really cheap.

    Steve Statler 06:32

    So the so there's a one of the other differences, you're not looking for beacons to be broadcasting at zero dBm, which is pretty strong signal you're what what kind of signal strength do you recommend people configure their beacons to transmitter to for kind of optimal usage with your software?

    Misha Nossik 06:53

    Well, so far beacons depend on the battery. And the battery lasts much longer if you configure it to minus 20 minus 30. And that's the minimum setting that I see is available from most beacon manufacturers, we also don't need to broadcast very frequently, the broadcast interval is quite okay to be starting at one once a second. And sometimes when, when you don't need it, it can be lowered to once every five or 10 seconds. The thing is that the beacons and then obviously, we will see the beacons without the battery. And there, they can not transmit more more frequently and more powerfully than certain minimum. And we're building the technology. We're building our software to take advantage of these beacons capabilities. Because this is their in capability to transmit more powerfully and more frequently is actually not a disadvantage.

    Steve Statler 07:54

    Okay. Well, this is interesting. So last area of difference that I see. I think there's others as well. But one of the biggies is you buy a tile beacon or a tracker beacon. And it'll have a it'll be per maybe it'll have a light on it. And it seems like if you're going for these commodity beacons, then you're not necessarily going to be doing that. I think we should switch to a demo very soon. But before we do that, just how do you? How do you help people find things if there's no beeping?

    Misha Nossik 08:26

    Well, because there are many things that will be marked in are being marked with very inexpensive commodity beacons, we introduced the notion of context. Humans don't think in terms of in terms of geographic coordinates, or any coordinates in any system of coordinates, you give the human two numbers, or three numbers and they have no idea what to do with them. However, humans think in terms of context, if you lost your umbrella, or misplaced your umbrella somewhere in the office or in the house or somewhere, and you're given a context of it, which says that the Umbrella was last seen not far from from your shoes, and your laptop charger, and your, your headset. And when you're given a list of five, six things, chances are chances are very high that you will remember Oh, I saw my glasses there and if it's near my glasses, so I remember where it is now and you know where to search and of course, we can give the proximity indicator which also will produce sound on the phone, which is kind of hot cold, it doesn't work very well but it gives you some indication where where things are and once you know the area, especially indoors, the area where you left, your one of your items and you know the context becomes very easy to find. I know it because I'm using it pretty much every To date, and it's, it's amazing to see how human memory works. You know that your, that your tablet or is near your glasses, and you immediately remember where you saw your glasses less than, therefore you know where the tablet is.

    Steve Statler 10:14

    That is fascinating. You're right. That's exactly how our brain works. It's all about associations. And if you can trigger that association, then it all comes back and probably better to leverage that than our sonar location capabilities, which are iffy at best. Okay, what can you show us the Can you show us the product and action?

    Misha Nossik 10:38

    Certainly, I will now share my screen.

    Steve Statler 10:42

    So what we're going to look at is an Android app, right?

    Misha Nossik 10:45

    That is correct. So what you're looking at is the main screen of, of haystack magic application, which shows a list of items that belong to me and members of my family. And you can see that there's quite a lot. And there is no real limit. Practical limited, I can add dozens and dozens of things. I can also group this things in sets. So that's my everyday carry in my bag. And it contains things that I want to be with me when I'm leaving the home. And there is an exclamation mark here, which says the set is not complete. Because some things like I forget, for example, I forgot my laptop charger in my car. And how do I know because in addition to items, which are marked by beacons also have places that are marked by beacons. And as you can see there various places in my home, but also outside of my home that I have marked and resemble my car is marked by a beacon in my rental cars, I have a beacon for a rental car. So when I rent a car, I light up this beacon and drop it in the car so that I get warnings when I forget something in rent when I return a rental car before I run too far away. So we can easily add beacons to the sets to the to the list of beacons that we have. So let me show how it works. So for example, let's add a location. Right now. I will, I can have I have several ways of adding a location. One of the ways for adding your location is using a QR code that I can attach to the beacons or just using them by proximity. But for the fun of it, let's just see how this beacon looks like you see the QR code mark the beacon that I want to register, and I will call this beacon demo. I also can take a picture of it with my camera.

    Steve Statler 12:52

    So Chinese beacon, right?

    Misha Nossik 12:54

    This is the this is the beacon made by a company in Shenzhen called menu. And this is our preferred supplier for beacons so far.

    Steve Statler 13:03

    How much did they cost?

    Misha Nossik 13:06

    Well, they are advertised between I think $1 and $10. Okay, the price depends on the volume goes up, because I'm buying them in the volume that is measured in dozens buy like 20 or 40 at a time. It's higher than $1. But if I buy, you know, 100,000 of them, it will be that it will be probably close to $1. And this is and by the way, it's interesting that the beacons of all sorts cost about the same although this beacon is, looks much more, it's much larger with larger battery, then, because that we glue to things. This is the beacon used to mark the location. So we're uploading this beacon into a database, which exists in our service. And now it's uploaded will take a few seconds for this beacon to show up in locations. But in the meanwhile, we'll wait for the locations of the items that are now there are now marked as being in the study. But in a few minutes, we will see that they will start switching to this new demo location which is closer than this study. Let's just go and check whether this demo this demo location. Oops, sorry. That happens sometimes. Whether this demo locations have has appeared. Again, we're not a real time location service. We believe that things that are misplaced, have been misplaced for a while before that person starts looking for them. So there's no rush in determining the location algorithm. An algorithm is actually based on that it goes back in time and analyzes carefully all of the signals that have been received from all of the beacons over a long period of time and yields this picture of the world that then is ready to be presented to people, whenever, whenever the information is needed, so probably we'll come back to it. But let me just look and see what the context looks like. So this is the context for my, this is the current context for my notebook, which just now was identified. Oh, it's near the demo, it's the nearest location. Okay, next year is location is study. The next is kitchen, then the guest bathroom, and bedroom. So So you see that there's a progression of things. But the closest three things to my notebook is the beacon that's called demo, which marks the location, and then my whole glasses and my tablet, which are right here, next to each other. And if I go back to the, to the main screen, you see the notebook and the tablet? Yes. Are near the location that we just introduced, which is called demo.

    Steve Statler 16:00

    Very good. So and this is crowd sourced is it. So if we, if there are two of us that have the app and where I'm at work, and you're at home and you left your keys at work, then my app could tell you where your keys are?

    Misha Nossik 16:16

    Absolutely. And let me just look at what there's there's a location here, that's called Demo locations, which my folks in Israel I use, are using, but let me see if it's still, if it's still showing their demo. Where's this? Demo location? I just saw it. Yeah, I just saw it there as well. It's a demo location. Yeah. This, this is the beacon that oh, yeah, they lost the signal first. So they probably turned it off. But it was, this actually is a beacon that lives in Israel. And when they when they when they come close to it, it lights up. recoup. So yes, you're right. All of the phones, running, haystack, Magic Application, harvest all of the beacons for everybody. And they all forwarded to the same huge database that our algorithm constantly scans and analyzes.

    Steve Statler 17:18

    And so what is the what is it that stops? Folks from Kyle, looking at this podcast and kind of doing what you're doing? Is there are there any barriers, what's where's the IP and what you're doing?

    Misha Nossik 17:32

    Well, our crown jewel is actually not this application, although it's quite nice. But our crown jewel is the algorithm that runs in the cloud in our service. And there's some serious mathematics that learns from prior history. So there are elements of artificial intelligence there that build, build a structure, a data structure that tells us how things are located relative to each other. This is protected by patents. And we are keep on filing them. So that's the barrier obviously, we don't want we don't really see all the current beacon trackers, or tracker vendors or our competitors, we actually for the fun of it, we just registered one of them with my, with my flight bag. All right, and our algorithm doesn't quite know what to do with it, because it shines the light, it's light so brightly, it broadcasts at such a high power, wasting a lot of battery that we see it from anywhere. So our our algorithms says, well, it's near all of the beacons. So it just gives me the the the address where I currently am, where this item is, whereas every other beacon which is which is standard, we can tune it much to much lower power, transmit power, and therefore we can correlate with nearby other beacons, which are which are location markers. But we can register non standard beacons. And if these companies want to cooperate with with us, we are more than what they're more than welcome to, to reach reach out to us. And if they disclose their proprietary protocols, we could probably integrate them all into this application, and they will be all working together.

    Steve Statler 19:27

    Cool. You were talking about the proprietary nature of the the, you know, the tiles protocol and so forth. And I guess one of the other differences is that what they're doing is proprietary, but it's also connection orientated right, and you're just working in beacon mode without a connection.

    Misha Nossik 19:45

    Of course, the beacons don't the beacons imply that they're broadcasting and so unidirectional. So it's a connectionless way of gathering information. We can control the beacons for periods of time, when they turn, when they turn on and open in are open up for connection, but it wastes their battery. And why would we do this, go and see any need to talk to these beacons, other than maybe change their power settings, and broadcast period settings. But we already set them so low and so infrequently that it doesn't really make much sense.

    Steve Statler 20:24

    Tell us a bit about the applications for there. So there's the there's the home applications, but you're kind of engaged with some other interesting partners and customers. Talking about those.

    Misha Nossik 20:36

    First thing that comes to mind when you think of tracking possessions tracking items, is the household or domestic use, like household use, and consumer market. However, we believe that what we do transcends various verticals. And we're just in the beginning of a huge change in human behavior, where things are being increasingly shared. The way was shown to us by early company, early vendors of software that allowed people to share cars or their their dwellings, their residences. But now we see co working spaces changing the way people work. And the same companies change the way people live. So we're at the very beginning of the cycle of sharing economy, where things will be shared that cannot be really tracked with the GPS kind of precisions, like the cars, the bicycles and, and the houses, there will be tools, and there will be all kinds of objects that can be shared between people that are very small and live indoors. So you need to find a new way of expressing their location. And this is exactly what we do. deacons will be a huge, huge help, and a huge game changer in this. And when I say beacons, I mean commodity inexpensive, sub $1, maybe sub 50 cent type of tiny because embedded into everything.

    Steve Statler 22:08

    Yeah, I think that's that's true. And we're seeing people that make products starting to think about traceability trackability for to mitigate issues around theft, but as you say, can be part of the sharing economy as well. That's really cool. So we've seen the product, talked about some of the direction that you're going in, it's clearly differentiated. Any last things you want to say before we wrap up,

    Misha Nossik 22:34

    I think that this is the very early days of item location, based on standard radio beacons standard Bluetooth beacons. And I think that the industry will win and will benefit from cooperation between different vendors, hardware vendors, software vendors, and all kinds of consumers of the technology, including businesses, workplaces, co working places, all kinds of offices, real estate, these these other markets that need to cooperate in order to bring it to life.

    Steve Statler 23:15

    Well, I love that vision. And I agree with it. So. So it's really, really been good to have you on the show. Misha Nossik, CEO of haystack magic. Thanks very much.

    Misha Nossik 23:27

    Thank you very much, Steve.

    Steve Statler 23:39

    So yeah, have you ever had a chance to think about the music that you would take with you to Mars.

    Misha Nossik 23:45

    Well? You're limiting me to three. The reason for that, because I take the just every song ever created, or every piece of music ever created on the planet? But if you're sure insist.

    Steve Statler 23:50

    It's very interesting. I do.

    Misha Nossik 24:05

    You know, for me, it's very reflective of my biography, because growing up and pretty much throughout my life and always listen to songs in languages I barely understood. It started with songs in English, which I listened growing up. And at one point, I said, Well, I got to understand what is it that they're saying? And I kind of went on a mission to learn all the words of all the Beatles songs. And the one that stuck with me through the years is the probably the less popular one, the less known one that's called Your Mother Should Know. I don't know if you know it's but what was a breath? You probably do.

    Steve Statler 24:49

    But it's a great song.

    Misha Nossik 24:52

    Yeah, and it kind of migrates from playlist to Playlist still with me on most of my devices and In my online library, and I listened to it every once in a while. The other one that kind of stuck with me through the years I picked up in Israel. Again, when I lived there, the music scene and the music environments is very different from what I was used to growing up. And I started listening to the songs in Hebrew. And again, it helped me very much learning the language one that that I keep on listening to, every once in a while is by it's a collector, it's called Slim Metal One, which roughly translates to translate it as the tuned sound to tone. Just very romantic and sentimental. And pretty old, pretty old songs.

    Steve Statler 25:48

    How old were you? When you moved to Israel?

    Misha Nossik 25:50

    I was about 26 years old. So it was kind of second part of my life. And the last time that I you know, I ended up in Canada, in a city that is how Francophone and nobody speaks French to me, because they, when they hear the accent, they assume I'm not French, so they speak English. It ended up with my kids speaking French to each other, so they don't understand. So I had to deal with that song. I'm kind of making great, great progress in my French over the last few years. And the one song that I kind of keep on listening to is that's that's the new one, a relatively new one by the Belgian artist called Stromae. And the song is called Formidable, which I guess translates as wonderful. It's a very, also very, very romantic and unusual song. Maybe few of your listeners know, but that's my choice.

    Steve Statler 26:52

    Fantastic. Well, that's really unique and original. It's amazing how much commonality we ended up getting, it's just three songs and quite often we get a lot of the same one. So no one's ever chosen any of those songs. So thanks very much.

    Narration 27:08

    The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.