Yodel Labs’ Wayfinding Tech Navigates Its Way to First at Hardware Cup

Photo Credit: Justin Harvilla / AlphaLab Gear

Photo Credit: Justin Harvilla / AlphaLab Gear

Carnegie Mellon-spinout Yodel Labs took home the big prize at the AlphaLab Gear Hardware Cup on Wednesday night. “It’s like GPS, for inside,” explained co-founder Patrick Lazik during his three minute pitch onstage at the Union Project. The simple beacon utilizes ultrasound to place users accurately indoors, where GPS is inaccurate or unavailable. With the first place prize, Yodel Labs took home a $50,000 convertible-debt investment from Startbot VC. Yodel Labs is the first Pittsburgh-based startup to win the Hardware Cup.

With Yodel Labs’ beacons, or Acoustic Location Processing System (ALPS), an object inside of a building can be guided within 20 centimeters of accuracy, creating a precise and cost effective tool for interior wayfinding. Integrated with a smartphone app, the ALPS can accurately guide users around inside, which can be used for a wide array of spatial awareness applications. During his pitch, Lazik presented an in-store use case, where the beacons can guide customers with a smartphone app to find items on their shopping list within a grocery store.

The company, founded in 2017, already has established partnerships with retailers, and integrations with manufacturers. Yodel Labs also took home 2nd overall in “Best phone-based system” in 2018 at Microsoft Indoor Localization Competition.

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In its fifth year, the Hardware Cup is an extension of Innovation Work’s AlphaLab Gear. “To date, we’ve featured over 1,000 startups creating hardware from 12 US cities and 8 countries,” explained event coordinator Leah Simoncelli. This year’s finalists had 11 pitches from across the globe including the US, China, South Korea, Japan, and India.

Companies in the Hardware Cup final won their regional competitions, and were invited to Pittsburgh to make a three-minute pitch in front of a panel of expert judges including Atin Batra (Q Venture Partners), John Ho (Anzu Partners), Margot Matouk (Next Act Fund), Josh McElhattan (Startbot), David Motley (BlueTree Venture Fund), and Melissa Withers (RevUp Capital).

The cup gives early stage hardware startups the opportunity to pitch their company in a high profile setting, as well as provide international networking opportunities. Wednesday’s final included an array of companies across the green energy space, consumer products, and medical devices.

The winning teams from each US region of the Hardware Cup competition were awarded $3,000 cash, other prizes, and the opportunity to compete in Wednesday’s international finals.

VitalFlo from Raleigh, North Carolina took home the $5,000 second place prize. VitalFlo’s smart meter, connected to an app helps measure user’s lung capacity and better predicts oncoming asthma attacks.

AlgenAir from Baltimore, Maryland took home the $3,000 third place prize. The company’s air purifier grows algae indoors to help naturally clean and filter the air.

Equals, from Hong Kong, was given the international connections prize. Equals has created a more cost effective alternative to can seaming for small batch beverage makers and hobbyists. The international connections prize helps connect international companies to US investors and manufacturers.


EMMA DIEHL - Contributing Writer

Emma is a Pittsburgh-based technology and lifestyle writer, covering everything from machine learning in law enforcement to historic building preservation. Her byline has appeared on XOJane, NPR, Huffington Post, NEXTPittsburgh, and Very Local.

Originally published on Friday, May 17th, 2019