Chattanooga engineer creates high-tech sensors at Variable Technologies

Chattanooga engineer creates high-tech sensors at Variable Technologies

July 24th, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

Wade Gasior, senior software engineer, left, and George Yu, CEO and founder of Variable Technologies, discuss a piece of programming Wednesday. The Variable Technologies team has recently set up camp at the Business Development Center to develop, market, and produce the Node device. The device incorporates various sensors -- including movement, heat, light and radioactivity -- into a palm-sized cylinder that connects to a smart phone via Bluetooth.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

• Name: Variable Technologies

• Location: 100 Cherokee Blvd.

• Contact information: George.Yu@variabletech.com

• Products/services: Node is a sensor that connects with iPhones to detect motion, light, weather, radiation and several other metrics. The core Node, which sells for $149, is a cylindrical accelerometer with space for two connections on either end. Those swapable sensors can shine a light to detect an object's temperature 15 feet away, sense the barometric pressure in a room, measure radioactivity and perform several other sensory activities.

• Age: Eight months

• Getting started: Company founder and Node developer George Yu made his name in the sensors business working with NASA to develop a chemical sensor for the United States government. The sensor was able to plug into a phone and detect anything potentially dangerous floating in the air. The government decided against funding the commercialization of the product, so Yu struck out on his own and, with the experience from his first build, created an even better product from the ground up.

• Target market: Yu has several ideas for how his sensors can be used. Coffee roasters can carefully control the environment of their beans. Bikers can track their routes and how fast they pedal. But Yu is most excited to see how people use the device in ways he hasn't thought of. "It's a multipurpose tool," he said. "The market really ranges all the way from consumers to industrial processes."

• Biggest hurdle: Starting a business. Yu is a Georgia Tech engineering graduate. He's a pro at developing technology, but figuring out how to market, produce, set prices and all the other big and small challenges to start a business were difficult.

• Lesson learned: Push your ideas as quickly as you can. Time is the most valuable resource, Yu said, so people with great business ideas should run with them. "Figure out the pitfalls quickly so if you need to make changes, you can," he said.