Chattanooga company moving onward after Walmart contest snub

Chattanooga company moving onward after Walmart contest snub

November 6th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

George Yu, CEO and founder of Variable Technologies, explains some of the capabilities of 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.

The Chattanooga invention known as the NODE came up short in Walmart's contest to crown the next big king of its online store, but the company that makes the NODE says simply being in the contest was enough to juice up its business.

"The Walmart thing was really a flier; we were shocked that we got that far," said Jonathan Bragdon, chief business officer at Variable Inc. "It was good exposure."

The company met privately Tuesday with a group of San Francisco-based developers to discuss building out the NODE's application ecosystem, creating software to take advantage of the scientific device's capabilities.

"We've got three sensors coming out that we're going to talk about at this forum, and there will certainly be some apps to announce," Bragdon said.

Variable Inc. has for some time sold five sensors that can be swapped out and communicate via bluetooth with a smartphone or other mobile device, allowing anyone with a smart device to take extremely accurate scientific measurements. The three new sensors, when announced, will add new capabilities to the existing color, climate, thermal, infrared, light and air sensor array, said Alex Lavidge, business development manager at Variable Inc.

"We've been getting a lot of inbound emails from fans and users and more importantly, from companies and potential clients that have said, 'Hey, I've heard about you guys on the competition, and could NODE be used for this, could NODE be used for that?" Lavidge said.

The company currently has 60 "conceptual" apps for the NODE device covering just about every task performed by someone who wears a hard hat or a tool belt, Lavidge said. Plus, the company has brainstormed consumer-type applications ranging from a home security system to a doorbell.

"This validates that we are onto something, and there are applications for this to enter into the consumer spaces as we get more apps developed," Lavidge said.

The company plans to make additional announcements regarding new sensors, as well as planned reseller and affiliate programs in coming weeks.

Contact Ellis Smith at or at 757-6315.