Walmart to consider Chattanooga startup for retail

Walmart to consider Chattanooga startup for retail

October 21st, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Local - Breaking News

Pictured is the Node device being developed and produced by Variable Technologies. The team of Variable Technologies, a company founded by George Yu {CQ}, 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.

A Chattanooga-area startup is facing the prospect of dramatic growth as part of Walmart's effort to use Internet opinion to determine which promising new products will earn a place in its virtual shelves.

Walmart's "Get on the Shelf" contest, which runs in concert with an online-only reality show, will pit the Chattanooga-based NODE Wireless Sensor Platform, invented by local businessman George Yu, against the Eraselet, a bracelet that also serves as a pencil eraser. The Eraselet is is based in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

After the episode, which airs tomorrow at 1 p.m., viewers will have 72 hours to vote for the product they think belongs on Walmart shelves. The winner will earn a spot on the retail giant's website, with a chance to earn an actual spot on Walmart's shelves, depending on sales.

NODE, which currently employs 15 workers in Chattanooga, reported about $500,000 in revenue last year on the sale of thousands of devices, said Alex Lavidge, business development manager at the company.

The NODE is a bluetooth-enabled sensor that can monitor weather, track motion, test impacts or any one of a number of scientific tests, and requires only a iOS or Android device to run.

The company plans to keep producing its product in Chattanooga, even if it wins a contract to supply Walmart, Lavidge said.

"The Southeast is one of the fastest-growing manufacturing spaces, and Chattanooga is in a great spot because of the low cost of living and other incentives for manufacturing," he said. "Regardless of the outcome, I don't foresee any changes regarding where we continue to do production in the future."

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.