Here’s how a typical morning at my house goes. I leave for the office, remembering my laptop but forgetting the charger. My kids’ schoolbags might have full water bottles, but their reading books could be basically anywhere.
We’ve driven a mile away from the house – before remembering that my son’s glasses are by his bedside.
In a recent survey 76% of parents said they run late every morning, while they collect all the crucial items needed for the day. Clearly, technology is the solution.
Wallet, keys, phone, glasses – all the everyday items that you can’t live without. RFID has long been pegged as a solution to finding lost items, but I recently met a startup with a new twist on the idea. Evy was founded by QUB electrical engineering students Niamh Tohill, CEO, and Andrew Cunningham, COO.*
Evy will be the latest bag for gadget heads. By ‘bag’ that could be a bookbag, a sports bag, a handbag – all embedded with protected antennae to pick up signals from simple RFID stickers.
In this crowded market, most lost-and-found apps rely on Bluetooth, but that requires two devices to talk to each other. Evy’s inexpensive, disposable RFID stickers can be applied to any item.
The bag registers items with stickers in a one-time process, using Evy’s accompanying app, and then you tell the app which days of the week you need to pack those items. Your bag scans its contents and alerts you to the items you forgot. The app can also sync with events happening in your calendar, for instance, reminding you to pack your passport when you’re going to the airport.
According to the founders, more than half of Americans (140m) purchased a backpack in 2013, and presumably that number has risen in recent years.
“Evy is short for everything. It looks out for you and your stuff,” said Niamh.
The backpack will be sold with five tags initially, at a price of £50, plus the free app. If you need to track more than five items, extra packs of 10 tags will cost £12. The bag will rescan the items whenever you press a button on the bag’s strap, or the rescan button on the app. The students have been using Arduino computer processors for the tech so far, but they hope to design their own circuit board in the future.
Have you taken funding to date?
Niamh said, “So far we’ve gotten £5,000 in innovation vouchers, and another £4,000 from QUB Dragon’s Den, where we came joint-first. Aside from Invent, we’re also in the running for a few more competitions with prize funds.”
With any initial seed funding they come across, the team will pay for further design and development. They also need to hire designers for both the antenna inside the bag, and the outside of the bag – the “fashion” side of things, as Niamh calls it.
“We’re electrical engineers, not fashionistas, so we’ll take advice and input for the actual design of the bags,” she said. “Evy’s bags will target four main groups – schoolbags, handbags, travel work bags, and sports bags.”
Children will lose 1,000 items through their school years, a survey of 2,000 UK adults recently found. (Source: https://www.mynametags.com/blog/2016/07/we-surveyed-you-responded/) And their bags contain items worth more than £500, on average, research by John Lewis found. So the selling point for tracking technology into this market is quite clear. Niamh also stressed that the sports market is a big area – and the manufacturer O’Neills has indicated they can manufacture the sports bag.
“It will work the same as the backpack except the antennae design will be larger, to include the whole bag in its range,” Niamh said.
Evy is currently a finalist for the Electronics category of the Invent Awards. We wish them good luck.
*Evy’s other founders are: Vince Kearney, Nathan Steenson, and Matthew Whiteside. Interested parties are invited to email the founding team here.