Smart beacons and proximity interactions: 9 questions with the creators of tod

We recently had the chance to ask Rowdy Robots CEO Jon Prevo and VP Don Mallicoat about their newly kickstarted project t?d and where they see the smart beacons leading them.

Can you share a little background on t?d?

When we put the tod Smart Beacon together our vision was to create a truly configurable, expandable and affordable accessory together that leveraged the cutting edge and soon to be ubiquitous Bluetooth 4 standard. We wanted to create something could be what you needed when you needed it. Something that came with a robust set of functionality out of the box, but that could be endlessly expanded with sensors and add on modules by the Hacker Spaces. Something that anyone could create a custom interaction on, using the simple UI on the app or dashboard. On top of that we wanted to build a foundation accessory, one that could be hacked, modded and tweaked by the DIY, Hacker and IOT crowd. Alone tod Smart Beacons represent a Proximity Interaction Platform foundation, that can be extended to the IOT world with a wide array of sensors or as connectivity for your project using Bluetooth 4.0 vs WiFi.

Thanks to the flexibility, speed and low power of Bluetooth 4 we have been able to create something that we are very excited about, the first truly customizable Personal Accessory. Something that enables the Internet of Everything, not just things but people, places, and actions, right in the palm of your hand, that you can connect to using the devices you already own and take with you anywhere.

creators of tod

What was original inspiration for the product?

We’ve always wanted other options for connecting projects to the web, as well as other options for simple projects besides Arduino. Over the years we’ve kicked around plenty of ideas for an Interaction Platform, something that was finer than GPS and worked indoors, something that was like QR codes but instant and automatic, something that was similar to RFID and NFC but with lower power and greater range.

Over years of discussions, other projects and advancements in technology it all came together thanks to Bluetooth 4 and its adoption by the manufacturers. We finally had a way to tie everything together and make it work, so we took a leap of faith and put it all together on a very small budget and pushed it to Kickstarter. Now here we are 1000+ backers and 2000+ tod Smart Beacons Pre-Ordered and we’re ready to launch into full production.

creators of tod

I really enjoy the set it and forget it aspect of the beacon. Have you seen any particular industry or user understand the concept quicker than others?

Families with children and caregivers of those with mental disabilities or injuries such as Autism and Alzheimers. I’ve personally experienced the gut wrenching dread when I look down and my child is not by my side. I don’t know how long she’s been gone, where I was when she wandered and I am frantic until I find her. Now that will never happen again, anywhere we go. From my front yard to the park, mall, museum, or on vacation. I simply set the range and rest at ease knowing I will be instantly alerted if they wander from my adjustable safety perimeter.

Other than that, since we’re moving into production with our product and finalizing our software with the Kickstarter project we haven’t pushed tod out there too hard yet. However living in Utah and loving the outdoors I’m the most excited by the opportunities for interactions in the wild. For example tod Enabled Ski Resorts where there are tod Smart Beacons at the top and bottom of each run and around the mountain where I can interact automatically or as part of an interactive game. Or, to interact with a trail head or some insane vertical terrain on a climb and interact with a tod Smart Beacon to earn a badge that someone created before they placed the beacon.

What’s the most unexpected or surprising idea for t?d that you have seen people come up with lately?

Zombie Tag. They will be launching soon on Kickstarter and want to include the tod Smart Beacon to provide proximity interactions and allow for better than GPS use indoors.

How does discoverability work within the t?d system?

Smart Beacons broadcast their identity autonomously. When the tod app is running on a mobile device, the beacon is picked up and identified. From there, the user either can interact or not depending on the rights and interactions created by the owner. You can set interactions to be public, private or group, as well as do so on a schedule. For example, one that’s big for me, if I usually leave work at 5:15 and I have a beacon in the car I can set it so that if I don’t get in the car by 5:20 to send my wife a text letting her know I’m running late and then have the system ask me if I want to send her another at 5:45 when I actually get in the car that I’m on my way. I can set that to occur Mon-Fri, automatically.

creators of tod

Can you speak a little bit more to the Cloud service that you are developing? Any favorite features that we can look forward to?

tod Smart Beacons that you own will natively be able to interact with your devices and extend any functionality that the device has to offer. The tod Cloud adds to the tod functionality by extending the full functionality of the web, and allowing interactions with tod Smart Beacons that belong to others. The largest potential we see there is to run a full marketing suite allowing businesses to interact with consumers, to create seamless and instant feedback opportunities as well as expansive interactive experiences. This additionally opens up a wide range of social opportunities as well, both on system and with integrations to existing social platforms.

creators of tod

Our app and Dashboard will be built on our patent pending Proximity Interaction Platform. But we will also be extending it’s power to other Bluetooth 4 devices by allowing them to be registered on the system with possible minor losses in functionality. We will further extend the platform by opening licensed access via an API for creating proprietary apps and solutions as well.

Any additional details for the development community in terms of add-on module possibilities or API’s that you can share?

Since we are putting the tod Smart Beacon to the world with an Open Development Platform the sky is really the limit. The foundation of the system is the BLE112A module which offers the entire standardized Bluetooth low energy stack protocol which includes GAP, GATT, L2CAP, SMP and Bluetooth SIG low energy profiles. This really creates an open Development Protocol where Developers can add sensors, haptic feedback, motors and servos, displays and practically anything that can be attached to a GPIO. Additionally with the on-board 8051 Processor and 128k of available memory, simple Arduino style projects can be build with firmware code and simple electronics, connecting to the web through Bluetooth 4 and the other devices you already own.

We have some on going discussions on integration with Pebble, Meta Watch, Presence and Ninja Cloud, and are actively evaluating other IOT platforms like Cosm, and

What are your next steps?

As our project closes and we move from project to full production and product our next steps are to solidify the brand, global distribution, and partnerships that make sense. We have a lot planned for the coming months that will extend Bluetooth 4 into a lot of existing markets where enhanced, instant and automatic interactions make sense. We’re excited to see what the developers from Kickstarter put together as well.

Shout-outs: Any sites/people/articles or books that have inspired you lately?

We have been truly inspired by the people on Kickstarter. The faith, the support, being able to see our vision and offer feedback and of course their support has been absolutely amazing. A Great Big shout out to all of the blogs and outlets that have supported us and given great coverage, Postscapes of course, Mashable, Engadget, Design Buzz, MyLovelyMac,Kidela and the many others. Thank you to our families and friends for standing behind us through the whirlwind that this has been so far and for the pushes of inspiration.

Thanks for taking the time.

If you want to pick yourself up a smart beacon visit, or you can follow Rowdy Robots latest developments on their blog or at @ConnectUrLife


Jon Prevo and VP Don Mallicoat

Rowdy Robots CEO Jon Prevo and VP Don Mallicoat