How a mid-pandemic pivot helped this central Ohio startup find a new niche
In just about any field, it’s crucial — but also challenging — to keep track of a variety of objects or people. Hospitals need to keep track of patients, caregivers, medicine and more. Retailers need to keep track of products on their shelves. Even the military needs to keep track of its weapons, equipment and people. Unfortunately, even since the advent of GPS technology, there hasn’t been a precise, reliable way of tracking the positioning of all these things — until now. Central Ohio startup Ubihere has created two methods of tracking that could revolutionize multiple industries.
“Ubitracks is an intelligent, multi-sensory, multimodal tracking tags solution that works like a Bluetooth tile,” said Executive Vice President Eric Wagner. “It’s a self-aware, self tracking tag. We were excited about the opportunities for Ubitracks because hospital systems and other potential partners want to track all of their assets, people and their movements. We also have Ubivision, which is an artificially intelligent camera system. It’s very easy to train, and can monitor and assess different situations to provide real-time analytics. Whether it’s customers interacting with products or flying a drone without GPS, Ubivision can support that.”
TechOhio first introduced you to Ubihere back in 2019, and things have changed significantly since then. Just as they were planning to bring their technology into the marketplace with a focus on health care systems, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The company decided to pivot away from health care while hospitals were overloaded, and found an opportunity with the Department of Defense.
“The Department of Defense, and primarily the Air Force, had a number of programs that aligned very closely with our commercialization efforts,” Wagner said. “For example, our first big project was to track aerospace ground equipment as it moved and interacted with bombers. They wanted to be able to track which pieces of equipment touched which bombers, provide real-time reporting around the movement of that equipment and determine where it was and who used it. The solution for the Air Force aligned very closely with what we were trying to do with our hospital systems, so we started to pursue that as well.”
Contracts with the Department of Defense provided a necessary funding boost in addition to a new direction. But most importantly, it provided the company a place to demonstrate their groundbreaking technology. With that baseline established, they’re looking toward further commercialization in 2022.
“The pivot to defense was initially driven by COVID, but was ultimately very beneficial for the company,” Wagner said. “It provided new capital and new customers. The Air Force is not only a research and development partner, they’re actually procuring the system in the fall for two bases to track aerospace ground equipment. They are an actual customer of Ubihere, which has allowed us to mature and test the technology so that it is commercially viable and ready to launch in early 2022. Now, we are at the commercial product launch phase, which is a heavy lift, but it’s super exciting.”
In the meantime, the team continues to work from their home outside of Columbus in Hilliard. In addition to partnering with entrepreneurial organizations, the company is working closely with local municipalities to test their technology and hiring from around the area. With an eye on the future, they believe they’re in the perfect location to bring Ubihere to the nationwide forefront of tracking tech.
“Central Ohio has provided Ubihere with the resources it needs to get through challenging times,” said Wagner. “We have partnerships with Rev1 Ventures and The Ohio State University and their commercialization office. We found early funding here. We found non-dilutive capital from the State of Ohio. We participated in the state’s Technology Validation Startup Fund and received $100,000 to validate this technology before we even tried to start the company. And for us, the Air Force Research Laboratory is right down the road and central Ohio is a leader in healthcare, logistics and retail. It’s been a very supportive environment, and central Ohio is being recognized as the place to be a startup right now.”