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ByteLight raises $1.2 million for LED bulbs that transmit indoor location info to mobile phones

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 16, 2012 12:01 AM

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It's impossible to resist a light bulb joke today:
Q. How many venture capitalists does it take to fund a light bulb startup?

A. Two. One to listen to the pitch, and the other to check e-mail on his phone and then ask a clueless question about the target market.

So...now the news: Cambridge-based ByteLight, which spun out of Boston University's Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center and took part last year in the Summer@Highland accelerator program, has raised $1.25 million in its first round of funding. The money comes from individual investors and California-based Vantage Point Capital Partners.

ganick.pngByteLight is designing a system that's sort of like indoor GPS. Special LED light bulbs are programmed to flicker in a certain pattern. When the camera in your cell phone can "see" the light from several of them, it gets a fix on your location... even if there's no WiFi, GPS, or wireless coverage where you are. The company says its positoning is accurate to about one meter, and that it can be calculated within a second. The bulbs' imperceptible flicker pattern can also trigger information to pop up on your phone's screen, sending a special offer based on where you are in a store, or telling you the current security wait time at the nearest airport checkpoint. ByteLight's founders are Aaron Ganick, right, and Dan Ryan.

ByteLight has been working on prototype bulbs at its office space in Kendall Square's Dogpatch Labs, but the company says its plan is to license its technology to established LED lighting manufacturers. "The value proposition for LED lighting has traditionally been framed in terms of improved energy efficiency and longer life cycles," according to a company press release. "ByteLight is enhancing the commercial value of LEDs by turning them into more than just sources of illumination, thereby accelerating adoption of LED technology in the market."

The company says it is working with several stores and museums in the Boston area that will be test sites for the ByteLight bulbs. One of those is Boston's Museum of Science, according to a message the company posted on the fundraising site AngelList earlier this year.

I wrote about ByteLight last November, in a column headlined "Moving mapping technology indoors."

A company video is below:

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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