published Monday, October 21st, 2013

Walmart to consider Chattanooga startup for retail

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.
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.

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.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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