In the News

April 28, 2017

Tracking a dream

Aspiring entrepreneur Neeraj Kumar '16 takes the TAG tracking device he developed as a student to the public with a Kickstarter campaign.

In 2015, Neeraj Kumar '16 was set to complete his last full year of studies as a master’s student in informatics and computer science, interned at Google (where he now works as a software engineer) and became an entrepreneur. This last dream became a reality when he took first place in the 2016 Beall Student Design Competition at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering with a $7,500 prize to start his business.

Each year the Beall competition combines with the Butterworth Product Development Competition at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences to serve as a collaborative innovation enterprise of the schools of engineering and ICS that encourages the creation of new, exciting technologies. Ideas are born and teams are forged to find the best student solutions to designs. Then industry leaders evaluate each product based on its technological merits and commercial potential.

Three months before the competition, Kumar was looking for a “tracker” to help him locate his keys (they had a knack for getting misplaced), but could not find an affordable device. At that moment, he realized he already had a solution: TAG.

“Three things aligned,” said Kumar. “I saw there was a need, features were missing and it was feasible to make.”

Now the only problem was getting TAG out of his head and into production. That’s where the Beall Student Design Competition in Engineering came into the picture.

Kumar began work on TAG immediately and designed his own version of a small Bluetooth tracker. TAG had a simple concept — to help find lost items — but its complex assortment of novel features is what propelled it into first place.

“The [competition] judges, who are entrepreneurs themselves, gave us really constructive feedback, a reality check about the price, and led us to change our direction in a positive way and make more pragmatic decisions,” said Kumar. “My vision was that the Beall competition would serve as the right type of platform for me to build a real product and send it out into the world; I was right.”

A year after winning the Beall Student Design Competition in Engineering, Kumar has already introduced TAG to the public via a Kickstarter campaign. The tiny triangular device, which is no larger than a quarter, easily makes a charming assistant that responds to voice commands — users can ask TAG to find their things by integrating it with apps such as Google Now, Google Assistant Home, Alexa and others. It also works in tandem with the TAG smartphone app to locate, guide and help retrieve lost or stolen items. Using crowd GPS, the TAG app can track items with the device worldwide. To prevent losing an item in the first place, TAG has a separation feature where both the TAG and a user’s smartphone will alert an owner if they go more than 40-50 meters away. This is an especially useful feature for pet owners with a flight risk.

TAG is lightweight and waterproof, comes in three colors (black, white and teal), but the preeminent feature is its magic button. Double-click the TAG to sound an alarm on a phone, send an alert with real-time location to an emergency contact, or customize the action to numerous personal needs — it’s the user’s choice.

Of course, beneath these innovative features is the primary reason Kumar designed TAG: the price.

“I wanted to build a really good product at a really good price,” stressed Kumar. “I’m especially proud to say that TAG is the most affordable item tracker in the world! Making sure this product was accessible to the widest range of people was an important element in its creation.”

To help make this Anteater product a reality, supporters (and those prone to absent-mindedness) can make a pledge on Kickstarter and be one of the first people to receive a TAG upon its completion around November 2017. Early Bird supporters can snag one for as little as $13 while supplies last. The campaign only runs until June 3, 2017.

— Katherine Li Smith

Tracking a dream

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