When a guest requests a rollaway bed at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, which has more than 1,200 rooms, someone from housekeeping has to rush to that floor and hope there's a made bed ready and waiting. If there isn't, they go to the next floor and hope again.
But within weeks, Hyatt McCormick Place employees will be able to find such items through an app on the iPod Touches they carry around on their shifts.
TrakNProtect, a two-year-old startup based in Chicago, will install beacons on the hotel's rollaway beds, cribs and fridges that will communicate over WiFi with gateways to pinpoint those items on a property.
"For us, it's great because we're able to find these items very quickly and get them delivered up to our guests as quickly as possible," said Jeff Thompson, director of rooms at Hyatt McCormick Place. TrakNProtect entered a contract with that property that starts on March 1, after a successful beta with the hotel last summer.
TrakNProtect will track about 250 items for Hyatt McCormick Place, which will require about 35 gateways across its two towers, said CEO and co-founder Parminder Batra. For that level of coverage, TrakNProtect will charge Hyatt McCormick Place and any other early customers $5,000 up front — which includes installation, hardware and software — plus $500 per month for 24 months.
Batra said they are testing the TrakNProtect system at two auto dealerships and are in talks with a Middle Eastern airline. What all these industries share is a need to locate items that many people can access or move in a day. At dealerships, the beacons would tell employees where each vehicle is, which could shorten the client's wait time and — Batra hopes — the sales cycle.
That way, "you're actually selling them the car rather than entertaining them while your staff goes looking for it," Batra said.
The company pivoted to focus on business clients after starting out offering a way to track personal items.
"I need 10 (individual) clients to equal one hotel client," Batra said.
It made sense to go after big clients first, from a marketing perspective, she said. But she's still interested in creating a product for the consumer market in the future.
Competitors in the personal-items space include Tile, which has sold more than 4.5 million of its Bluetooth-enabled trackers and is backed by $16 million in venture capital. Batra, on the other hand, raised a small sum from friends and family and is taking another $50,000 in cash and services from the virtual Travel Startup Incubator.
Batra said she plans to start fundraising for TrakNProtect this spring. She has one part-time and two full-time employees, and contracts installation and software development work with outside firms. The TrakNProtect team works out of 1871, where Batra recently completed the WiSTEM program for female founders.
She contends that TrakNProtect is significantly different from Tile, which sells trackers for $25 apiece and connects to a smartphone app. That tool pings items within up to 100 feet, or tells you that they are out of range. Batra said a TrakNProtect consumer product would offer more detail.
"I know when (something is) out of range," Batra said. "The goal is, can you tell me where it is?"