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ENG alumni develop indoor ‘GPS’ through LED lighting

From an office building in Kendal Square, two Boston University alumni have developed technology that can connect people with the businesses and environments around them through LED lighting.

Aaron Ganick and Dan Ryan , 2010 graduates of College of Engineering, will soon launch a company called ByteLight. Their startup focuses on transmitting information from LED light bulbs. While the technology remains in development, they plan to implement it into retail space and make it connect with mobile devices.

“We believe that mobile is the future of retail,” Ryan said.

Bytelight’s technology can determine the most effective display placements in stores, products and floor plans, Ryan said.

ByteLight’s LED lighting also has the potential to provide global positioning in large, indoor places such as airports, shopping malls and supermarkets, according to the January 2012 newsletter from the Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.

Ganick and Ryan researched lighting as undergraduates in the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at BU, where they worked for several summers.

They said after taking a class entitled “The Business of Technology Innovation,” taught by School of Management professor Paul Levine, Ganick and Ryan started to consider pursuing entrepreneurial careers. They decided to take that route with the LED technology in 2010.

“We saw a big opportunity,” Ganick said. “Costs of LEDs were dropping and locational services were growing.”

Thomas Little, associate director of the Smart Lighting ERC, said locational lighting technology could be used for asset tracking in large indoor complexes such as hospitals and laboratories.

“It’s potentially as big an industry as outdoor location services,” he said.

ByteLight first operated out of a BU incubator and then moved to Dogpatch Labs, a venture designed to provide entrepreneurs with connections and launch startups, Ryan said.

While they hinted they may have found a lighting partner for the venture, neither one would name the potential partner, elaborate on their marketing plan or give a timeframe for an official launch.

“We’re in stealth mode,” Ganick said.

Though the specifics of ByteLight’s technology do not relate to or receive funding from BU, the venture has gotten support from BU faculty.

Babak Kia, an adjunct professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, called Ganick an engineer who “builds a better future” by fusing his technical vision and leadership skills.

“He and his team are driven by an unyielding passion to invent the future, and his startup – one of Boston’s hottest – will revolutionize indoor location in much [of] the same way as Google Maps has done for outdoor location,” Kia said in an email interview.

Little said the engineering degree at BU is designed to help students become analytical thinkers and problem solvers, which Ryan and Ganick demonstrate.

“To be successful once leaving BU requires the ability to adapt,” Little said.  “[This is] especially true in the entrepreneurial world where the problems are much more diverse.”

Little said ByteLight exemplifies how Smart Lighting ERC helps students learn how to apply their analytical skills.

“Both Aaron and Dan have demonstrated the ability to adapt quickly to changing technology,” he said.

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