Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
After completing a 16-week residency with the City of San Antonio, a homegrown startup is poised to make a bid to continue its work developing an app to help people find their way around the San Antonio International Airport.
Indoor navigation company Reckon Point was one of two San Antonio-based tech startups tapped in April to come up with technology-driven solutions to municipal challenges as part of the City’s CivTechSA program.
To CEO Gabe Garza, it was clear from the beginning that the City was committed to supporting innovation.
“I think the City sees a lot of value in it that there are companies here in San Antonio that can solve these problems. You don’t have to put everything out for bid for Boeing and Ernest & Young – all these big guys,” Garza said.
Garza said the original challenge posed by the City was to consolidate the airport’s online services – three websites and two apps – and craft a one-stop-shop app for the facility with a search feature to help travelers find resources. But Reckon Point decided to add an extra layer by mapping points of interest and enabling navigation.
As part of the residency, Reckon Point and fellow San Antonio startup Kinetech Cloud embedded with the City of San Antonio to learn about challenges facing its departments and test prototypes of their products to determine whether they could solve those challenges.
Reckon Point uses mobile robots that move on wheels around the interior of a building and scan the environment – much like the camera affixed to a Google Maps Street View Car takes 360-degree images on the road. Using the collected information, the company can map the indoors where GPS is ineffective.
At the airport, that can mean an accurate point-to-point navigation experience that would look similar to using one’s GPS to navigate in his or her car. Not only would finding a gate prior to takeoff be a few smartphone taps away, but travelers could use their smartphones to find nearby restaurants, power outlets, and bathrooms. Garza said the app’s search feature would filter services and points of interest by their proximity to the airport traveler.
Because data from GPS satellites are inaccessible from inside buildings, Reckon Point’s technology uses light-based radar technology LIDAR to scan the environment, Wi-Fi sensors to ping access points, Bluetooth, and signals from the Earth’s electromagnetic field to map indoor positioning within 2 centimeters.
Reckon Point started in 2014 in downtown co-working space Geekdom then moved to the Milam Building on East Travis Street. The company relocated to Port San Antonio in August.
The startup offers its services based on a subscription model, with a range of services starting from basic indoor mapping to providing insights as to customer behavior, such as when and how often certain facilities are used.
“We feel like we are onto something,” said J.C. Milam, Reckon Point’s head of business development. “There have definitely been some companies that have tried this in the past that have hit walls. With the team we’ve put together, a lot of it from San Antonio, it’s just very exciting about the future, the technology, and where the world is going.”
Milam said Reckon Points aims to become the “Google Maps for indoors.”
The CivTechSA residency has broken down barriers for San Antonio innovators who want to develop technology to the benefit of the city, he said.
“The ability to work with the City seems more real now,” Milam said. “If more people had that feeling they’d be more engaged.”
The other CivTechSA resident, Kinetech Cloud, developed smartphone-accessible, online tools to automate the City’s process to apply for utility assistance, which assists low-income or other qualifying households with paying water and electricity bills but is bogged down by paperwork and a clunky administrative system.
Reckon Point and Kinetech Cloud will have a chance to bid on a competitive government contract if the City decides to follow through with the respective projects. Neither company received payment as part of the residency program.