partpicIf you’ve ever found yourself struggling to describe that inflatable ball thingy on the inside of your toilet tank, unsuccessfully, to a bemused plumber, have faith!

Partpic, a young startup from Atlanta, wants to solve for your complete ineptitude in the knowledge of mechanical parts.

Who cares? Well, you will when your toilet is overflowing and you find yourself unable to explain over the phone to the sales rep at Home Depot, exactly what it is that you need replacing.

Partpic’s mission, therefore, is to seamlessly facilitate the search and purchase of parts using visual technology. In other words; take a photo of the gizmo on your smartphone, and the clever little algorithm will tell you exactly what it is, including its part number, and even help you find out where to order a new one straight from your phone.

The startup’s technology, which, by the way, is patent pending, was invented by a couple of ex-Google Machine Learning experts and a Georgia tech graduate, combined with the vision of co-founder Jewel Burks, the ex- sales manager at a large industrial distributor.

The way Partpic works is by rapidly scrubbing through its large and growing database for identical parts using rather sophisticated extraction algorithms. It then locates the distributor that carries the part and creates a seamless purchase experience.

partpic-2-640The real value of the app, however, isn’t to consumers, but to the distributors. Because if you think app discovery is difficult for software developers, imagine how tough it is to be the seller of that weird squiggly screw in your washing machine which no one knows the name of, never mind the part number!

And while, currently, Partpic has its eye on the home maintenance part market, imagine the potential for the world of electronics. Imagine what it could do to the massive distributor catalogs of Mouser or Digikey, not to mention how it could revolutionize the simple datasheet by allowing engineers to simply take a photo of the part they need to replace and get all of its information, part number and all, directly to their smartphone screen.

The app also helps eliminate one aspect of the counterfeiting issue, ensuring that the re-order of parts comes from licensed distributors, even if the original part was a fake.

Visual search is certainly a compelling business model, and for those of us who love our gadgets, and like to replace the parts on them if they break, all the more so.

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