As it is for so many, this is a crazy time for the building automation industry. Offices are empty meaning there’s little to automate or make more efficient. Buildings, industry and the world are all on pause while we try and work through this tumultuous time.
You could argue that this crisis is a great advert for more sophisticated building automation and management. Being able to strip back your building’s power requirements and monitor everything remotely is especially useful in lockdown, if an unconventional use of the technology.
I started this article, speaking to the companies involved, before any of this happened back in January 2020. The article is all about (spoiler alert) companies that enjoyed a fantastic 2019 and previously looked ahead to the big plans these businesses had for 2020. It’s fair to say that everyone’s plans and expectations have altered dramatically now but I didn’t want that to stop me celebrating excellence in this field.
So, here we are. On reflection I think this is a perfect time to take stock and celebrate all that’s great within our sector. So that’s what I’ve done here – highlighting 5 businesses that are right at the cutting edge of the building automation industry.
I’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone across the sector well in a crazy time.
Stay at home, stay safe, wash your hands and please get in touch if you have anything you’d like to discuss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VergeSense have attracted big name clients keen to make the most of their utilization analytic software platform in the short time they’ve been in business.
The San Francisco based business have been attracting attention for some time; in 2018, they were the beneficiaries of an investment from JLL Spark who obviously saw the potential of their data-driven insights.
I spoke with CEO Dan Ryan who has a track record of success in the building automation space after the company he co-founded in 2011, ByteLight, was acquired by Acuity Brands in 2015. Following that he took up the position of VP Product, IoT Solutions before moving on to join VergeSense.
VergeSense provide real time insight to make smart buildings smarter than ever, with their platform measuring factors like building optimization so you know how and when your spaces are being used. It also gives users the ability to take a step back and see long term data, identifying how usage trends develop over longer periods of time.
The tech itself is 100% wireless and exists independently of a building’s existing IT network, reducing susceptibility to network or security issues. It’s also constantly evolving – there’s been 3 iterations in less than 3 years, demonstrating just how forward-focused VergeSense are.
Interestingly, they’ve been using their technology during lockdown to map out office usage in their network of clients, showing that employee flow levels were down a massive 91% at the end of March.
Be sure to look out for VergeSense later in the year as they continue with their mission to ‘power tomorrow’s workplaces’.
Brain boxes in nature as well as name, this Montreal-based AI-driven HVAC tech firm have packed the business with some of the best talent in the industry. Their employee roster includes a swathe of PhDs and they’ve been able to create a ‘true’ AI HVAC solution which has taken years to perfect.
They spent two years perfecting their offering before going commercial last year. Along the way, they’ve been recognised as a winner at the Artificial Intelligence Excellence awards and picked up a silver award in the smart building solution category at the Edison Awards.
So what is their solution? BrainBox uses self-adapting AI technology to optimise the energy consumption of buildings.
Their solution relies solely on its own deep learning algorithms and proprietary processes to optizimise HVAC for minimum energy consumption. As buildings are one of the largest climate change contributors, the up-to 40% reduction in carbon footprint that BrainBox’s platform can offer promises to have huge environmental, as well as cost, benefits.
BrainBox are now also offering their solution free for 90 days to building owners who have been affected by COVID-19.
At the world’s largest HVAC event, AHR Expo, last year enVerid Systems were one of the big winners. They took home the prestigious Product of the Year prize at the AHR Innovation Awards. I caught up with co-founder Israel Brin earlier this year to find out more about enVerid.
enVerid offer what sounds like a simple solution. When heating and cooling a building, instead of spending the money and energy needed to transfer air from the outside into a building, you should just recycle and clean the air already in it.
When traditional HVAC systems pull in air from the outside world, it requires more power and larger units, which bring with them higher installation and running costs. What this equates to are cost savings of 20-30% for businesses that invest in enVerid’s product.
Whilst the idea might sounds simple, there’s some seriously advanced tech behind their HLR modules. They attach to traditional HVAC systems to clean the air brought in, reducing the need for ‘new’ outside air by up to 80%. The air is cleaned at a molecular level which creates the additional benefit of recycled air which is also significantly cleaner than traditional ‘fresh’ air from the street.
enVerid have rolled the product out on some large projects in NYC and other locations, with major expansion plans in place for the next 12 months. They also plan to use their data to help with building design, creating super-efficient buildings based on what they’ve learned from other projects.
It’s another simple concept behind another company on the list, Legend Power Systems. When you head to their website you’re greeted with the message that better power makes buildings better.
We’ve already touched on how much power buildings consume and seen solutions to help reduce that, but where Legend stands out is through improving the quality of that power. Not all power is provided equally from the grid and sags, swells and other variables can have a knock-on negative effect on efficiency, leading to higher running costs.
I spoke with Cos La Porta, who was brought on board with Legend Power Systems in 2019 to help them make the most of their ‘smart gate’ technological offering. Cos has had a distinguished career to date, working with major names like Husky Energy and Starbucks. Since his appointment, he plans to help Legend Power Systems into their next phase of growth and development.
Many big names are already on board with their SmartGATE™ platform which ensures efficient power management and quality including IKEA, Google and Canadian Tire. The business has already installed over 300 of their onsite power management platforms over the last decade. The system itself consists of two parts. The SmartGATE Insights™ piece analyses and displays power quality issues, before the SmartGATE itself corrects it with an in-built auto-transformer.
With new leadership and a more efficiency-focused market than ever, Legend Power Systems have big plans.
mCloud’s solution, AssetCare, combines IoT, cloud computing, AI and analytics to help businesses curb their energy waste, maximise energy production and get the most out of critical energy infrastructure.
They made headlines last year when they acquired Autopro to bolster their industrial process automation capabilities.
Instead of the wider commercial building space, mCloud target three sectors: food service, oil & gas and wind with their proprietary AI solution. It’s used in different ways for each sector to assist with optimised processes, cost savings, preventative maintenance and service.
In food-service, the tech keeps tabs on HVAC and lighting, looking for opportunities to optimise and cut back on costs. For O&G, where power outages can be incredibly costly, AssetCare can help response times to unplanned outages improve by up to 300%. They also utilise 3D modelling of facilities to model changes and challenges remotely, helping customers prepare for the unexpected.
In wind, AssetCare has been proven to improve turbine production by 2% without any need to compromise reliability. By providing constant feedback on the performance of a turbine, O&M efforts can be mobilised fast on the issues that impact bottom line.
With a platform that offers so many benefit alongside aggressive organic and inorganic growth plans it’s an exciting time to be associated with mCloud.
I hope you enjoyed my look at 5 of the most exciting businesses in the smart buildings sector. If you’ve got anything you’d like to discuss, drop me an email at email@example.com
I think this is a perfect time to take stock and celebrate all that’s great within our sector. So that’s what I’ve done here – highlighting 5 businesses that are right at the cutting edge of the building automation industry.