We have been noticeably absent from the blogging world for quite some time, but don’t worry, everything is OK. As a matter of fact, things are fantastic! We’ve been so busy with our heads down that we forgot to come up for air…until now!
We are extremely excited to announce the commercial availability of FIELD for iPad, the most comprehensive energy survey tool on the market today.
We listened to our customers and have given our newly redesigned solution a new home: the iPad. Why do we love the iPad so much for energy auditing? Well…
- It’s lower cost than a laptop
- Excellent battery life
- Camera quality is great
- More powerful processor than most of the cheap Android tablets
- Shoot, it’s even sexy
FIELD for iPad is great, but when you couple the solution with a brand new cloud-based services offering, we really are revolutionizing how building information is captured by energy engineers. Version tracking, merging, syncing, measures, reporting, analysis, and much much more is at your finger tips.
But don’t take our word for it…try it out. We have our app in the App Store. It’s free to download and play around with it in Demo mode. You’ll see how simple and easy to use it is. Here is a little teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvgBwR9JipE
Three months, a boatload of red-eyes, and countless of software design sessions have come and gone…and the kWhOURS founding team has emerged from Greenstart victorious with a command performance at Demo Day! Today was the culmination of an intense journey guided by Greenstart’s many serial entrepreneurs and functional experts in start-up financing, marketing, and product design. Certainly one of the big payoffs is being afforded the privilege today of unveiling our building assessment software offering to a huge flock of venture capitalists and industry press. Early reports indicate that the kWhOURS presentation was a raging success that will certainly raise our profile as the premier provider of applications for the built environment.
We were joined by fellow Greenstart participants Smart Grid Billing, Scoot Networks, Growing Energy Labs, and RidePal in today’s festivities. We’re honored to be one of the “Fab Five” selected from over 150 applicants, and we would whole-heartedly encourage any aspiring entrepreneur to throw his or her hat in the ring for the next go-around. Of particular note is the creative direction we’ve received by Greenstart’s product design team. We emerged from the program with a killer iPad-based prototype that will make building assessments such as energy audits orders-of-magnitude faster, easier, and more actionable.
A heart-felt Thank You to the advisors at Greentstart – and good luck to our fellow Demo Day graduates!
In our travels through the energy auditing world, we rarely find field professionals who consistently use the PCBEA (Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits) Sample Forms supplied by our friends at ASHRAE. A number of our more seasoned customers have noted that these forms are employed in less than 1% of all energy audits. Undeterred, many services firms have taken on the challenge of generating their own tailored version of these paper novels, yet somehow data collection efficiency remains elusive for even the most well-intentioned.
We all know that if you’re an auditor, you’re naturally superior in every way to non-auditors. You’re faster, smarter, stronger, and more creative. You can run circles around those of your engineering peers that have chosen less noble disciplines, but let’s face it…those ASHRAE forms come with problems that are just begging to be solved through a more automated approach.
Problem 1: Most auditors, while smarter than non-auditors, have limited cranial capacity.
Our tablet-based application, kW-Field, helps auditor collect data for over 500 unique building components across 20 different component categories – with the ability to choose from nearly 2,000 questions. Give me the auditor who can accurately estimate, in advance and not having stepped foot in the building, how many of each form he/she will need to bring on site, and I’ll show you a telepathic genius who could be using the same predictive skills to make a killing in the stock market.
Problem 2: Most auditors, while more dexterous than non-auditors, only have two hands.
Let’s just say that you nail Problem 1. OK, now predict the order in which you plan to walk the building, so you can arrange the Forms in a manila folder in the right order. Unless you’re in the Mensa chapter of AEE, the guess here is that you’ll have to pull the forms from your clipboard and clumsily flip through the stack – looking for “Form 1.24 Opaque Doors” – all the while juggling a camera, tape recorder, and a Starbucks Expresso Frappuccino while trying to conduct a professional conversation with a client facility manager (points off for spilling!).
Problem 3: Most auditors, while stronger than non-auditors, can’t carry the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (or a laser jet printer) 8 hours a day.
So you’re the Einstein of the HVAC World – and ace the Problem 1 and 2 test. If your brawn is equivalent to your brains, you might be able to haul this paper beast through a 2 million square foot office building from dawn to dusk without slipping a disc. Of course, we’re sure that you also have the time to print and stack the forms, the hand speed to quickly and legibly fill them out, and the patience to transcribe/collate them into a format usable for analysis and reporting…. because by now, we’ve concluded that, damn, you’re good. You will be promoted to management, and meanwhile, the other 99% of us will have to figure all of this out on our own.
Problem 4: Most auditors, while faster than non-auditors, can’t run the 40-yard dash in less than 5 seconds.
You had better be smart AND strong AND nimble, but you’d better also be lightning fast….like, Usain Bolt fast. Remember that 2 million square foot office building? Unless you have a way to copy and paste blocks of building data (oh, wait a minute…it’s paper!….you don’t!), you’ll have to write really, really, really fast to capture the many different instances of the same building element or component on separate forms, and we’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ll have to sprint up and down stairs to double back on the information you either messed up, misplaced, or missed altogether. But the Expresso Frappucino will help here!
Problem 5: Many auditors, while wise beyond their years, are not yet ASHRAE Black Belts.
If you’re like most energy or engineering firms that conduct energy audits, you’re struggling with the increasing scarcity of knowledgeable, experienced senior field personnel. The Obi-Wan Kenobis of the auditing world are hanging up their light sabers and data loggers, leaving the Luke Skywalkers of the industry to fend for themselves. Obi Wan has honed the ability to know what data is relevant to a particular building in a particular project context – and does not let the distraction of superfluous questions deter him from the task at hand. Alas, the Force is not yet with Poor Luke. He may not yet know the different enclosure types for a supply fan motor, or have the judgment to discern whether or not a particular piece of AHU data makes a dent in a building’s energy use. Pretty soon Obi will be gone – and Luke won’t be able to mouse over a building term on a paper form to get a usable definition, refer to an electronic lighting code legend, or choose from a picklist of pre-set choices for various HVAC systems.
A Better Way: Tablet-Based Energy Auditing
We applaud ASHRAE efforts to provide guidance and much-needed data standardization. But unless you’re from the planet Krypton, we humbly suggest you try automating the field walk-through process and invest in energy auditing software that runs on a tablet computer. Instead of fumbling with a stack of forms, picture yourself walking through a building and entering information with a stylus or a point of a finger as you go. Such a tool will:
- Eliminate the time and cost associated with paper-based, manual processes - You’ll no longer need multiple forms to collect the same data for the same components that just happen to be located in multiple places – just use the same copy and paste function you’d use in a Word document. All building data will be organized by location within a logical building hierarchy – rather than scattered across a stack of unsorted papers.
- Ensure data accuracy, completeness, and consistency – Software can enable auditors to full describe any building component accurately and consistently- no matter how unique or rare its characteristics are – with targeted questions for each asset. Paper forms force the auditors to lump dissimilar assets together in an effort to include them on the same form.
- Streamline data aggregation and reporting – Instead of spending days aggregating data back at the office, wouldn’t it be nice to capture all data digitally and be ready to perform analysis and generate reports the minute you walk off the site?
- Make work – and life – easier on your auditing staff – Having the camera and voice recorder imbedded in a tablet frees up valuable appendages, but just as importantly, automatically associating all media with specific building systems and locations saves a lot of sorting time back at the office.
By investing in tablet-based energy auditing software, you’ll be able to more productively apply the vastly superior talents bestowed upon you as an energy auditor without needing to summon super human powers – and spare yourself the wear and tear on your back, your legs, your fingers, and your mind.
We are excited to announce that Robert Koch will be our new Board Chairman. Rob’s arrival marks a critical milestone in our journey as the leader in tablet-based energy auditing software. He brings veteran leadership to our team as a long-time cleantech investor and CEO – with a number of successful energy ventures under his belt.
Rob started his career in the semiconductor equipment industry, serving in a variety of sales and marketing roles – before moving into the entrepreneurial world as founder and CEO of a series of start-up companies. His successes include SuperCritical Systems, a process development company that developed a novel way to clean semiconductor devices, which he sold to Tokyo Electron – resulting in a 10X return for his investors. Rob has also been active as an angel investor and startup board member, which led him to a position as Managing Director at the cleantech venture firm NGEN Partners, where he headed up the Silicon Valley office in Palo Alto for the past 5 years. He served as Director at Solaria, a manufacturer of photo-voltaic modules and systems for large and utility scale tracking application, and sat on the board of a number of cleantech startups. His focus areas included power electronics, energy storage, water, and energy efficiency disciplines such as LED lighting, HVAC, data center infrastructure management, and process control.
Rob’s dual background of start-up operations and venture investing enables him to bring both strategic and tactical leadership to kWhOURS, and his passion for clean energy and entrepreneurial spirit makes him a natural fit for spearheading our Board. He is an experienced and pragmatic leader who shares our belief that the value of mobile applications for building professionals is a “no-brainer” and that the company providing the best user experience will be the marketplace winner.
All the hard work that energy services firms and facilities managers put into an audit or retro-commissioning projects would pay off even more handsomely if someone would pony up the dough for the more capital-intensive measures. The problems right now:
- The people with the money don’t understand the data.
- The people with the money don’t trust the data.
- The people with the money can’t compare the results of the data to other investments.
Our CEO, Colin Davis, is helping to fix all of this. Earlier this week, he participated as a member of the working group for the Investor Confidence Project being conducted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The goal of the Group is to set guidelines for standardizing the data and processes employed to quantify the energy efficiency gains associated with large building retrofit projects. The Group is comprised of the Department of Energy, EDF personnel, a number of large banks and insurance companies, and a handful of technology companies. See the following paper for more information on this topic: http://tinyurl.com/7erh44y.
As a former energy auditor, Colin is uniquely qualified to bring to this discussion the real-world perspective of those field professionals on the front lines who mine the “energy efficiency gold”. Our hope is that the picks and shovels they use in the future aren’t the clipboards, cameras, and tape recorders from the past, but mobile technology with software that prompts the building professional to collect the data in a consistent, accurate manner. If the data is high quality and standardized at the source, building owners are more likely to see the financial rewards of major building system upgrade projects– and financial institutions will have the confidence to open their pocketbooks to fund them.
A recent article on TechCrunch recently heralded the announcement that kWhOURS has been chosen to be among a select few participants in an intensive “boot camp” conducted by Greenstart, a San Francisco-based startup accelerator. (http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/15/greenstart-tightens-focus-goes-after-sexy-cleantech-startups/). This three-month program features intensive coaching sessions provided by a veritable “who’s who” of prominent cleantech CEO/entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on topics ranging from managing customer growth to product design. kWhOURS is in very exclusive company indeed – only five clean technology companies were selected from a nationwide pool of 152 applicants. The selection committee cited an ability to make a large impact and a crucial need in the marketplace as the primary reasons why kWhOURS was honored accordingly (not to mention our stunning good looks).
Our selection points not only to the recognition of energy auditing software as a winning cleantech category, but to the ascension of start-ups focusing on the intersection of energy efficiency and IT. As energy generators grapple with the implications of the drop in natural gas prices – and hardware providers focusing on energy efficiency struggle to combat competitors receiving government subsidization overseas, the investment community has ratcheted up its support of energy management software and SaaS providers to capitalize on the intensifying market traction and potential returns associated with this space.
Much to the delight of all of us at kWhOURS, Greenstart purports to make cleantech “sexy enough to attract investors”. Whether any of this karma rubs off on our executive team is a subject of open debate. But we are indeed confident that our leaders will undoubtedly enjoy the weekly “red-eye” back to Boston for the next few months. Fortified by Jet Blue snacks and the sound sleep afforded by those comfy reclining economy seats, the team looks forward to accelerating the realization of its mission to make energy audits faster, more accurate, and more cost efficient through tablet-based technology and software-enabled improvements to audit processes.