Israeli Startup Responds to Energy Efficiency Goals With Its Innovative Solution

By using occupants’ real-time location, the innovative solution offers an easy and low-cost way to use HVAC and lighting systems more efficiently.
Published: Wed 15 Oct 2014

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Reaching energy efficiency goals has never been more important for the European region. An ambitious EU level energy efficiency target of 30% by 2030 is expected to be set at the European Council before the end of this month. Energy savings will see an increase in employment, lower operating costs across industries, strengthen energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

Navigant Research forecasts that the European market for building energy efficient products and services will grow from €41.4 billion (US$56 billion) in 2014 to €80.8 billion (US$109 billion) in 2023.

Heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting account for about 20 to 30% of many commercial businesses’ electricity consumption and this is where companies like Power Tags can help to provide solutions that will reduce wastage in commercial buildings.

Saving energy through real-time location solution

By using occupants’ real-time location, the Israel-based startup has developed an innovative solution which offers an easy and low-cost way to make smarter use of HVAC and lighting systems.

PowerTags' Smart Building and Facility Management Solution enables real-time location of all building occupants, including employees and visitors, to more efficiently operate building automation systems to save energy, as well as control access, improve facility management and asset tracking, security and disaster response.

This solution involves wearable tags that are attached to the employee's employee card and which communicate with several sensors installed in the building. A web-based dashboard displays the wearer's location in real-time, as well as a historical occupancy heat map, and building energy use information. This is supported by sophisticated cloud-based software and algorithms underpinned by a proprietary communication protocol.

PowerTags technology is embedded into miniature individual sensors attached to employees’ badges in order to identify employees' and occupants' locations by communicating with wireless sensors deployed on each floor.

PowerTags' Smart Buildings Solution uses a wireless protocol to identify the occupant's location without requiring massive and expensive installations of occupancy sensors every few metres. The sensors detect location based on ultra-low-power sub 1GHz RF modules that have very low energy consumption which makes possible employee badges and tags that have many years of battery life without needing to be recharged or replaced.The technologies sensors are able to identify the amount of individuals in the range of up to 60 meters radius indoors and adjust HVAC ventilation and power accordingly. This is mostly beneficial for open space office and warehouses where very few sensors are required, due to the range.

Through the solution, businesses can look forward to reducing their energy expenses significantly through the optimal control of lighting and HVAC operation, including automatic shut-off in unoccupied areas, and timed and remote switch-on.

Challenges that startups face and overcoming them

While the solution promises a number of benefits, company founder Yaniv Reibenbach, says that like most startups, they have encountered a number of challenges when it comes to bringing their product to market. He explains, “Often, large companies are unwilling to try new and innovative products from startups. The energy industry is a very traditional market and many stick with old tried and tested solutions.” He says that some traditional energy providers are slowly making changes and are beginning to see the potential that innovative solutions can offer.

“For utilities to adapt to the energy transition, they will need to change their business models and adopt more innovative solutions to stay ahead of the competition. If they don’t do this, other companies will take over.” This is already happening in the home energy management space, for instance.

Reibenbach points out that large corporation processes tend to be very long-winded and startups often struggle to stay afloat financially as their finances dry up over time.

By being part of the Rockstart Accelerator Smart Energy programme, Reibenbach says that startups learn to understand the market better. Engerati recently wrote about the programme and its many benefits for startups. [Engerati – Rockstart’s Smart Energy Programme Kickstarts Much-Needed Innovation in the Energy Industry.]

It is also helpful to partner with other companies who may be supplying a large corporation already, says Reibenbach. “This helps you get a foot in.”

“My advice for startups is that they should start with the most basic solution they have and offer it to any customer who is willing to test it. From there, they can continue developing the product according to customers’ needs. In many cases, a complex solution is devised and it’s not what the customer wants or needs.”

PowerTags will be attending the upcoming European Utility Week.