Exactly six years ago, just after I joined a start-up company called Spinwave Systems, we sat around our conference room table, our polished crystal ball positioned in the center, and tried to predict the future of the building automation market.
Ideas started erupting:
- “In order to make existing buildings more energy-efficient, more data is needed to feed smart control algorithms.”
- “Making building automation systems smarter requires easy integration with wireless sensor points.”
- “Installation cost is a major concern for energy retrofits. Wireless is the answer.”
- “Our competition is wire; we need to match its reliability and simplicity while significantly reducing installed cost.”
- “Wireless sensors are just the beginning. The market will require wireless I/O and controllers.”
And so on …
Excitement built and it seemed to be certain that the wireless market would develop rapidly.
Well, vision and excitement is what fuels start-ups and keeps you going through the ups and downs (and chasms and tornadoes) of innovating and introducing new technology to an existing market.
The reality of new technology marketing is that you initially sell to early adopters and that you have to convince the “early majority” that your product works and is a real solution to a problem.
From Niche …
In the early days we sold products to a very select number of applications, e.g. to be installed in museums with marble walls or not-to-be-disturbed asbestos filled buildings. A few gutsy integrators bought our wireless products because there was no way to use wires at all.
… To Mainstream
Six years and more than 30,000 devices later, our products have been used by several hundred different customers in a wide variety of applications, including:
- Demand Response
- Energy Efficiency
- Data Center Monitoring
- Energy Use Monitoring
- Food and Drug Temperature Monitoring
- Energy Management
- Soil and Crop Temperature Monitoring
- Energy Auditing
… To Killer Apps
Let’s define a “Killer App” as being an application where wireless products provide a compelling solution to a real-world problem. Another, very selfish, requirement is that solving this problem results in a meaningful business opportunity.
Over the years, four “Killer Applications” have presented themselves to us:
Wirelessly transmitting meter data (electric, water, gas) to a building automation system or central monitoring station is a strong segment. Our SWS-DPC Wireless Digital Pulse Counter is a very popular product in this segment.
It allows to wirelessly enable existing meters with pulse output and monitor consumption remotely. Our turnkey products SWS-DPC-N4BAT and SWS-DPC-N4PSI are popular due to the extended range of the A3 radio and the plug and play aspect of the DPC packaged in a NEMA 4 enclosure which has been factory bound to a receiver unit. Installation is quick and does not require shovels, pitchforks and jackhammers.
- Reuse of existing meters
- Easy and quick to install turnkey solution
- No trenches or conduit
The SWS-T wireless zone temperature sensor is increasingly being used in retrofit energy efficiency applications to transmit temperature data to a building automation system.
A very popular segment is precise boiler control in multi-family, hi-rise residential buildings.
- Cost-effective acquisition of multiple temperature points for smarter control
- Significantly reduced installation cost and time
- Significantly increased occupancy comfort and energy-efficiency
Mission Critical Facilities
Spinwave’s A3 mesh network is ideally suited for Data Centers, where monitoring environmental conditions is mission critical to: ensure equipment uptime; deliver on energy efficiency programs; and meet service level commitments.
Self-forming deployment is quick and simple as nodes automatically join the network when powered up.
Flexible mounting options and support for multiple external temperature probes are ideal for monitoring temperature and humidity on server racks. The system easily interfaces with existing management and building automation systems.
- Increased equipment uptime
- Increased cooling efficiency
- Quick and flexible to deploy
- Easy integration
Hospitals are required to adhere to stringent temperature monitoring of freezers and refrigerators used to store pharmaceuticals, blood, organs, tissues, food and other items. Regulatory requirements (e.g. FDA, AABB, cGMP) are closely watched by regulatory bodies to ensure patient safety. Many hospitals today use a manual process of checking and recording each refrigeration unit on a daily basis, a time consuming and error prone activity.
Spinwave Systems’ wireless temperature sensors can automate the record keeping process. They are available for a wide temperature range to monitor fridges and freezers.
- Can be installed without disrupting hospital operation.
- Easily integrates with the existing Building Automation System, using its inherent logging, monitoring, alarming and reporting capabilities and avoiding the cost of a separate isolated solution.
- The hospital can easily expand the system to monitor additional equipment.
- Automatic record keeping, alarming and reporting makes it easier for the hospital to comply with regulatory requirements.
Wireless mesh networks have matured and become mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of nodes have been deployed successfully in a range of applications. For a number of those applications only wireless products can provide an economical solution.
Whether your project is in need of a “Killer App” or you have a new problem for us to solve, please don’t hesitate to contact us.