Money talks, and in the smart building industry money often talks about those firms making simple technology that is affordable and easy to implement. Technologies that have the potential to bring the value of smart building technology to the vast majority of building stock have attracted significant interest from major players in recent months and years.
“Energy-Efficiency-as-a-Service, which enables building owners to significantly reduce their energy costs and environmental footprint with no upfront cost, continues to attract high levels of growth equity,” states our July article on Q2 funding - which highlights financing of Budderfly and Carbon Lighthouse, worth a combined $87 millon.
“Workplace management platforms for commercial offices gained funding this quarter through IPOs, from corporate investors and venture capital firms,” the article continued quoting multiple companies from our H1-2019 research on M&A and Investments in Smart Buildings.
In the smart building environmental-control space alone, it wasn’t that long since Nest was acquired by Google, while Comfy was acquired by Siemens just last year in another deal. Each firm defined their offering by its ease of installation.
In a landmark funding round last week, India and US based startup 75F announced an $18 million series A funding round. Investment was led by the Gates-Besos-Bloomberg backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, alongside the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative.
75F’s series A represents the largest ever investment in the Asia-Pacific region, within in the energy-efficiency technology category. It is also the first building-focused investment for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, who hope their investment will help reduce emissions from buildings, which account for 40% of total energy consumption.
“I believe most people would love to conserve energy, but they find it unpalatable,” says 75F’s CEO, Deepinder Singh. “That’s a key thing that we’re trying to work on—make sure that people are more comfortable and productive, but at the same time, let the energy conservation occur in the background.”
Founded in 2012, 75F offers a vertically-integrated smart building solution made up of wireless sensors, equipment controllers and cloud-based software. The simple-to-install smart building automation technology leverages machine learning to make offices more comfortable while cutting energy use by 30% to 50%. If deployed nationally, the company claims it would save the energy equivalent of 90 coal power plants or 827 million barrels of oil.
Reducing energy consumption of highly-inefficient older buildings by half is very feasible in this age of efficiency technology. However, 75F also claims to be cutting 30% off the energy consumption of BMS-enabled facilities too, by adding greater intelligence. “It’s really hard to compete with machine learning,” says Singh. “You could perhaps make the same building work as well, but you would need a dedicated engineer making tweaks each and every minute of the day.”
It is the majority of building stock, those that still don’t have automated systems to control heating and cooling, which present the greatest business opportunity. Traditional automation requires time, money, and expertise to install and operate, which is beyond the capacity of most buildings. 75F promises to deliver predictive, proactive building automation that can be used in any building and without the need for custom programming.
“Basically, what we’ve done is we made a solution that works out of the box,” says Singh. The firm underlined that ability at an elementary school, where third-grade students were able to install the 75F system as part of a science class. In other buildings, where 9-year-olds aren’t readily available, regular HVAC installers should be able to do the job, rather than hiring more expensive BMS specialists. 75F also offers remote monitoring to confirm proper installation.
Energy consumption remains a major issue for the building space and for the world via climate change, but efficiency has never been the sexiest group of building technologies. It is through startups like Nest, Comfy, and 75F, that energy efficiency is moving into an exciting new user- and installation-friendly approach to conserving energy combined with occupant-focused services. Representing a more juicy-looking low hanging energy saving fruit that the majority of buildings can actually reach.
“Clean energy and renewables have gotten a lot of press,” says Singh. “But the cheapest form of energy generation is actually energy conservation.”