sensor technology

Ballasts, LEDs and Smart Lighting for Non-residential Buildings

One component of every nonresidential building may be an indicator of how complex creating a smart building really is: Ballasts.  Jesse Foote, Senior Research Analyst at Navigant Research explains, “You need a different kind of ballast for different lamp types (fluorescent, metal halide, high pressure sodium, etc), and for different tube sizes (T5, T8, CFL, etc), and for different wattages, and different numbers of lamps, and start types (instant start v programmed start), and ballast factors.  And, of course, there are multiple companies that manufacture ballasts.”

The result is that deployed today in nonresidential buildings around the world are hundreds, maybe even thousands of different kinds of ballasts.  Ballasts have been the go-to solution for regulating energy in commercial lighting for decades.  But with the entrance of LED lighting, which in some cases boasts 50% energy savings, runs up to 5 times longer and produces a higher quality light, ballast moderated lighting installations are on the decline.

Ballast Unit Shipments by Region, World Markets: 2015-2024


(Source: Navigant Research)

While shipments are decreasing it doesn’t necessarily mean that building owners, operators and facility managers are rapidly replacing ballasts, because doing so is costly, labor intensive and facilities management does not typically get a sweet allocation of a building budget. These costs present a problem companies are vying to solve.

Alternatives have entered the market that make switching to LED less costly and less invasive.  One example, Lunera, developed LED lightbulbs that makes it possible to switch from CFL, from metal halide and from high-pressure sodium bulbs without replacing the ballasts or fixtures.  Thier retrofit solution brings the benefit of LED without the drawback of ballast replacement.

A second example is Enlighted, who’s investor Q Motiwala from Draper Nexus will speak on an upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings.  Enlighted has come up with a creative business model to address the FM budget issue.  The Enlighted Global Energy Optimization™ (GEO™) financing option offers Enlighted customers the opportunity to get the benefit of intelligent LED systems without a major capital outlay.

Enlighted CEO Joe Costello recently explained in an interview by Stacey Higginbotham on Episode 30 of the Internet of Things Podcast, “You don’t cough up a single penny. We come into the company.  We say…we’re going to design it, going to install it, going to finance it.  You don’t have to put up a cent.  It doesn’t impinge on your balance sheet one iota and you start getting the energy savings right away.”

This is a disruptive financing model with disruptive technology in a complex industry ripe for disruption.  It is no wonder the Draper Nexus investment in Enlighted is part of a $150M fund dedicated to smart building related technologies.  Silicon Valley investors looking for real value from the Internet of Things are finding it in smart building solutions.  For more information on smart buildings, check out the upcoming MIT Enterprise Forum panel on Smart Buildings to be held Feb 16, 2016 at SRI.


Technology Working to Connect Medical Devices

Technology can create as many problems as it solves. This is especially true with sensor technology and all of the new smart devices in the internet of things, or internet of everything as some are now referring to it. The early adopters of these technologies are finding some value in using the products, most of which come with their own app to control the device. Those with more than one smart device wind up with a cluttered set of applications, much like a coffee table filled with remotes to operate your version of a home theater. These applications have no direct connection to one another, even if a user would benefit from such a connection. There is a need to connect all connected devices.

I first came across Infometers at the Plug and Play Wearables event in March 2014 and was impressed by the problem they are trying to solve. Have a look at their display at the event:


Look at all of those devices! Most of them are glucose monitors but Infometers is also working with blood pressure monitors and other sensing medical devices. To connect all of these is no easy feat but it is exactly what Infometers is doing and more as you can see by the sample screens of their software. Infometers provides physicians and researchers the ability to launch remote patient monitoring services (RPMs) in a world where there is an ever increasing number of medical devices. As insurers cover different devices, physicians must adopt to using the various medical sensor devices selected by their patients.

“We see hundreds and hundreds of sensor devices coming out in the next few months” Infometers CEO Akhsar Kharebov told me when we caught up for a chat at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA where Infometers is located. While an individual patient may use one, possibly two devices, their care providers now find themselves interacting with all of these different devices in order to provide personalized care and increase patient satisfaction. They need one place that collects and analyzes the data that is literally spewing from hundreds of devices.  They need to connect all of these connected devices.

Infometers is working on a major pilot with a university in San Francisco and has several other deals in the works. Kharebov sees Infometers as well positioned in the space. “Infometers provides very scalable software to connect all patient devices,” he said. Scale is important when dealing with thousands of patients and their device data. Whether you are a patient, doctor or researcher, remote patient monitoring with Infometers is technology working for you.