Software and Sensors in Green Tech

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FountainBlue’s June 6 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Software and Sensors in Green Tech: Managing Our Energy Resources. Below are notes from the conversation.
With investor investments in clean energy more conservative today, capital-efficient energy efficiency companies are much more attractive than the renewable energy businesses from wind to biofuels to solar farms, and other renewables solutions requiring multi-million-dollar investments and a longer return cycle. So energy efficiency solutions that monitor and maximize energy consumption and minimize waste are much more attractive today.
And sensors and software work hand-in-hand in managing energy resources. Technology advances have enabled sensors to be smaller, more functional, more integrated and more ubiquitous. The problem is not that sensor technologies are not available. The challenge is that the software managing the data and the analytics in the solution must be customized to provide value to the user, and seamlessly integrated with existing sensors, appliances, networks, systems, etc so that users, whether they are home owners or facility managers or utilities, can make immediate informed decisions for proactively managing their energy resources.
Sensors and software must track and report on energy usage, and see patterns of where losses occur, either due to antiquated equipment, like old HVAC units or refrigerators, or even energy theft, where utilities might be interested in tracking where customers might be installing their own transformers into distribution grid.
Below is advice for entrepreneurs innovating in this space:
• Partner with high profile customers as customers, as channel partners, and as potential purchases.
• Partner with installers, retrofitters, HVAC companies, appliance companies, etc who would find your sensor and software solution a value-add for their customers.
• Integrate your solution with existing wifi network, appliances, sensors, etc.
• Respect the need for privacy around energy usage.
• Have solid sensor technology, but focus on software solutions which would add value and generate more returns more quickly.
• Do your part in supporting the creation of standards and policies that support innovation.
• Adopt an open source rather than proprietary standards and focus on solutions, not just more gadgets.
• When going into international markets, consider cultural/political/infrastructure factors such as standardization, which is easier in China, and infrastructure which may be more of a hurdle in India, and government subsidies, which you might see more of in Europe.
Below are some hot areas in the sensors and software space:
• Develop software solutions which communicate between sensors or report on energy usage across devices and appliances.
• Design energy efficiency solutions for commercial buildings where both facility managers and CFOs see a quick ROI
• Integrate sensors directly into the grid is in its infancy stage and will continue to evolve.
• Leverage business analytics and the power of data to efficiently understand not just usage, but also trends, and not just for the data, but to drive proactive, informed decision-making for the users.
• Leverage visualization to have rich data simply presented.
• Design solutions which would help consumers, facility managers, manufacturers, service providers and utilities proactively manage peak loads.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of opportunities within and outside the US. There may be more opportunities in the US as we have historically used more energy, hence there may be more opportunities to optimize the energy used. Plus corporations, manufacturers, consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs alike will find win-win sensor-and-software solutions which save both time and money.

We would like to thank and acknowledge the panelists for FountainBlue’s June 6 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Software and Sensors in Green Tech: Managing Our Energy Resources:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Rachel Pike, Analyst, Draper, Fisher Jurvetson
Panelist Aravindan Sankaramurthy, Director, Product Management, Oracle
Panelist Andrew Williamson, Director, Physic Ventures
Presenting Entrepreneur John Magnasco, CEO and Co-founder at Geneva CleanTech
Presenting Entrepreneur Mischa Steiner-Jovic, Awesense
Please also join us in thanking our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and for their ongoing support of the series.

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