Sense-ing a market opportunity
Toronto startup, SensorSuite, fills industry need with creation of a digital nervous system that can control a building’s heat, light and power from anywhere
Robert Platek, the CEO and co-founder of SensorSuite — a Toronto-based startup specializing in wireless and remote building monitoring — was visiting properties with his father, a green energy consulting engineer, when a market need announced itself.
“My father was the initial instigator of this whole thing. Without him, I’d never actually be doing any of this,” Platek says.
“He would actually go and sell stuff that didn’t exist to his building customers and then would say ‘OK Rob, you have to build this now,’ ” Platek says. And he did. After a few years of building and experimenting, Platek officially launched his company in February with his co-founder Marc Carignan, Salman Habib and, the catalyst for the whole idea, his father Vlad Platek. They have created wireless sensors and cloud-based infrastructure that in their words can create a digital nervous system in any building. Small and sleek, the sensors can monitor boiler room activity, temperatures, humidity, lights, whether doors are open or closed, power usage and other functions.
“It was all built out of something that people actually wanted,” Platek says. “This has implications in pretty much every industry, from health care to manufacturing, to transportation to retail, to building automation and property management — which is the first niche we’re hitting. We call it a niche but it’s projected to be a $50 billion niche by 2018.”
When their wireless sensors are paired with the company’s proprietary app for mobile devices, SensorSuite enables property managers to monitor those critical building functions from anywhere. The result? Time savings, improved efficiency and reduced energy costs.
“In 2009, we installed a system in a 400-suite building,” Platek says. “That owner is still saving between $70,000 and $80,000 a year.”
The concept of building automation isn’t new, but SensorSuite is overhauling the experience for users, reducing cost, improving usability and adding features — points that Platek says “old-school players” such as Honeywell and Johnson Controls can’t beat. Plus, installation is simple. Retrofitting a building can take as little as a half-hour and because the system is, as Platek describes, “plugand-play,” the process is nonintrusive. “A big part of our go-to-market strategy is in the way we’re creating these tools so that installers can install our technology easily,” he explains. The company currently has pilot systems in place in more than 20 buildings in Toronto, including gyms and condos. Next up is Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre — the old Maple Leaf Gardens — an opportunity Platek credits to the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson, where the company is currently incubating.
“We’ll be monitoring temperature, humidity, sound of the audience. We might monitor ice temperature and we can add on some extra security on doors,” Platek explains. “We were lucky to get introductions and get in there. That’s one of the cool perks of being at the DMZ.”
The DMZ has been instrumental in many ways for the company. Both Platek and Habib were working with other incubating companies — Jobdeals and Tapgage Inc., respectively — at the DMZ when they met. A business relationship was formed and Habib joined Platek to launch Sensor Suite.
With the technology ready to go and $200,000 in funding raised, Sensor Suite is now developing its next offering — a product that will enable “full control from your phone, turning up and down your boilers, the thermostats in all the rooms in your building,” Platek explains, and focusing on sales.
For Platek, ramping up means wearing many different hats.
“I’m the janitor and the CEO of the company,” Platek laughs. “I do the sales materials, I do programming on the hardware, I do the marketing stuff, social media. It’s hard to juggle so many things but it’s all been good.”