SAAS for buildings energy-efficient management

Published on 2023-11-27

Startup Story

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Learn how Inteligg's C-BEMS software transforms energy management globally. Expertise meets innovation for sustainable solutions

With over three decades of experience, I've had the privilege of serving as a professor in esteemed universities and research institutions across Europe and the United States. Throughout my journey, my primary focus has revolved around energy modeling and energy system integration. However, it was during my tenure as a professor in Belgium that the seeds of innovation were shown.

As a team, we embarked on a mission to find sustainable solutions for the building sector, a sector responsible for a staggering 40% of energy consumption within the European Union. What further compounded the urgency of our mission was the fact that this sector accounted for a whopping 36% of CO2 emissions. Recognizing the critical need for change, we knew there was a gap in the market - a lack of a comprehensive tool tailored specifically for the building sector.

This realization led us to take our ideas beyond the confines of academia and create a startup. Despite our Belgian base at that time, we chose to establish our venture in Athens, Greece, given the strong Greek contingent among our team members. Thus, in 2018, our journey officially began.

Over the years, we've developed three distinct products: a Smart Box, SMARTH-PROP, and our final flagship product as a continuation of the other two, c-BEMS, launched in 2023. These solutions represent a culmination of our dedication to addressing the pressing issues surrounding energy scarcity, autonomy and as a consequence skyrocketing electricity prices in the European Union and beyond.

Our core mission goes beyond mere energy consumption reduction; it's about making a substantial impact on both the financial well-being of individuals and businesses and the reduction of harmful CO2 emissions. Through the creation of a software-as-a-service solution for building energy management systems, encompassing heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting components, we've successfully reduced energy consumption in any kind, size and complexity of buildings by an impressive average of 40%.

Our commitment to a sustainable future extends beyond profit margins; it's about fostering a world where we all thrive while minimizing our ecological footprint. We're driven by the belief that our innovative solutions will not only save costs but even more contributes significantly to global efforts aimed at mitigating the detrimental effects of CO2 emissions.

Revolutionizing building energy management: the C-BEMS approach

The monitoring and management of lighting, heating, ventilation, and other essential building systems may sound straightforward, but the depth of our approach is rooted in cutting-edge technology. Our solution, known as c-BEMS (cloud Building Energy Management System), leverages cloud-based architecture, tapping into the power of wireless networks to achieve remarkable results. By utilizing wireless networks with different sensors, we can employ highly complex algorithms that operate not at the edge, but across the vast capacity of the internet. This not only allows us to deliver solutions more rapidly than existing alternatives but also makes the installation process more cost-effective, with a 25% reduction in expenses due to the absence of cables and labour costs.

Our unique approach combines cloud technology and artificial intelligence to reduce energy consumption by an average of 40% in building(s). We've conducted extensive pilot studies in four different countries for 18-months—Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, and Spain—to determine the optimal number of devices/sensors per square meter for buildings of varying sizes and complexities. This groundbreaking research enables us to provide customers, be it small, medium, or large buildings, with an end-to-end solution and a tailored budget within 24 to 48 hours, guaranteeing significant energy savings.

In addition to refining our hardware, we've established a strategic partnership with a USA company to ensure a steady supply of the necessary devices for our software-as-a-service system. Moreover, we're continually enhancing our software to include a CO2 emission calculator, a feature that sets us apart in the market. In essence, we've developed a self-learning, self-adjusting software tool for Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) that supports multi-zonal control of heating, cooling, and lighting, resulting in 40% energy savings across diverse building types.

Our platform represents a significant advancement in building automation technology. By implementing Wi-Fi-connected sensors and employing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, we automate the detection of energy consumption behaviors, create thermal models of buildings, predict energy demand, and optimize energy use. This multifaceted approach allows us to maximize energy savings, ultimately making c-BEMS a game-changing innovation.

Furthermore, we've developed a certified Internet of Things platform capable of homogenizing various different devices and communication protocols. This innovation eliminates the historical challenge of different companies using proprietary software and devices. We recently worked closely with the European Union, selected as the sole startup SME company in Europe to create a CO2 emissions calculator for all building types. This project, presented in Barcelona, Spain, at the MWC 2023 has garnered exceptional results and is slated for launch in September 2023, pending approval from the European Union and relevant regulatory bodies. Our commitment to advancing building energy management and sustainability remains unwavering, and we're proud to be at the forefront of this transformative industry.

Stakeholders response and feedback

Before we ventured into the commercialization of our c-BEMS products, we conducted a series of extensive pilot programs, as previously mentioned, spanning eight different projects across four diverse countries. These pilots involved buildings of varying sizes and complexities, ranging from modest 100-square-meter apartments to intricate structures encompassing up to 5,000 square meters. Notably, our solution proved successful across the board, with seven out of the eight pilot projects subsequently becoming our valued clients. This outcome serves as compelling evidence of the effectiveness of our software-as-a-service offering.

Since we began offering our product and service to the market in September 2022, we've made significant strides in expanding our client base. We've forged partnerships with various industries, both in Greece and other European countries, underscoring the versatility and appeal of our solution. Furthermore, we secured a pivotal contract with a major municipality in Greece, encompassing 20 public buildings, including 19 schools and one sports center. Presently, we proudly serve a total of 14 clients spanning four different countries, overseeing a portfolio of 30 buildings, of which 20 are public institutions and 10 are private facilities. In aggregate, these properties amount to an impressive 30,000 square meters of surface area where our innovative system is making a substantial impact on energy efficiency and sustainability.

Overcoming Startup challenges: Get funding and compete with industry giants

Funding is undeniably a critical challenge for startups, and our journey was no exception. In the realm of engineering and innovation, patience is a virtue, as it takes time to develop solutions that are not only effective but also commercially viable. Naturally, this process demands a significant financial investment.

During my tenure as a professor, I was fortunate to be able to contribute some funding to our endeavor. However, when we decided to venture beyond the academic realm and bring our vision to life, we required more substantial financial support. We diligently pursued various avenues for funding, including participation in national and international projects. These initiatives provided crucial funding that allowed us to progress from the development of complex hardware to the refinement of our software.

Funding remains a continuous concern, even after the initial stages of development. We were fortunate to secure funding through our participation in European Union programs, which included support for patenting our product and services at the European Patent Office (EPO). However, the ongoing need for funding persists, especially as we aim to expand and further develop our solutions.

Moreover, finding opportunities to conduct pilot projects was another hurdle we had to overcome. As a startup, we began from a relatively low starting point and needed to compete not only with direct competitors but also with industry giants indirectly. In our patent application, for example, we found ourselves in competition with major players like Google. When it came to presenting our solutions and securing deals, we encountered formidable competitors such as Siemens, Schneider Electric, and Huawei. These experiences emphasized the importance of funding, not just for product development but also for promoting and marketing our innovative solution.

In summary, for startups like ours, the primary challenges often revolve around securing the necessary funding for research, development, and market entry. It's a constant journey of seeking financial support, developing innovative solutions, and competing effectively in a crowded marketplace.

Key success factors

Our success can be attributed to a combination of factors, each of which has played a pivotal role in our journey. First and foremost, it's the strength and expertise of our team that sets us apart. We have assembled a formidable group of individuals who have collectively dedicated between four and up to 20 years of their careers to this field. With five team members holding PhDs and a wealth of experience totaling over 60 years within the core team, we possess a profound understanding of the industry.

However, expertise alone is not sufficient. The second factor that has contributed to our success is our keen insight into the industry's needs. Recognizing a significant gap in the market, our knowledge and experience led us to conceive and create our unique product and service. When compared to direct competitors - companies that provide software-as-a-service solutions for Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), a niche market - we stand out for several compelling reasons.

Our competitive advantages are multifaceted. Firstly, we have harnessed the potential of cloud technology, offering a solution that is not only fast but also economically viable. This versatility extends to different building sizes and types, a flexibility that is achieved primarily through our software and, when necessary, our hardware components. Our platform is designed to be exceptionally user-friendly, making it accessible to a wide range of users.

When we consolidate all of these advantages, we believe there is no other company globally that can match our unique combination of strengths. It's the people-first approach, complemented by our innovative product and service efficiency, that has allowed us to thrive and stand out in the highly competitive landscape of Building Energy Management Systems.

Strategic Growth and Expansion Plans

Our strategic planning and growth trajectory are carefully mapped out over a three-year horizon. As we stand in mid-2023, our immediate focus is on finalizing our tool for full commercialization. Simultaneously, we've been actively pursuing collaborations and contracts with various companies to solidify our presence in the market.

Our primary objective for the remainder of 2023 is to establish ourselves firmly in the four countries I previously mentioned: Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Spain. These regions represent a substantial market with approximately 200 million potential users of our software-as-a-service solution. In 2024, we have ambitious plans to expand our footprint further, targeting the United Kingdom and France. Additionally, we are exploring opportunities within the hospitality sector, aiming to enter markets specific to hotels in countries like Cyprus, Italy, and Greece.

One of our most significant aspirations is to make inroads into the United States market. This endeavor is a key part of our long-term vision, and we are actively collaborating with some known global names to expedite our entry into this pivotal market.

Our growth strategy is founded on a step-by-step approach, gradually expanding our presence in major countries while continuously enhancing our product and service. With this strategic direction, we are confident that within four to five years, we will evolve into a global player, providing software-as-a-service solutions for Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) in numerous countries around the world.

About the author

Christos Ioakimidis

CEO/Co-founder at INTELIGG P.C.