Verdigris Unveils Einstein Energy-Management Platform

The startup attaches sensors to electrical panels, rather than to outlets or directly to equipment, in order to track energy consumption and equipment health.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 31, 2016

In 2010, Mark Chung received a surprise in the mail: a $550 electric bill. That was an increase of nearly 225 percent over previous bills, and during a month when his house was empty for an entire week. Naturally, Chung called his utility company to inquire about the source of the spike. But the firm said it had no idea why this had occurred. After much trial and error, Chung decided to try to root out the cause himself, by buying kilowatt meters to plug in between all of his major appliances and their respective wall outlets. Because the meters were not networked, however, tracking the data they collected was time-consuming and inefficient.

"I thought, 'How many other people are challenged with this?'" Chung says. "This was at a time when the Internet of Things was just developing. [Networked] sensors could be used to pull data and streamline the process of getting information from a building."

Verdigris' Einstein energy-management platform
That question sparked an idea that evolved into Verdigris, the energy-management platform for buildings and factories that Chung co-founded with Jonathan Chu, a former coworker of his at Netlogic (later sold to Broadcom). The platform tracks the precise amount of energy that each device or appliance—chillers, fans, washing machines and so forth—consumes. But because each device or appliance generates an electrical signature when it is in use, the Verdigris platform also employs artificial intelligence to learn how a given piece of equipment operates and where small changes in its electrical signature are correlated with an attribute of that device's motor. Changes in the signature, found through a process called frequency domain analysis, can be caused by physical components in the equipment being out of specification. For example, variations in a motor's speed, the alignment of its rotor bars and windings, or electrical resistance of the windings can be spotted through this analysis. "Usually, a fluctuation [in the electrical resistance of windings] means that the insulation of the windings has worn out," Chung explains, "and is causing the motor to suffer from uneven current in the various rotors."

Using the lessons he learned while trying to monitor energy usage in his own home, Chung says he knew that tracking energy consumption at the plug level was not a viable solution. Instead, Verdigris uses sensors that are clipped onto circuit breakers and wired to a cellular gateway. Data culled from the transformers is forwarded to cloud-based software for analysis. But here it is also integrated with weather data and electricity pricing data from the local utility, enabling Verdigris to alert building managers to periods of high electricity demand on the electrical grid—when rates tend to rise. The software might suggest temporarily adjusting certain equipment, such as furnaces or chillers, in order to reduce power consumption and avoid entering higher pricing tiers during periods of high demand. Or, simply to reduce energy consumption irrespective of energy pricing, a building manager might want to know that predicted temperatures outside a building are expected to meet the cooling needs inside. When that happens, he or she can shut off compressors and use outside air to cool the premises.

Yesterday, Verdigris announced Einstein, the latest generation of its IoT platform. The Einstein platform includes the Verdigris sensor, for use with a circuit with a maximum capacity of 60 amps (for a circuit with larger current capacity, a third-party sensor is used along with an adapter module that Verdigris makes). In an electric panel, a single sensor is clamped onto each circuit, and the sensors are daisy-chained together, leading to the Einstein data transmitter, which houses the wires from the sensors and connects them to a Verdigris computing device connected to a 4G gateway. According to Chung, the Einstein hardware is easier and faster to install than Verdigris' previous hardware, known as Dalton. In addition, he says, because the Dalton lacked an integrated cellular radio, it had to be attached to an external Wi-Fi or cellular modem via a USB extension cable.

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