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

The Einstein platform supports two discrete applications for building managers. One, called Tracker, generates timely warnings regarding forecasted periods of high energy demand or issues with machine health, based on analysis of the machine's electrical signature. Conversely, if it detects an unusually high amount of energy consumption within a certain part of the building outside of normal business hours, the Tracker app will issue an alert to building managers. The other app, known as Dashboard, is designed for building managers to look at the performance of equipment over time, with weekly and monthly reports. This can be used to help them adjust settings in their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, or identify how and when other highly energy-consumptive building systems, such as manufacturing equipment, dishwashers or laundry facilities, are being operated, in order to run them most often during times when electricity prices are low.

Thus far, Verdigris' technology has been installed at approximately 100 buildings, primarily hotels, manufacturing facilities and hospitals. The company's customers include Hyatt, Starwood, Marriott and Intercontinental Hotels, while those in the manufacturing industry include Flextronics, JBL, Honeywell and Jabil, a contract electronics manufacturer that operates 57 factories in 33 countries. Jabil—which helped Verdigris launch the Einstein platform on Monday at a press event held at its Blue Sky Center, an innovation lab in San Jose, Calif.—also manufacturers the clamps that are attached to circuit breakers. In addition, Jabil has invested in Verdigris, which has raised $9 million in venture funding. (Other investors include Stanford StartX Fund, Founder.org Capital and DCVC.)

Mark Chung gives a demonstration at the Jabil Blue Sky Center press event.
"Jabil has been working with Verdigris for two years as a manufacturer and has been using its technology for six months, both at the Blue Sky Center and at a production center in Livingston, Scotland, where we make battery systems and electronics," says David Kipling, Jabil's VP of corporate investments. "The technology has absolutely paid for itself and more," he adds, by providing insights into machine health, and by sending alerts about upcoming peak demands that allow facility managers to roll back power usage to avoid rate spikes. "Our intention now is to roll [the Verdigris hardware] out to further facilities," Kipling states.

Some manufacturers already mount sensors directly to equipment and use them to monitor machine health, but Verdigris says it can go toe-to-toe with those systems based on the granularity of its sampling and analysis of the device's electrical signatures. For example, Verdigris uses frequency domain analysis to look for small variations in signatures at narrow frequency bands. It can tie these abnormalities to potential mechanical problems involving a specific piece of equipment, based on what it knows the signatures coming from that equipment should look like during normal operation. So a building manager might receive an alert on his or her phone, through the Tracker app, that says "Verdigris has detected electrical activity that may indicate motor damage in Condenser Pump 3 in the chiller plant. Look for a broken rotor bar," along with the timestamp of when the abnormality was detected.

Chung declines to provide specific pricing information, but says the initial hardware costs can be as low as a few hundred dollars for a small deployment. Customers also pay an ongoing subscription service fee.

Potential savings—resulting from the use of Verdigris' data to reduce energy consumption and adjust operational settings of specific equipment to avoid spikes in energy costs—can be significant. But sometimes, the savings are not strictly financial. When the Verdigris system detected a load imbalance from a dishwasher at a four-star San Francisco hotel, for instance, the hotel investigated and realized that a heating element in the machine—which the city's health department had inspected just weeks prior—was broken. In this case, the issue was not that the machine was using too much energy, but that gourmet cuisine was being served on unsanitized dishes.

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