Photo: Neurio Photo: Neurio

Entering a new market or sector can be just as difficult as starting up a whole new business. Neurio isn’t exactly new company; it was co-founded by Janice Cheam in 2005 under the name Energy Aware Technology, and for the first decade of its existence it primarily serviced utility companies. But the Vancouver firm now has a consumer-focused business line.

In January, the renamed firm starts shipping a device (also called Neurio) that transforms any home into a smart home. It connects to a home’s breaker panel and learns about the homeowner’s energy usage patterns. The company says that with the aid of an app, Neurio can help the homeowner save costs and provide control over appliances, all without the need to install additional sensors.

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The company had a lot of success with a Kickstarter campaign last year, but it’s a crowded field. Is there room for Neurio? So what is Neurio, in a nutshell?

Janice Cheam: Neurio is a technology that makes your appliances smart, and your home more intelligent so that homeowners have better security, comfort and efficiency in their home. It measures your home’s full energy use, and then combined with cloud-based analytics, it can tell you what’s going on in the home and what different appliances are up to without having to put a monitor on every single appliance. All the different things you have in your home consume power in a unique way, which we call a signature. It’s not just how much power a particular device might draw; there’s a unique pattern in which it draws that power. Algorithms can keep a library of the different signatures, and figure out a way to add value for the customer.

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PG: What can it do for me?

JC: It helps you not have to worry about things that you typically would. The example I give is where you’ve gotten into the car and driven away from home, only to look at the person next to you and say, “Hey, did you turn off the oven?” With something like Neurio, if you left the house and forgot to turn off the appliance, you would get a message that would say, “Just so you know, your oven is still on.” Or another  example is for parents who work during the day, they can check if their kids come home from school. They could open the app and see that they’re home because the energy consumption is higher and the lights are on. Or maybe the kids said they would do homework when they got home, but the television is on and the Xbox is on. It’s a way to help monitor your kids.

PG: There are a lot of companies with similar offerings. What makes this unique?

JC: We help connect both connected devices as well as non-connected devices. If I give you a box of 20 sensors, it’s really hard to figure out where to put those sensors. You might find some things you can apply them to, like lamps or your TV, but it’s really hard to know what you don’t know. With Neurio, your connected devices can still be accessed through the app, but it also tells you what’s happening on the non-connected side of the home—it could be the in-floor heating in your bathroom that you didn’t know was on 24/7 sucking power. We’re able to show you the whole house.

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PG: How did you see this opportunity?

JC: One of the challenges we saw with connected devices is that they’re expensive, and the return on investment isn’t always clear. When it comes to energy savings and cost savings, those are great things that are nice to have, but it’s not the motivating factor for consumers. People care about a sense of security, comfort and peace-of-mind.

PG: You had a lot of success with the Kickstarter campaign, but what’s the plan to win over more consumers, beyond the original backers?

JC: The marketing was originally just through Kickstarter and the PR we could get through there. We found that people were blogging about us, and that attracted more people to cover us. After we finished the campaign, we invested very little into marketing because we wanted to do a year of R&D. When we go back to launch the product, we’ll take a very similar approach. We’ll get the word out more virally than via anything else, and see where the biggest traction is. As far as a broader marketing strategy, it’s very online-focused at the moment. We’ll have to see where the market takes us.

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What do you think of Cheam’s plans for Neurio? Share your (constructive) thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

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