Workplace Too Hot? Too Cold? Innovator Gets It Just Right
Everyone is familiar with the problem: Some rooms in a building are chilly enough to cause goosebumps while others feel like a sauna.
Deepinder Singh noticed this when he moved into a house in Mankato about 10 years ago with his wife and baby daughter.
His young daughter’s room on the east side of the house was about 10 degrees colder than the master bedroom. “She’d kick off her blankets and wake up crying,” he says.
An engineer by training, he set out to find a solution. That led him to found 75F – a company that has used the Internet of Things to develop smart control devices that make commercial spaces more comfortable and energy efficient. Originally, the company looked into the residential market, but found that the commercial market made more sense.
Ending the ‘thermostat wars’
“We end the ‘thermostat wars’ so you don’t have to fight over room temperature,” says Singh. “Anything that affects the comfort and productivity of employees is at the heart of what we do.”
Lt. Governor Tina Smith, center, and DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy toured 75F in Burnsville on March 21 as part of the statewide #InnovateMN Campaign. Singh, right, explains the company’s approach to innovation.
The goal is to predict, monitor and manage the climates of office and commercial buildings. It starts with using internet-connected sensors in multiple locations – not just one central thermostat.
Data from the sensors feed into a smart control device. At the same time, cloud-powered predictive algorithms combine that sensor data with weather forecasts to proactively regulate airflow and to create a customized air environment.
Computer-controlled dampers – which can be retrofitted into the ducts of existing buildings – redirect hot or cold air to particular locations.
“HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] has always been reactive,” says Singh. “It’s like driving down the road looking in the rear view mirror.”
With 75F’s predictive controls, that’s no longer the case.
“Imagine looking down the highway and seeing the traffic coming from afar,” he says. “You make very small changes with the steering wheel. All this is possible because we are harnessing the power of cloud computing and machine learning.”
Rooms throughout a building can be kept at an optimal temperature – while also saving energy. Building owners can expect a 30 to 50 percent savings on heating and cooling, depending on the age of the building, says Singh.
The company’s systems can be installed easily – without requiring special training or complex installation. “It’s an out-of-the-box experience, more like setting up an iPhone” Singh says. “The software takes care of all the hard stuff.”
75F has received a lot of recognition for its work, including:
- Grand-prize winner of the 2015 MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the country
- Energy and Clean Tech winner of the 2016 Minnesota Tekne Awards
- National winner of the Energy Efficiency Division and People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Clean Tech Open
Starting with just two part-time employees, today, 75F employs 17 fulltime people in Burnsville and works closely with a team in India through a consulting relationship.
75F began its first deployments in 2015. While most of their business is in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, they sold systems in seven states and India last year.
Help from Angel Tax Credit program
In 2015 and 2016, 75F raised $2.58 million from investors with the help of the Angel Tax Credit program managed by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
“It was extremely helpful,” says Singh. “When government takes the initiative, people feel more inclined to invest. It was painless and very non-bureaucratic.”
He sees Minnesota as a good place to start a business. “It’s extremely innovative and people are hard working,” he says. “In certain niches, there’s a thriving ecosystem.”
Published March 2017