CIM Enviro’s big data energy tech creating big savings
Sandra Edmunds | 15 March 2017
Australian start-up CIM Enviro has utilised venture capital funding to rapidly expand, achieving up to 30 per cent reduction in peak energy demand across its 46 client sites.
Founder and chief executive David Walsh said venture capital had traditionally gone to the fintech, mining, oil and gas sectors despite property playing a huge role in the Australian economy.
A key investor in CIM Enviro’s $3 million Series A round was Capital Market Technology, the start-up investment spin-off from the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre.
Walsh said investors recognised the potential of a model that uses big data to identify faults and solve problems, a similar model to that used by the stock market to identify insider trading.
The company uses off-the-shelf equipment to collect real-time data from a building’s equipment such as pumps, fans and airconditioners. Machine-learning algorithms detect faults and inefficiencies and the system sends alerts to facility managers along with how-to information on addressing the problem.
“It’s about telling property owners about problems they didn’t know they had and how to fix them,” Walsh says. “It helps the performance of plants and equipment, it helps reduce complaints from tenants that it’s too hot or too cold, and it greatly helps reduce energy wastage.”
For the past 24 months CIM Enviro has averaged 18 per cent month-on-month growth. They now have a staff of 14 and this is expected to grow to 40 in the next 18 months to two years.
The technology known as the ACE platform is forecast to save $100 million over the next five years for its existing clients, which include Real Estate Investment Trust, The GPT Group, City of Sydney, ActewAGL and QIC.
Walsh said the business wouldn’t have been possible just four years ago.
“Advances in machine learning and data science have enabled us to create this amazing network where we can monitor the equipment inside buildings 24/7 in real time,” he said.
“This work is currently done manually, as little as a few times a year, so there are massive inefficiencies and losses for us to exploit. These inefficiencies add up to very significant impacts on the bottom line.”
The technology is free to install with installation taking just one day. Clients are provided with monitoring and feedback for one month and are then charged a fee to continue.
“If the facility doesn’t like it, we’ll take it out,” Walsh said. “But we’ve never taken one out yet.”
The ACE platform has been successfully implemented in properties up to 38 years old and across a spread of assets including shopping centres, commercial offices, casinos, government buildings and cultural institutions such as museums.
“The environments where our technology works best is on big dynamic assets, large control systems, with different contracts,” Walsh said. “What we do is help direct the traffic a bit better.”
The system detects faults weeks or months before the next manual inspection, enabling it to be corrected before tenants even notice something is amiss.
“In facilities like hospitals this kind of early warning can be immensely valuable not just financially but for human health,” Walsh said.
With property owners screaming out for cost savings, the ACE Platform provides building information managers, maintenance managers, plumbers and electricians with the data to make informed decisions, he said.
In the past 15 years, sub-metering has typically been expensive and resulted in very limited data showing a spike on a graph for airconditioning.
“This takes it to the next level,” he said. “We can show you that there was a fault in the sensor at 12 o’clock at night in zone two and it will cost you $19,000 if it’s not fixed. Our technology is the next evolution after sub-metering.”
Because CIM Enviro is an independent business, Walsh said clients could be confident they were receiving neutral information.
“Property owners just want the best performing asset,” Walsh said. “We sit in middle and ensure contractors get the benefit of the data.”
Future plans for the business include helping clients expand the system from a small number of sites across their whole portfolio, predicting faults before they occur, augmented reality to help maintenance teams to fix problems, and helping asset owners to improve contractor compliance.