Ottawa lighting startup’s bright idea could cut property managers’ hydro bills


For one Ottawa startup, the secret to unlocking smart, sustainable office buildings starts at the light switch.

In fact, iOL System’s solution doesn’t need a light switch at all. The local startup, led by Rimikon founder Richard St-Jacques, has developed a sensor-based artificial intelligence solution that saves energy and money by delivering only the amount of light needed in an office at any given time.

The 14-person firm is targeting the kinds of sizeable highrises common in Ottawa’s Central Business District – the ones that often have floors of fully lit offices in the middle of the night even if just one or two employees are working late.

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

The iOL platform plants sensors across a workplace’s lighting system to measure and adapt luminance levels based on the time of day and amount of activity. For example, if one early bird employee has a light on at his or her desk when a co-worker comes in and turns on a light nearby, the original worker’s light might automatically reduce its intensity. These connected lights can also adjust to changes in daylight and can be programmed to increase levels of blue light emitted during the afternoon to perk up employees who are hitting the 3-p.m. wall.

The end result is a smarter lighting system that responds to changes in the workplace to keep the office environment as productive as possible without wasting more light than is needed.

“That’s so important these days. With the existing lighting systems, you can’t achieve that,” says Wayne Murray, iOL Systems’ chief operating officer.

A few more high-tech additions separate iOL’s solution from your standard motion-activated lights. For one, the low-voltage LED lighting setup is powered solely through ethernet cables, which carry information to the system as well as powering the lights. This “power over ethernet” concept partially informs iOL’s name: Internet of Lighting.

Light isn’t the only thing iOL’s sensors measure, either. Alun Davies, the company’s chief technology and product officer, says the system also tracks sound activity and temperature in an office, which can help to avoid a sudden blackout.

“We know what happens – you start waving your arms in the air when things go off,” Davies says with a laugh. “We’re going to try and avoid that.”

These smart office measurements could be used in a myriad of ways beyond lighting. Data extracted from the sensors could help a property manager get a better handle on occupancy and office uses, while temperature measurements could help first responders better understand where a fire is spreading through the building.

The green light

The iOL system settings can be configured quickly from an app, which Davies says can save hours in reprogramming work from an electrician. He says that the firm’s solution is easy to install without calling a professional, but notes the company also has a Canada-wide channel partner deal with Bell, which will install the solution for customers as well.

The firm has partnered with researchers at Carleton University to test the efficiency of the startup’s solution, and early results are promising. Davies says the company has seen reductions in energy use that, for your typical one-million-square-foot office space, could save upwards of $3.7 million on electricity over a five-year period.

The bright minds at iOL believe the energy-efficiency selling point will appeal to property managers with an eye to both their building’s carbon footprint and hydro bills. The company, currently in pre-sales with a minimum viable product, has raised a friends-and-family round but is considering angel investment in the near future.

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