OneEvent Raises $700K To Make Building-Monitoring Devices Smarter
[Updated 3/22/16 9:47 am. See below.] Kurt Wedig spotted a business opportunity in a 2008 episode of NBC’s “Today Show.”
He says that inspiration struck during a segment about evacuation procedures at hotels. Anchor Natalie Morales, wearing a blindfold, tried to crawl out of her smoke-filled room and down the hall to a stairwell.
“It was a train wreck,” Wedig says. “It took a long time.”
Wedig says that while the segment offered some helpful suggestions (count the number of doors between your room and the exit), his biggest takeaway was that the building safety products industry lagged behind others in terms of technological innovation. “I did a little research and found that the fire industry and smoke alarms hadn’t really changed in 40 or 50 years,” Wedig says.
He approached Daniel Parent, a close friend who worked as an electrical engineer at the time. The two then began brainstorming and trying to patent some of their ideas for new technologies. In 2011, they co-founded OneEvent Technologies, a Mount Horeb, WI-based startup that develops software to make smoke detectors more sensitive and transform them into versatile devices for monitoring commercial and residential buildings.
OneEvent has now raised $710,000 in convertible debt financing, and Wedig says he expects that figure to reach $2.5 million by the end of April. The pre-revenue company has raised a total of $2,510,000, he says, most of which came from a $1.8 million equity funding round announced in September.
Devices equipped with OneEvent’s software can detect smoke and motion, and measure temperature, humidity, and carbon monoxide, Wedig says. The sensors are constantly collecting data and uploading it to the Web to compare it with previous readings; this helps the system establish a baseline for what a room’s normal levels are, a process that Wedig says takes about 30 days. Then, if anything abnormal is observed, police and firefighters are alerted, and residents receive mobile notifications.
OneEvent is purely a software company, and the tools it’s developing can be configured to work with existing smoke detectors. However, its initial focus is more on working with sensor manufacturers to produce new, connected machines, rather than retrofitting already-installed devices. After a smoke alarm is mounted, OneEvent’s software can be used to indicate what room it’s in; that way, a device in a kitchen could have a higher temperature threshold for sending out alerts than one in a bedroom.
Wedig says his company has worked with San Diego-based Novatel Wireless (NASDAQ: MIFI) to allow OneEvent’s software to communicate with a device’s sensors and transmit the data to the Web. That last part is key, he says, because the information from a building’s sensors can be vital to fire departments and emergency medial services groups, whom the startup sees as potential users. The idea is that while en route to calls, they’d be able to view real-time floor plans showing room-specific temperatures and other data related to the building and the fire. Wedig says the application could be displayed on both computers and mobile devices.
“We can tell a firefighter or any first responder where the fire started, where it is now, where it’s going, and how to get people out,” Wedig says.
OneEvent is also hoping to sell to owners of office buildings, apartment complexes, and hotels once its Sentinel operating system hits the market on June 1, he says.
Another target is insurance companies. According to OneEvent’s website, they might use data gathered by the software to “look back in time” and determine whether a property that suffered a fire or water damage was at risk for such an event beforehand. The company’s interest in insurers highlights the link between that industry and the “Internet of Things” movement—to which OneEvent belongs—which is seeing formerly offline devices begin to connect to the Web and to each other.
Wedig says residential customers should expect to pay, on average, about $300 for installation and hardware–OneEvent’s starter kit includes a smoke detector and two additional sensors, as well as a transmission box for data transfer. OneEvent vice president Michael Schultz says it will likely cost about $23 a month to use the software, but the total could be higher for larger floor plans that require more than three sensors. [This paragraph has been updated to reflect that OneEvent anticipates it will charge residential customers $11 a month to use the transmission box it co-developed with Novatel Wireless, in addition to a monthly service cost of $4 per sensor.]
Even though OneEvent doesn’t plan to sell directly to consumers initially, Wedig says it is developing a smartphone app that would alert those who own or rent properties where the software is installed that something is amiss.
Alphabet subsidiary Nest Labs, which is best known for its smart thermostat that also functions as an Internet of Things hub, itself makes a connected smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Nest appears to be most interested in selling straight to individuals, but in October it helped fund $50,000 in grants to fire departments “for new technology and equipment,” according to a press release. That could be a hint that the company will configure its devices to share the data they’ve collected with first responders, similar to OneEvent’s vision.
Wedig says that OneEvent has been granted five patents, and had another 15 pending, which might help it guard against the competition.
Currently, OneEvent has 10 employees and plans to add six more during the coming months, Wedig says.
Looking ahead, does the startup inspired by a search for an exit envision having one itself?
Yes, says Wedig. “We look at most [competitors] as potential acquirers,” he says. “We feel that one of the larger players will come in and make a purchase at some point. It could be Honeywell, Samsung, Google, Apple, Emerson [Electric], anything tied to those sectors. There’s so many players out there.”