Thursday, August 6, 2009
Interview with Gus Ezcurra, Advanced Telemetry
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Last month, San Diego-based Advanced Telemetry (www.advancedtelemetry.com) announced that the company had scored a Series B round of funding from clean technology investor Quercus Trust and 21Ventures, for the firm's energy monitoring solutions. We recently talked with the firm's CEO and co-founder, Gus Ezcurra, to learn more about the company and what part of the energy monitoring market the company is focusing on.
Describe how your energy monitoring systems work, what's special about them?
Guz Ezcurra: We have developed a solution that is there for energy management and conservation. It's based on a touch panel, which goes inside a business or a home. That touch panel communicates with the Internet, and wirelessly collects real-time information on the energy consumption details. That allows our customers to manage that consumption, by controlling the electrical loads inside their business or home. For example, the biggest load in a small business or home is the HVAC system. There are also other devices like lighting, heat pumps for pools, and Jacuzzi heaters. Because we have a network inside each home or business, we can provide device information that is pertinent to the touch panel, including things like pricing information, information about the whether, and other customized news and data. We can also provide additional services, above and beyond information about energy consumption. For our commercial customers, which include restaurants, quick service, and casual dining customers, we can provide non-energy services like food quality monitoring, temperature controls for walk-in-coolers, heaters, and salad bars. For residential customers, we can include other services relevant to you, like community messaging, texting back and forth notes for the family, and weather information and news.
How'd the company start, how long have you been around?
Gus Ezcurra: We started the company about two years ago, in August of 2007. Myself and my other co-founder have been working in this are for a very, very long time. I spent 15 years working in this area, including for a company using residential gateways in Europe, and saw back in the day these original boxes, these black boxes in the corner of your house which communicated inside your home, usually with a wired network in your house. I noticed that there wasn't much interaction with these systems--often they required interacting with a PC--and noticed that people would react to that information if it was easy to get, very timely, and if they could modify their behavior if they had real-time information. I thought we could develop something that was more interactive, such as our touch panel. We've got a very open panel which uses the standard protocols out there, and has the flexibility to communicate with different wireless networks, using off-the-shelf components. We've focused our attention on the touch panel, and software which drives this, as well as the back end server, with a few subcomponents because they are not available yet--but otherwise have bought off the shelf thermometer controls and submeters for measuring whole house electricity usage.
Let's talk a bit about your funding round. What are you going to use it for?
Gus Ezcurra: The reason we went for additional funding, is we're actually making a big leap and lowering cost points for these devices. We determined that some of the products out there--both touch panels and energy meters--are very expensive. We've designed a brand new solution, which we've built ourselves, although we contract out manufacturing. The funding will go to develop those lower cost products, and establish our manufacturing capability. We've actually got quite a bit of distribution already on the commercial side, and lots of customers on our commercial side--it's proven very successful with our customers, who are very happy with our performance and ROI, but we'll also use some of those proceeds to expand distribution.
Can you talk about how you've managed to get so many wins on the commercial side of your business?
Gus Ezcurra: It's a really underserved market on the commercial side, and for customers like small commercial buildings. There are people who are focused on the large industrial manufacturers, AC manufacturers, machine tool manufacturers, and others, with devices for energy management systems--or EMS systems, as they are called. It's a well established market, and those are sold to large industrial customers. The whole world is also focused on the potential of the residential market--and even though there's not really a lot going on, just talks, trials and discussion, there's a lot of investment going on. In the meantime, the vast majority of buildings in this country are sub-5000 square feet. They are small entrepreneurs, and feeling the crunch in this economy, and the impact in prices, especially on energy. Add that to the burden of local regulations in terms of energy conservation, and it just keeps adding to the cost of running a business. We're focused on this market, because we know it's underserved, and it works very well in those size of buildings. We're happy we focused on that segment, and are continuing to work on that segments, and will also work on the residential space and see how it develop--though we're still waiting to see how that will roll out in the years to come.
Finally, how's the whole stimulus package, and interest in energy affecting your company?
Gus Ezcurra: It's been very positive for us. For one thing, the stimulus money has served to replenish the rebate programs that many state governments or local utilities have, which are paid to commercial and residential customers. For example, if you buy a low power air conditioner, there's rebate money available. Lots of that had dried up because state and local governments were having budget problems. In addition, it has gone to kick start other green technology--like solar, other alternative energy. From that perspective, it' s been very helpful. Overall, I think it has also helped society's awareness of energy conservation and wanting to do the right thing for the environment and community they're living in.