IoT Startup Prepares to Pitch Pittsburgh City Officials on Smart Outlets

The Internet of Things has exploded onto the scene connecting devices to the Internet, now Boss Controls is hoping to connect electrical outlets to minimize energy consumption.

by Kris B. Mamula, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / December 29, 2015
Pittsburgh, Pa. Flickr/Jaime Dillen-Seibel

(TNS) -- Making the lowly electrical outlet a whole lot smarter means energy savings at a Bloomfield startup company.

Three-year-old Boss Controls LLC links electrical outlets in commercial buildings to the Internet, allowing owners to throttle back usage during nights and weekends. The City of Pittsburgh is expected to hear the company’s pitch in January, according to CEO Greg Puschnigg, who plans a presentation to city officials.

“Our focus is connecting all electrical devices to the Internet, making them smart,” Mr. Puschnigg said. “There are huge energy savings that will come out of that.”

Boss is part of the Internet of Things, a term used to describe everything from biochip transponders used to track farm animals to smart home thermostats to self-driving cars, all of which rely on machines talking with machines. The number of such devices is expected to balloon in the coming years and companies like Boss are vying for a place at the table.


During the BOSS Controls' Smart Plugs pilot program, buildings saved about 60 percent of electrical outlet energy consumption. Facebook/BOSS Controls

The company employs fewer than 10 people, but it plans to ramp up in 2016 as clients sign on, Mr. Puschnigg said. Angel and small local investors are funding the company.

At Boss, energy savings begin with getting control of the electrical outlet, which the U.S. Department of Energy said accounts for about 25 percent of a building’s electrical consumption.

Energy savings exceeding 60 percent were reported during a two-week pilot study in June at a couple city-owned buildings, according to Boss. The pilot was part of the Global City Teams Challenge, which included U.S. Steel Tower and buildings at Carnegie Mellon University, where energy savings ranged between 40 percent and 50 percent as part of the Internet of Things competition among universities, government agencies and the private sector.

Boss will take those results to city leaders in January as part of a formal proposal for its 300-plus buildings, Mr. Puschnigg said.

Boss’ business proposition goes like this: For $99 per new wifi-connected outlet, the company provides installation, energy audit, baseline usage data and the capability to cut the power at certain times to an entire floor or individual appliances ranging from vending machines to coffee pots and copiers. St. Louis-based Graybar Financial Services will provide financing to clients. Savings depends on energy usage and other factors.

“It allows control over essentially all the electrical devices in the building that are energized by a wall outlet,” COO Dan Brailer said. “We’re seeing very large companies with very large needs.”

City of Pittsburgh officials were not available for comment, but Mayor Bill Peduto has expressed interest in reducing the city’s energy footprint. In early December, Mr. Peduto was a speaker at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris, which focused on climate change.

Green Building Alliance CEO Aurora Sharrard said electricity usage at wall outlets is often overlooked as a way to save money on energy. GBA is a nonprofit agency based in South Side, which helps building owners reduce energy consumption and waste.

“It’s a real opportunity,” she said. “Technology can be really helpful.”

©2015 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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