Backed by Centrica (British Gas) and mentored by Google, Verv has developed an intelligent energy assistant, smart home product, using high speed energy analytics and machine learning to bring existing appliances to life. With 6 patents filed, Verv has sold units to British Gas, EDF & Allianz. We caught up with the founder, Peter Davies, to find out about his story so far and how he came up with the idea of Verv.
1. What’s your background?
I attended the University of Bath to study Computing, Electronics and Communicational Engineering, which included a year in industry that I undertook at a software engineering company in Sheffield. It was during my placement year that I learned to programme in LabVIEW; a graphical programming language developed by National Instruments, used to automate and test large systems, primarily in the aerospace and automotive industries. At the time, LabVIEW was still a very specialist programming language in the UK and I could see the potential of the language and what it was capable of.
After University, I founded a LabVIEW software consultancy, Austin Consultants and became one of only four Certified LabVIEW Architects in the UK. During this time, I worked on multiple projects, acquiring data at extremely high frequencies and disaggregating this data for multiple applications. I employed more LabVIEW developers and grew the company, expanding our service offering and establishing offices in London, Sheffield, Bristol and Bath.
In 2014, I won the Rising Star award at the Business Green Technology Awards then went on to win Innovator of the Year at the 2016 awards.
2. What inspired you to start your business?
Whilst running Austin Consultants, I took on an energy consultancy project that required the use of the high-speed data technology I had previously worked with. It was here that I realised how dated the technology within the energy industry was and saw the opportunity to provide much more granular data. At the time, one sample of energy data, every 30 minutes, was considered cutting-edge and what we were doing far exceeded this.
So, I founded Green Running and started out with a range of commercial energy monitoring projects mainly for the hospitality industry, helping restaurants and hotels to reduce their energy bills and hit their sustainability targets by identifying where they were wasting energy and encouraging staff behavioural change. However, I soon realised that there was an opportunity to tackle energy at its very core – by targeting individual homes and helping to educate them about their usage, bring down their bills, reduce their carbon footprint and protect their homes.
At the time, Smart meters were being rolled out across the domestic market but the information they provided was not detailed enough to encourage the long-term behavioural change in the home that would ultimately lead to lower bills and increased efficiency. Hence, Verv was born.
3. What traction has Verv had to date?
In the past 6 months we have secured valuable commercial agreements with Ingram Micro and Tech data (the biggest worldwide tech distributors), pre-sold 1,200 units into blue chip clients including Allianz, EDF and British Gas and developed a strong commercial pipeline prior to launch. This includes having secured key channel partnerships with ebuyer, Box.co.uk, AppliancesDirect and ShoppingNation where Verv is now live. In addition, Amazon has accepted us on to the Amazon Launchpad program and we are currently in talks with several other major retailers.
From a trials perspective, Ecotricity, which were the world's first Green Electricity company, has just announced that it is starting trials of our Verv hubs. Ecotricity supply 100% green electricity and green gas, supplying 200,000 locations in the UK. Furthermore, the Smart Technology Team at Allianz UK has selected Verv to participate in its programme of trials, which examines the value of innovative products to insurance. We are in talks with a number of other leading insurance and energy companies as well.
As a result of the above, and in light of ongoing discussions with key purchasers, the team fully expects to achieve and exceed their 12,000 unit target by the end March 2018.
4. What do you offer that’s different to what else is on the market?
There are several areas that set us apart from our competitors. Verv uses advanced machine learning technology to instantly recognise what appliances are using electricity in the home. This is done in real-time, meaning that from the second an appliance is turned on, Verv recognises what it is and feeds you the usage data without you having to enter anything manually or tell the system what appliances you own. In contrast, other similar devices on the market require the user to manually input what appliances they have, with others requiring a 10 day (at minimum) 'learning' period which still requires user input. Verv does all of this for you, straight out of the box.
The accuracy of Verv is extremely high compared to our competitors, due to the rate at which we sample data. To give some context, Smart meters’ sample data once every 6 seconds at best and some competitors sample several times per second to help acquire 'real-time' data. Verv samples at up to 1 million times per second, so data is received at an extremely high frequency and enables us to get much more granular information about appliance behaviours and activity with extreme accuracy. This allows us to go as far as to detect if appliances are deteriorating before they actually break and detect where the fault lies. The machine learning algorithms that power this are patent protected.
Installation with Verv is easy, doesn't require an electrician, and users can be managing their electricity usage within 10 minutes of receiving their Verv kit. Other products on the market require a qualified electrician as they need to be wired into the mains.
5. How much is the cleantech market you’re targeting worth?
With Verv being a smart home product in the cleantech space, Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31% from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services will reach almost $2 trillion in 2017.
6. What’s next for Verv?
We are in the middle of our Series A EIS investment round to accelerate the deployment of Verv. To date, we have exceeded our £500k target on Crowdcube and have just surpassed £650k. On completing this investment round, we are looking to roll Verv out to the UK market and deliver on our 12,000 unit sales pipeline, grow our team, design our final enclosures and continue to invest in our IP roadmap (6 patents to date).
Work has already started on integrating block chain into the product to create the UK’s first peer-to-peer energy trading system which we are expecting to go live during 2018. This is something the team is extremely excited about and will be yet another way we will help Verv users reduce their energy costs.
You can find out more about Verv, the team and its financials by visiting the pitch page today.
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