Article Published: February 10, 2016
Article Published: February 10, 2016
By Tim Hayes Contributing Writer
Remember when Dad used to throw a fit when anybody left the lights on, or the TV running, when nobody was around, because it was wasting money? Turns out the Old Man was right after all. But even so, he didn’t know the half of it.
BOSS takes this simple principle, and with a lot of technological and design support from other Pittsburgh-based companies, has figured out how to scale this in the commercial sector to solve some of the bigger problems in the world today—like lowering building energy consumption and reducing peak demand costs for utilities.
That simple principle—if something powered by electricity is not being used, turn it off to save money—has delivered the rock-solid basis and platform for growth of BOSS Controls, a three-year-old Pittsburgh-based enterprise. As the BOSS line of products continues to evolve and improve, users will be able to download rich loads of data to help them further refine their energy efficiency and cost control strategies.
BOSS Controls designs, manufactures, and sells networked control units—or “smart plugs”—that plug into wall sockets in tandem with electrically powered items (everything from large vending machines to water fountains to window air conditioning units, and anything in between). Piggy-backing on existing wi-fi networks, the BOSS Controls smart plugs shut down the items plugged into them during specified times—mostly overnight—when they typically are not in use.
“We provide total energy control inside buildings,” said Greg Puschnigg, CEO of BOSS Controls. “Our value proposition for schools, universities, all levels of government, corporate offices, and other organizations responsible for buildings, is to turn off devices unused when people go home.”
According to Puschnigg—an electrical officer veteran of the U.S. Naval Academy, followed by successful innovation experience with Intel—BOSS Controls customers see tangible energy savings within one month after the system has been in use, and in many cases, a complete return on investment within one year.
“Energy is usually the third or fourth highest cost of operating a building. Between 20 and 25 percent of these electricity costs of operating buildings is plug load energy consumption,” Puschnigg said. “Equipment typically is running 24/7, but it’s not all needed for the majority of hours in a day. We’re seeing great savings at universities, since they have so many buildings.
“The major existing controls companies can only be accessed by the top 20 percent of buildings, due to cost of installation and operation,” he said. “That leaves the remaining 80% as the market we’re going after. Buildings in general consume over 50% of the energy in the U.S. We provide 100-percent financing and guaranteed energy savings, so the customer has no out-of-pocket costs for our equipment or installation. There’s absolutely no risk for them.”
BOSS Controls equipment is developed, manufactured, financed, and distributed using exclusively Pittsburgh-based companies, including manufacturer TMG Electronics, hardware designer and mechanical engineer Daedalus, marketing and advertising provider C-Leveled, and financing from privately held regional angel investors.
“The expertise in electronics manufacturing that TMG brings has made the BOSS Controls offering a truly revolutionary step forward in customized programming for our end-users,” Puschnigg said. Customization in this instance means that each BOSS Controls unit plugged into an end-user’s facility has been encoded by location, load usage, wireless connection and configuration, and other specific variables unique to that unit’s implementation. This level of customization—as built into each unit by TMG at the manufacturing phase—gives the BOSS Controls application its unique functionality and value proposition.
“Our relationship with BOSS Controls is very important,” said Teresa Huber, CEO of TMG Electronics. “We intend to grow along with them—we’re all invested in this product’s success and growth. As with anything that’s new, better, and different, as BOSS Controls is, there will be some growing pains involved, but it’s worth it. A lot of other companies may build small electronic assemblies, but our customers typically have more unique and advanced requirements. That’s why we feel our work with BOSS Controls is a winning proposition.”
Said Matt Beale, CEO of Daedalus, “We’re oriented toward taking complicated things and making them accessible and easy to use. This is a perfect match for those skills, because the BOSS Controls units can be put into service by anyone – you don’t need to be an electrician or electrical engineer to benefit from implementing these products.
“Daedalus combines the power of technology with simplicity and elegance of design, not a trivial task,” Beale noted. “With BOSS Controls, our task was to keep the product consumer-simple for a commercial market. That’s what people expect today. They don’t want to go to a job and have to deal with something complicated or intimidating. The question people ask today most often is, ‘Why can’t this be more like my cell phone?’
“There is tremendous depth and potential in the BOSS Controls product, and we have really enjoyed being a part of the team,” he said. “They call the shots and use us as a sounding board. It’s a very collaborative environment. We’re not so much a vendor but a respected partner, which makes BOSS Controls a really good client.”
The market for BOSS Controls continues to expand, said Puschnigg, with the company having secured early deployments with marquee school districts, higher education campuses, and medium-sized commercial buildings. It also has aggressive growth expansion plans to expand from a regional to a more national presence with master distributor agreements throughout 2016.
“We control energy usage from the inside. This is not the utility doing it from the outside. By reducing consumption of energy, we offer ‘virtual power capacity’ to utilities, which helps them to manage peak loads and avoid the need for capital expense to build additional power plants,” Puschnigg said.
“Any business can implement BOSS Controls equipment. It can be scaled easily, so a customer doesn’t need to be a huge energy user for this to work for them. Everyone understands a 30% energy cost reduction per device; it’s a no-brainer. You reduce usage, you reduce costs, and you reduce emissions. Everybody wins.
“Because we decided from the start to put all intelligence into the software unit, all parties involved in the design and manufacture of our product have worked together in a shared product roadmap,” he said. “Our growth will come from the ability to use information generated by our units’ software in real time. We want to set the bar higher than anyone else in this space, and with the help of our local partner companies, we have been able to do that.”