Few folks are aware of how much juice their electronics consume regularly, a survey published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. The largest group of respondents — 20% — believed that switching off lightbulbs was the best way to save energy, while less than 6% chose superior alternatives like weatherizing and installing efficient appliances. That’s not exactly surprising given that, in a separate study conducted by U.S. Energy Information Administration, a measly 4% of smart meter owners in 2016 reported viewing their hourly or daily energy consumption data.
This state of affairs drove Mike Phillips, Christopher Micali, and Ryan Houlette in 2013 to cofound Sense, a firm developing a platform that taps AI to provide real-time insights on electrical usage. Following on the heels of several large financing rounds in 2018, 2017, and 2014, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company today revealed that approximately $10 million has been added to its series B round co-led by MacKinnon, Bennett & Company (MKB) and IDO Investments. Previous investors Schneider Electric and Landis+Gyr also contributed to bring the total B round investment to $30 million and Sense’s total raised to $50 million, after a first B round close last October that saw Shell Ventures, Energy Impact Partners, Prelude Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group, and iRobot participate.
“These additional investments from MKB and IDO Investments reflect our shared vision of a smart, energy-aware home. From the company’s founding, we envisioned a future when homes would share information about themselves with their owners, who could make better decisions about how to live in today’s world,” said CEO Phillips. “Our investors share this vision and are helping us create a powerful ecosystem that will accelerate Sense’s market growth.”
The capital infusion comes ahead of Landis+Gyr’s planned integration of Sense’s technology with its Gridstream Connect IoT platform for utilities, which was previously announced. Sometime this year, Sense’s home energy app — which monitors and measures energy consumed by electrical devices — will be made available as an uploadable plugin for the Connect IoT platform within Landis+Gyr’s power meters. It’ll allow users to see how much energy appliances, lighting, and other devices are consuming in real time and recommend ways to cut down on usage, and it’ll let them remotely view which in-home devices are switched on or in need of repair.
Schneider Electric has already built Sense’s tech into its Wiser Energy System by Square D, and through a partnership with solar financing provider Dividend Finance, Sense has helped to sign on more than 200 solar installer partners to date.
“Energy efficiency and demand response are constantly gaining importance globally, and we see Sense Labs playing an important role in the energy space,” wrote IDO Investments CEO Dr. Philip Boigner. “Their product is intuitive and produces valuable data for homeowners and various stakeholders in the energy sector. We see great potential in Sense and the value it can bring to Oman and the region.”
Sense’s tech was developed by a pioneering team from Philips, Amazon, Nuance, Vlingo, ScanSoft, and SpeechWorks, many of whom specialize in voice recognition. With a combination of sensors that connect to breakers inside the home’s electrical panel, a Wi-Fi-enabled dedicated compute box, and number-crunching remote servers, the company’s $299 home energy monitoring system is able to distinguish among the electrical signatures of plugged-in devices.
Its system records more than one million data points per second — a rate and volume that Sense claims is faster and larger, respectively, than some competitors — but it’s not the first of its kind. Rival Smappee operates at the fuse box level, recording the unique electronic signature of devices plugged into every outlet. And Currant‘s usage-monitoring products plug into any wall outlet.
But backers like MKB managing partner Ken MacKinnon aren’t concerned about the competition. They point to the latest CB Insights ranking of the top 100 private AI companies worldwide, which included Sense for the first time, and accolades like a 2019 Red Herring Top 100 North America award. And they note that global revenue attributed to consumer tech and services for home energy management is anticipated to grow to $7.8 billion in 2025, according to Navigant Research.
“Sense enables consumers to better understand their home energy use so they can reduce energy consumption and make more informed decisions about their increasingly smart and connected home,” MacKinnon said. “MKB is delighted to support Sense as it forges a new era of consumer energy awareness and action.”