Demand Logic is the British company creating a Fitbit for buildings

Why, when it’s freezing outside, is the office air-conditioning always on? These inefficiencies not only make office life uncomfortable, but they also waste tremendous amounts of energy.

Demand Logic, a small London-based startup, believes it can help solve this. By collecting and analysing data from buildings, Demand Logic uses it to improve how they operate. Think of it like a Fitbit for buildings, though chairman Sonny Masero isn’t keen on using the sports tracker’s name in his own description.

“The idea of a fitness tracker like the Fitbit for commercial buildings kind of over simplifies what we do, but it does resonate with people – it works well on TV, I’m told,” Masero told me from the sidelines of a UK Trade and Investment and an Innovate UK trade mission to southeast Asia, after one of the trip’s leaders described the system as just that on Singaporean television.

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It’s a fair comparison – after all “failing to work as we’re supposed to” is the reason most people are motivated to strap on an exercise band and get fit, so why not do it for buildings?

Of course, Demand Logic doesn’t show up at your building and strap on a rubbery band, as appealing as that may sound. Instead, it installs a data-collection box – dubbed a Data Acquisition Device – that grabs information from existing building management systems, such as boilers and ventilation. “It is no harder to install in a new building or an existing one,” noted Masero. “Once we are installed we can connect multiple buildings in a city or in a portfolio via our cloud service so that customers can get a view across the estate.”

Data from the box is uploaded to a web interface via local broadband or 3G, giving building managers a real-time view of what’s running and whether anything looks out of place. All of that data is tracked to look for wasted energy, and Demand Logic offers access to data scientists to run analytics to uncover problems and find solutions.

The six-person team has picked up accolades from the Ashden Award to the Cognicity Challenge, and has worked with clients including the University of London, Transport for London, and One New Change.

The London-based startup’s first project was with King’s College London, which has since saved £390,000 annually (out of a total energy spend of £5 million). King’s also cut 2,500 tonnes of carbon each year after Demand Logic tracked 554 plant items, such as boilers and pumps, over three campuses.

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In one case, Demand Logic revealed the cooling system was running all day in winter, caused by a single poorly placed personal heater that was triggering the air-conditioning. Solving that meant saving energy costs and making that office more comfortable – and, presumably, less confusingly cold to its occupants.

Such missteps are how the startup was founded back in 2013, by now CEO Mark Darby, CIO Dan Mauger and CTO Joe Short. “Demand Logic came about because our CEO used to work with building management system and saw time and again that new buildings never work as they are designed to,” said Masero, “and that the effective management of existing building is hampered by poor information for the engineers resulting in defaulting to reactive maintenance and minimum schedule maintenance.”

While some people feel they need no assistance in keeping fit, Demand Logic shows that even the most energy-efficient businesses could still do with trimming the fat.

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