Small device, big transformation

Organic Response Co-Founder and CEO Chris Duffield has set his team a couple of impressive goals. “We aim to capture 75% of the Australian lighting control market in the next five years, and beyond that our mission is to turn on a light in every country in the world.” Achieving those goals depends on the success of a small device, about half the size of a match box, which is set to transform the way in which lighting is controlled in commercial buildings.

Current methods of automated lighting control rely on computers and lots of cables that require specialist installers and extensive setup. In contrast, the Organic Response Sensor Node is built into standard office lighting units (luminaires) during manufacture, and installation is as simple as slipping the new luminaire into place and plugging it in. Then things get interesting.

The Sensor Node detects if anyone is it its immediate vicinity. If so, it turns the light on. The Node also communicates with adjacent sensors which turn their lights on, but at a lower intensity. The message is then passed to the Nodes a further step away, which illuminate at an even lower intensity. As people move around the office the light follows them without a harsh cut-off, and by providing the right amount of light only where it’s needed substantial reductions in electricity use are achieved. With a smart phone equipped with an infrared dongle, each Node can be further optimised to also take into account changes in ambient light levels. In spots where there is plenty of natural light available, the lights remain dimmed.

Greenhouse motivation

Marketing Director Mark Davidson says that the motive of the founders was to make a significant impact on greenhouse gas reductions. “It’s an incredibly innovative technology that can transform an industry,” he says. “And that’s helped by the fact that it is just as easy to install whether you’re in Tonga or Tokyo.” This potential to effect radical transformation across the globe and deliver major environmental benefits has already paid dividends. “It’s the major reason why we’ve been able to attract a range of high quality shareholders, advisors and consultants, as well as employees.”

The technology was co-invented by Technical Director Danny Bishop and Genesis Now MD Geoff Andrews. Private investors, including friends and family, provided the initial funding, and an Early Stage Commercialisation Grant from Commercialisation Australia helped in the later stages.

Smart marketing for Distributed Intelligence

To achieve the ease of installation that is a key feature, the Sensor Node needs to be integrated into individual lighting units. Organic Response has teamed up with a select range of quality lighting manufacturers in each country or region. “We have strategic technology alliances with eight companies in Australia, four in the UK and three in Europe,” says Chris. “Each partner has developed its own Organic Response-enabled range of lighting units to take to the market, so the ultimate customer has plenty of options to choose from. And the competition between partners will prevent complacency and ensure pricing remains competitive.” With partners helping to build the Organic Response brand, the aim is for the name to become lighting’s equivalent of Bluetooth, and to be recognised by the market in the same way that Intel is recognised as being at the core of different brands of computers.

Quick payback

At the top end of the commercial property market lighting control is pretty much mandatory and the competition is intense. “Our value proposition in this market is that the ease of installation and commissioning provides quicker payback,” says Mark. “However, the big opportunity is to tap into the market which previously did not consider sophisticated lighting control due to cost and complexity.  The challenge in this market, given that there is an increase in initial capital outlay, is to sell the total life cycle benefit.”

At present the Sensor Nodes are manufactured in Melbourne. However, as Organic Response moves to establish a robust presence in the UK and Europe over the next year or so, additional production capacity will be set up in those markets. “After that we will target the US and key countries in South America and Asia,” says Mark.

Well awarded

Not surprisingly, Organic Response has picked up a number of awards, including three iAwards in 2013. “These awards have been very important in terms of lending credibility to our technology and our business,” says Mark. “The fact that we are to represent Australia at the Cleantech Open in Silicon Valley has the potential to give us a significantly increased profile both within Australia and internationally.”

That profile should lead to increased demand for the product, which brings its own set of problems. Chris says that the key constraints on growth are resourcing and funding. “We need to rapidly grow our internal capability so that it can support expansion into new markets. We need to recruit staff with the right experience and develop scalable systems that allow cost effective support for our growing list of international partners.” Mark believes this rapid growth is important to ensure they gain the first mover advantage.

More than just lights

Organic Response Sensor Nodes can do more than just dim the lights. “By providing location-specific occupancy information, building management systems can make more intelligent decisions, and save even more energy,” says Mark. One example has been adopted within the Organic Response office. When the lighting system indicates that no one is present, printers, monitors and other power-consuming equipment automatically switches off.

The natural pun to conclude this story with is to suggest that Organic Response has a bright future, but that doesn’t seem to be the right metaphor. Much as it may be on a mission to turn on a light in every country in the world, the real measure of Organic Response’s success will be how many lights it turns off. So here’s to a darker world – but darkness delivered intelligently, and only where light is not needed.

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