A waste-powered electricity generator for homes and a system designed to optimise energy usage of large buildings have won the second round of Canary Wharf’s smart city challenge.
The technologies developed by UK start-ups SEaB and Demand Logic, have been among twelve competitors in the Integrated Resource Management and Automated Building Management streams of the Cognicity Challenge, organised by ENTIQ on behalf of the Canary Wharf Group.
The two winners will see their technologies not only tested at the Canary Wharf Estate but also likely becoming an integral part of the newly built Wood Wharf residential project.
"We embarked on the Cognicity Challenge to identify and procure the most exciting innovations relevant to our continued growth,” said Sir George Iacobescu, Chairman and Chief Executive of Canary Wharf Group. “Last night was another important step in securing the next generation of technologies essential to keeping the Canary Wharf estate at the forefront of innovation.”
The organisers said they were so impressed by the overall quality of the projects that selecting only one winner in each category presented a superhuman task. In addition the two winners, who will receive £50,000 to further develop their concepts, one company in each stream was awarded a ‘cool prize’ and another one received a commendable mention.
“When we went into this, we had no idea of the potential, we underestimated hugely the benefits that we could get out,” said Cormac MacCrann, Executive Director of Canary Wharf Contractors. “Even now, we are just at the tip of the iceberg of where we can bring it to.”
Neither of the two winners considered themselves outright favourites. Both tackling the issue of carbon emission and energy efficiency, the two firms have approached the problem from very different perspectives.
Southampton-based SEaB Energy manufacturs what they call ‘anaerobic digesters’ that can turn food waste into energy. The concept is revolutionary in a sense as it aims to do away with waste transportation and centralised waste disposal. Instead, the firm founded by Sandra Sassow and her partner wants to provide a local waste processing facility to every large building complex.
“We take the waste onsite and we eliminate the transport of the waste to an offsite facility and that’s quite key because the carbon footprint of that waste movement is substantial,” explained Sassow, a passionate horse-rider, who stumbled on the idea when laboriously removing piles of manure from a horse yard.
A waste generator, such as that develoepd by SEaB, could provide between 5 to 10 per cent of the energy consumed by a large commercial or residential complex.
“No waste would be collected, you’d get rid of all the haulage vehicles and all of the movement to the centralised facilities and you'd simply reprocess the organic waste recapture the water content which is quite key because food waste contains 80 per cent of water,” said Sassow.
Developers will likely find the idea intriguing as it will allow them to reduce the overall carbon footprint and make it easier to comply with toughening regulations.
London-headquartered Demand Logic wants to eliminate energy wastage resulting from malfunctioning air-conditioning, heating and ventilation systems.
“In a large commercial or residential building, you would have thousands of sensors measuring indoor parameters like temperature or humidity but it would take enormous human effort to make sense of these data,” said Mike Darby, Demand Logic’s CTO, who was prompted to find a better, automated, way of doing things by personal experience.
“I used to maintain these systems and it was painful, you have to manually print out graphs of temperatures, trying to figure out which units are not working properly, one visit every three months.”
For example, if an air-conditioning flap gets stuck open, more cold air will flow into the building but the local management system would balance the problem out by turning on the heating. The occupier wouldn’t spot the difference but the building is suddenly consuming more energy than it should.
Engineers would regularly check data for indications of malfunctions or even visually examine suspicious units, the response, however, is slow and inaccurate.
Demand Logic’s digital engine monitors data constantly and can provide immediate alerts in case of irregularities.
“It allows people to target the worst problems first and it very quickly gets to the point that the building works much more efficiently,” Darby explained.
“You don’t need to touch the things that work perfectly so you save your time. And you don’t introduce force by looking at something that works fine.”
As air-conditioning, heating and ventilation can eat up to 80 per cent of the energy bill of a large commercial building, a system such as that proposed by Demand Logic could help save a considerable amount of money – up to 10 per cent of the annual energy bill.
The competition participants as well as the organisers agreed the project had stirred creative cooperation between its stakeholders and helped generate many new ideas.
In addition to turning Canary Wharf into the world’s smartest district, the project hopes to speed up the general adoption of smart technologies in the built environment.
“For major companies it’s very difficult to buy solutions from young companies because they don’t have all the certifications and processes in place,” said Eric Van der Kleij, Managing Director of ENTIQ. “But what I encourage them to do is to think about what we did with Entiq in helping Canary Wharf to learn how to find these firms, how to mentor them, share responsibility with them and help them develop and test their pilot projects. It is only when the industry starts to specify the solutions and targets for improvement when we start seeing innovations coming through.
The Cognicity Challenge is entering its final leg with 12 new start-ups competing in the Virtual Design and Construction and Connected Home streams joining the accelerator.
The winners of the final two streams will be announced on 7 July.