Homeowners are used to the feeling of dread when opening their energy bills. With so many appliances – most of which we take for granted – the strain of monitoring exactly how much electricity is being consumed at any given moment is something few are equipped to handle.Waterloo North Hydro announced last week its purchase of 23 per cent Eyedro Green Solutions Inc., a Kitchener-based company that specializes in energy monitors for homes and businesses.
“Most businesses, they want you to buy more of their products. We actually want people to use less hydro. If people conserve hydro, we don’t need to build all the plants that we need, and also, we’re contributing to the environment,” said Albert Singh, chief financial officer of Waterloo North Hydro. The company also has an option of buying an additional 10 per cent of Eyedro within a year.
The Eyedro technology combines hardware and software. The company sells monitors that can be attached to an electricity meter, and connected to the customer’s MyFreeMonitor.com account. Using information from the monitor, the online account displays what appliances are being used, how many kilowatts are being consumed, and how much all of this consumption is costing at any given moment.
The idea came from Wellesley-based entrepreneur Nick Gamble, Eyedro’s chief technology officer and co-founder with Trevor Orton, the CEO.
“We were sitting by the pool one summer and my dad was complaining about his electricity bills,” said Gamble. “At the time I was taking some home inspection courses for personal interest, and I thought, ‘Hey, this would be a great idea if somebody could go in and work with a homeowner to help them explain their electricity bills.’
“Traditional billing doesn’t really help you that much, because by the time the bill shows up, it’s 30 to 60 days after the period. Unless you have a great memory, you’re never going to know what you were doing 30 to 60 days ago, along with weather conditions and all that stuff. This provides some real-time feedback,” he explained.
The business took its tentative first steps in late 2009 before Gamble and Ortega committed to it more seriously in 2010. Within a few months, they had set up shop at the Communitech hub in downtown Kitchener for technology startups. Singh notes that Waterloo North Hydro began paying close attention to the company around summer 2012, and began serious negotiations for a deal early this year.
By now, alarming prognostications about our environmental future are frustratingly familiar, but the idea of actually doing something about them seems easier said than done. Ortega said he believes that Eyedro technology can be a practical way to go green.
“From an environmental perspective, everyone gets it,” said Orton. “We should all do what we can for the environment. We’re not going to completely change our lifestyle, but if we all do the small things, Eyedro helps them understand where those small things are.”
Singh said the technology offers practical advantages for the homeowner.
“People can actually use this as a safety device for what’s going on in their home if you’re on vacation. If you know you’ve got something at home that needs to be running all the time, and you can see online that there’s no power consumption, you can call someone to go take a look.”
The investment from Waterloo North Hydro will help the company improve the technology.
“It does allow us to grow a little faster,” said Orton. “For example, just after the investment we’ve hired two additional staff with plans to hire another within the coming weeks. It also gave us the additional reinforcement that we have a shared vision.”
While most of Eyedro’s business is within 100 kilometres of the Waterloo Region, it has made sales in the United States, and as far away as India and the Philippines.
While green industries have seen something of a slowdown of late – the “green” label suffering from too much exposure – the young company sees a role for itself.
“There may be a bit of a slowdown, but I think that was across the entire economy,” said Orton. “We’ve been going through a recession for some time. Especially here in Ontario, I think there’s a large amount of government support for green. Whether consumers are getting complacent with the word ‘green’ – possibly. But I think there’s still a lot of technology that’s going to continue moving forward.”
More information on Eyedro (derived from drawing one’s eye to hydro) can be found at www.eyedro.com.