There is more to IoT startup Pooled Energy than meets the eye

- September 9, 2015 4 MIN READ

The way pools are filtered and sanitised has not changed much in the last 30 years. Growing up with a backyard pool, I remember we tested the water with a pH stick a few times a week and added chemicals like chlorine to the water. The process was manual, and failing to keep up with maintenance causes all sorts of bacteria to fester in the water, creating a cesspool breeding ground for algae and insects.

Internet-of-Things startup Pooled Energy is looking to change that with its new technology that constantly measures and records data and allows users to manage their pools on their smartphones. This means they can turn pumps on and off and get data on the temperature and pH level as well as a series of other data points that are useful for pool owners to keep everything safe and healthy.

Pooled Energy was founded by John Reidl, and senior members of the team include Greg Irving and Andrew Rogers. Both Reidl and Irving have a long history in business, having built and sold companies many times over. Reidl was a former executive at Honeywell Industrial Controls, owns venture capital firm Game Changer Ventures and sits on the boards of a number of other venture capital firms. He was also a technology advisor to the Prime Minister and New South Wales Government. Irving, on the other hand, was the CIO of Honeywell Asia Pacific and the CEO of Honeywell Australia. He’s an electrical engineer who studied at Stanford and Harvard.

Younger startup founders would probably be more familiar with Rogers, who has joined the team to head up sales. He is the founder of hosting company Anchor, which regularly supports Australian startup initiatives and events. Rogers is also an investor in many Australian startups via Innovation Bay and other funds, and he has privately invested in companies like BuiltWith. Rogers no longer plays a day-to-day role in Anchor, and was searching for a project to sink his teeth into that made an impact on the world, particularly in the area of renewable energy – and that is how he came to be involved with Pooled Energy.

Pooled Energy allows users to run their pool more effectively than ever before, with the amount of energy needed to keep it clean becoming a fraction of what it normally would be.

“If you’ve got a pool in your home, the pool uses about a third of your power bill, so a third of your energy,” says Rogers. “It is a big power user that most people don’t realise. But you don’t need to use that much. A lot of that is pump running time and reducing the chlorine.”

What most people do not realise is that chlorine is only effective in a pool if the pH is perfect. In most pools it is not. Most pools have too much chlorine and needs to be pumped twice as long through the system at a really high pressure. However, with a Pooled Energy device installed, the amount of power required to maintain the pool drops quite dramatically.

You also never need to add chemicals to the pool as the startup’s device has a patent pending technology that creates the chemicals by itself using electricity, air and water. You just turn the device on with your smartphone and it creates and distributes the chemicals needed into the pool.

“There’s no chlorine needed because we make it,” says Rogers. “That itself is not really uncommon, but the bit that’s really neat is that we control the pH. Every pool at the moment only has a pump that’s pumping acid into the pool or someone’s come in and tipped in acid. We can do that without any external input – that’s technology we’re patenting.”

But there is more to Pooled Energy than meets the eye. Realising that there could be challenges when it came to customer acquisition (why would someone with a pool that in their eyes is working perfectly well want to add a cost, no matter how cool the technology is?) Pooled Energy became a licensed electricity retailer – the first Australian IoT startup to be a qualified energy company.

The way the company sells its product is by getting users to switch their power bill over to them. Included in that is the monthly fee to operate the pool. The potential market here is quite large considering there are millions of pools in Australian homes.

“Once we’re able to get enough pools onto our network, we can then start helping manage the grid. For example, if you’ve got the weather forecast and you see that it’s going to be 27 degrees tomorrow, we can say ‘okay we’ll run the pools more tonight when the power demand is low and tomorrow afternoon, we’ll make sure they’re all off’. So we’ll be able to help lower the pressure on the grid,” says Rogers.

“Another thing that’s also starting to happen is people have so much solar power on the roof in middle of the day, but no one’s home using the power. This scenario means there’s too much power on the grid. So knowing this, we can then have the pool pumps running to take up some of that load.

“That’s why we’re doing the electricity retailer bit. There are some really innovative, smart grid applications out there, and between 30 seconds to a minute, you can, over the internet, tell all these pool pumps to turn on or turn off.”

Installation of the device is also quite easy. Pooled Energy brings one of its plumbers on site for a day and an electrician for half a day – the whole installation is taken care of for you. As a user, all you need to do is connect to your pool on your smartphone. There is also no upfront cost; there is a monthly service fee of around $55.00 and the $500.00 set-up fee is integrated into the bill across a 12-month period. But home owners won’t notice the cost because their power bills should actually be a third less than what they would usually be paying.

In addition, pool owners also save money on buying chemicals like chlorine or having to hire a pool cleaner. It’s highly likely that the startup is going to have some real challenges when it comes to the pool industry because of this, and will probably never have any channel partnerships in the space. This is because Pooled Energy essentially disrupts their ongoing recurring revenue for ‘pool essentials’ type products like chemicals.

Pooled Energy has actually been operating for about three years, however is only now going to market with its offering. Up until now everything has been focused on research and development. The startup currently has a team of 30 and Startup Daily has confirmed that the company has raised at least two sizeable amounts of funding for the venture, though the team would not go on record in telling us exactly how much. It would be safe to estimate though, given what the team has created and the industry they are trying to conquer, that it would be in the $5 million to $10 million range.

Featured Image: Greg Irving, Andrew Rogers and John Reidl. Source: Provided.