Dublin company Hub Controls is about to go to market with an innovative new smart gadget which has been designed to help householders get better control over the amount they spend on heating bills.
Although there are now a multitude of gadgets for regulating temperature and others for tracking energy use, Hub Controls’ CEO and founder Oliver Hynes says that this is the first device that does both.
“It is the only smart thermostat that shows customers how much they are spending when they turn the boiler on for an hour,’’ he said.
Going on sale on September 25, at a retail price of €249, the Hub Controller will, according to Mr Hynes, allow users to control the heating remotely using a smartphone, PC or tablet.
“They can use it to monitor their use of heating in order to avoid wastage, to turn off the heating when they are out and they can also use it to set a budget per day of how much they want to spend,” he said.
The company has, this year, applied for worldwide patents on the device, which according to Mr Hynes, can be used to replace the thermostat on any heating system. Following the launch, the controller will sell on the company’s website, on Amazon in November and also through plumbing and heating merchants in both Ireland and the UK.
“We started pre-selling in April and sold 3,260 units worth €837,000 with approximately 93% of sales going to heating merchants in the UK,” said Mr Hynes.
As the company prepares for launch it is also participating in a fundraising round with the aim of raising €2.5m, which will be used to develop sales internationally and also for ongoing R&D.
Prior to establishing Hub Controls, Mr Hynes worked in the heating and ventilation industry for 25 years before switching careers in 2012 when he did a post-graduate course in software development.
In setting up the new company in March 2014 he was inspired by Nest, which pioneered the development of smart thermostats and is now the market leader in this field.
“Nest developed the first new product in this area for 50 years — I loved it and wanted to do something like it,” said Mr Hynes.
Registering the new company in March 2014, Mr Hynes enrolled in the New Frontiers programme and also secured €50,000 in competitive start funding from Enterprise Ireland.
Operating from the Synergy Centre in Tallaght, the company spent two years and four months developing the software for Hub Controller, contracting out the hardware development.
Identified by Enterprise Ireland as a High Potential Start-Up in 2015, the company secured €650,000 in funding which came from Enterprise Ireland and private investors. This allowed the company to start hiring and it now has a full-time staff of six.
Trials of the hub controller have been ongoing since April, and the device is now being manufactured under licence by a company in Rathcoole.
“When we started pre-selling in April we had to stop because the level of demand was so high. We needed further investment to manufacture more units so we went into full-on fundraising mode then,’’ said Mr Hynes.
He expects to complete the €2.5m funding round by the end of the year. This will allow Hub Controls to start selling into France Italy, Spain and possibly Germany next year.
According to Mr Hynes: “We are aiming for a turnover of €2m next year and expect to have a minimum of 25 employees.”
He added that the company has had enquiries from Australia, Japan and South America and plans to expand globally in 2018.
This year Hub Controls won the Product & Manufacturing category in the Bank of Ireland Start-up Awards and is now a finalist in the inaugural Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) Enterprise awards.
Funding will also be used for continued R&D and to enhance and improve the Hub Controller.
Mr Hynes said the next step will be to use it to give consumers more control over their electricity bills.