Local Entrepreneur Sets Sights on the “Internet of Things”
Eric Graham’s early career work for a Japanese trading company where he was primarily responsible for trading of Tuna in the early 1990s led to a series of entrepreneurial ventures and career moves that eventually led him to an interest in energy, built environments and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Graham, currently the CEO and Founder of cleantech company CrowdComfort in Boston, described the evolution of his career, as well as potential opportunities related to the IoT concept, during the July 22 NSTC Business Breakfast held at the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers, Mass. With CrowdComfort, Graham has leveraged the IoT concept, mobile technology, and cloud analytics to design a communications platform that influences efficiency, maintenance and management of large buildings. But getting to this place in his entrepreneurial career took several steps.
During his trading days he recognized the need for technology that would enable extreme-cold temperature (-80 degrees F) storage for shipping of fish – particularly in order to preserve its freshness to yield the highest possible price in Japanese markets. Recognizing this need led to his founding a company called ColdWave. His work with ColdWave sparked an interest in how the freezing process impacted the environment, which then led him to launch multiple technologies and companies in the building energy and cleantech industries.
Graham said that his involvement in clean technology evolved naturally and that establishing CrowdComfort two years ago was the culmination of years spent developing and delivering systems to large and small environments. Graham noted the potential inter-connectivity of objects, from large commercial buildings, to household appliances, wearable devices, cars and airplanes, is poised to create a $300 billion industry by 2020 among some 200 billion connected devices.
Through the IoT and inter-connectivity, CrowdComfort’s building energy technology encourages people working and living in buildings to capture (via smart phone) what they are doing and how they are feeling, in order to improve the quality of life in the facility. The technology enables occupants to report environmental, safety, and other building conditions to help keep the spaces safer, more productive, and more comfortable. “Facility managers are worried about a thousand things on a daily basis. Heating and cooling is just one of those things,” Graham said. “We found a community of requirements, which were previously delivered and analyzed through clunky, old technology.”
The IoT brings great opportunity for building efficiency improvements, Graham said, although security and privacy issues will need to be addressed. “The IoT will impact our lives in a mostly positive way,” said Graham. As technologies are developed further, bigger data can be used to affect even more meaningful changes. And in the future, technologies can incorporate crowd sourcing to find solutions to problems and can even create marketing opportunities, he added.