28 Jan 2018 | 10.27 am
Horus Sentinel Sensor Picks Up HVAC Bad Vibrations
Dublin entrepreneurs brought an idea from BAM Ireland to life
28 Jan 2018 | 10.27 am
The founders of Horus will know who to turn to when their Sentinel ‘cognitive sensor’ finally hits the market. Building contractor BAM Ireland, which is constructing the new national children’s hospital, is first in line. In fact it was BAM that initially took the idea for Sentinel to Horus’s founders to see if they could develop it.
Brendan Looney, James Fryar, Derek Keogh and Patrick Robinson comprise Horus’s founding team. They come from diverse career trajectories, spanning law, finance, technology and business development. Fryar (pictured), who has a PhD in the field of semiconductor physics, explains that Robinson knew some of the members of BAM’’s innovation team, who told him they had been searching fruitlessly for a device that could cost-effectively monitor sound, temperature and vibration.
According to Fryar: “I had been doing some R&D on low-cost, small-signal detection hardware and analysis algorithms, which I felt could be applied to this problem. It was clear from the start that if our first customer is a multinational business we had a huge potential product on our hands.”
The Horus team assembled in early 2017 and set to work creating Sentinel. The lunchbox-like sensor is a predictive monitoring platform that acts as an early warning system to prevent machine failures in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) environments. “It is a system that makes maintenance predictive rather than reactive and reduces the cost of manual inspection,” says Fryar.
The Sentinel cloud-connected system monitors the acoustics, vibration and temperature of a machine. “Just as you would know that your car is not sounding right by listening to it, we can do the same for machines,” Fryar explains. Revenue will be generated from sensor sales, cloud services and hardware rental.
Horus is currently validating its sensor with a commercial customer and plans to work with global facility management companies as its route to market. It’s also tying down distribution agreements in Europe. The startup is receiving backing and support from the NDRC and was part of an investor day pitch event held in the organisation’s Dublin HQ late last year.
Horus hasn’t tied down investors yet, and in Fryar’s view the startup’s capital requirement is substantial. “As a nation we need investors who are willing to invest large amounts, as they do in Silicon Valley, rather than the drip-feeding of small amounts, which slows the growth of companies that have global potential,” says Fryar.
Trial And Error
Funding isn’t the only challenge Horus has faced. Fryar explains that developing a novel hardware product is very tricky. “It requires a certain degree of R&D, trial-and-error testing and refinement in an iterative process, which is difficult to timetable.
How do you know how long something takes to develop if it hasn’t been developed before? We have overcome many setbacks with trying to marry old technology with new technology. One of the main issues we had was trying to eliminate the reading of background noise.”
The startup has linked up with Flex in Cork for the sensor manufacture. “They offer product lifecycle services called ‘Sketch-to-Scale’, combining product design, engineering, manufacturing and distribution on a global scale for all sorts of companies across multiple industries,” says Fryar. “They have provided us with huge support and have the scale and expertise we need to bring the product to a global market.”