Santa Barbara, which has long maintained its reputation as one of America’s greenest cities, is now home to Ecorithm, a company which poses a solution to a national problem of energy waste.
Stephanie Marasciullo, UCSB Professor Dr. Igor Mezić, and CEO Dr. Chris Tagge founded Ecorithm in 2011 as an Internet of Things (IoT) software analysis program. The IoT is a network which connects physical objects to the internet, allowing users to remotely control systems like building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Ecorithm currently uses IoT to create “smart buildings,” simplifying data from thousands of building sensors to provide companies with efficient energy solutions.
According to Mezić, five percent of office buildings in the United States contribute to 50 percent of the country’s energy expenditures. To combat this issue, Ecorithm processes data from existing building sensors, up to 10,000 in some systems, and identifies “pressure points” contributing to energy waste. Mezić described Ecorithm as being like the robot HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “but not malicious.”
“Intelligence here is about taking all that data and making sense of it,” said Mezić, “so that you present five things to an engineer and say, you might want to pay attention to this.”
Ecorithm presents data in an online portal for business owners, holding them accountable for addressing optimal system schedules, room temperatures, and airflow speed, among other things. The software is cloud-based and can be installed without being on-site. Marasciullo, whose team began creating the software four years ago, said, “It took five years for the market to catch up with our thinking.” Marascuillo and Mezić hired students from Mezić’s UCSB lab to further develop the technology.
UCSB’s Education & Social Sciences Building (ESSB) is currently the only building in Santa Barbara using Ecorithm’s technology, but the company continues servicing 5.5 million square feet of commercial building space, primarily in its New York market. Marascuillo said Santa Barbara-based Citrix Systems, Inc. is a progressive “early adopter” of the technology, using Ecorithm for its buildings in North Carolina.
The small company of sixteen employees has also made use of its cloud-based software to take on India’s rapidly developing technology industry, including software company Infosys. Mezić said partnering with companies in developing countries could prevent them from being “penalized for uncontrolled growth” by curbing emissions and providing comfort.
Mezić said the company aims to expand into the renewable energy market, creating wind turbines and solar panels with “healthy cycles” of operation. “If you think about society, it functions on a 24-hour timescale — day and night — and it functions on a weekly timescale. If everybody is leaving the lights on 24/7, that’s an unhealthy cycle,” Mezić said.
As the company grows, Marascuillo and Mezić hope to expand their sales team with Series A funding — venture capital investments — to become more proactive with their customers. Marascuillo said eventually she would like to develop relationships that allow Ecorithm to directly control building management systems, rather than monitor companies for accountability. Chairman of Ecorithm’s board Daniel Tishman is also a board member of AECOM, a Los Angeles-based professional technology and management support service, which is serving as construction manager for One World Trade Center.
Ecorithm, a learning algorithm that develops in its interactions with a physical environment, will soon find an ideal rhythm for technology in human activity.