Energy-saving software earns startup top spot in contest

A software company that managed to put the Rogers Centre on an energy diet, cutting the latter’s power consumption around 33 per cent, won the top prize in a contest recently held in Markham, Ont.

Markham, Ont.-based Encelium Technologies Inc., a maker of energy management software, was named the province’s most promising small business in the recently concluded 2007 Markham Space Race.

Organized by the Town of Markham and other sponsors, the annual contest seeks encourage and support Ontario SMBs.

Encelium bagged a $63,100 package that includes a furnished 1,000-square-foot office in Markham, as well as various telecom equipment and business consulting services.

The second price winner was Maple Lake Ltd. of Markham, makers of merchandising applications.

Third price winner was Maxxian Integration Inc., developers of data analysis software for cable television stations.

Encelium’s exceptional growth plan and choice of target market, contributed to the company’s victory says one of the organizers.

“The energy-saving space will continue to be hot in the coming years,” said Bob Glandfield, CEO of the Innovation Synergy Center in Markham.

One company that can vouch for Encelium is Rogers Communication’s Inc., owner of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club and the team’s home stadium the Rogers Centre, also known as the Sky Dome.

The energy-management system developed by Encelium saved Rogers Centre more than $300,000 a year in electricity costs through the use of Web-enabled software, said Moe Goldhar, manager of energy conservation for the facility.

Prior to retrofitting its lighting system, he said, the Rogers Centre spent nearly $4 million a year on electricity. Lighting costs accounted for 50 per cent of that amount.

A facilities design that did not take into account the current energy crunch was the reason behind the stadium being such an energy hog, Goldhar said.

For instance, areas such as the underground garage remained fully lighted 24 hours a day. By law underground garages have to be lighted at all times, but facilities are allowed to reduce illumination in unused areas.

“We never shut down the lights since the building opened in 1988 because there was simply no switch to allow operators to dim lights or shut down a portion of the lighting.”

To turn off lights in most areas, workers needed to go to a locked fuse box, Goldhar said.

The Encelium system integrates lighting fixtures to a host of motion, light, and sound sensors. A management application enables the operator to control lighting for the facility using a single desktop interface, said Terry Mocherniak, CEO of the company.

Sensors turn on the lights in an area when an individual’s presence is detected and shut off the fixture when the person leaves. The sensors can also dim or shut the lights off if the sunlight coming in from a window is strong enough.

A key feature of the system is that it allows employees to control the lighting in their room or cubicle, using controls on their desktop monitors.

“Each lighting fixture is hooked up to a communication protocol similar to an Internet Protocol address. So users can communicate with every light bulb,” said Mocherniak.

The set up means Goldhar and other operators can manage the facility’s lights from their desktop computers, laptops, and even BlackBerry units.

Learning to develop an effective business plan is one of the strong takeaways from the contest, according to Glandfield.

“Most start-ups need about five to seven years to fully blossom and you need a good plan to map that growth out,” he said.

He said SMBs must carefully plan out their cash flow to ensure funds are always available to keep the business going.

“Don’t forget to write and send out those invoices and make sure you collect the payment.”

Exporters, he said, can avail of export insurance from Export Development Canada.

With this insurance, companies are better positioned to get banks to provide them funds amounting to as much as 90 per cent of their uncollected receivables, said Glandfield.

He also advised companies never to let up on marketing.

“Make sure you keep your marketing efforts going. As soon as you close one sale, you should be working on the next one,” said Glandfield.

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