PassiveLogic raises $15M for autonomous building controls

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PassiveLogic has raised an additional $15 million from Brookfield Growth to scale its innovative approach to improving energy efficiency and control. The company has an ambitious plan for autonomous control of buildings that combines big data, advanced physics models, novel feedback loops and generative design techniques. The concept points towards a novel way of crafting intelligent digital twins that mirror data and actively respond to it. 

Brookfield plans to use the tech across its $590 billion portfolio of assets in real estate, infrastructure, renewables and other areas. PassiveLogic claims early tests have demonstrated a 30% energy savings. If this pans out across other facilities, it could have a massive impact on global energy usage, since buildings account for about 40% of annual energy consumption and CO2 usage.

PassiveLogic’s CEO Troy Harvey conceived of the idea while leading an energy engineering controls firm, where he realized that most building never achieved their engineering design goals. Harvey told VentureBeat, “Currently, there’s a giant gap in the workflow between what architects design, what actually gets installed and how the building functions in the real world.”

So, he took a step back and realized that buildings were like complicated robots with as many as 500,000 controls compared to an autonomous car’s steering wheel, accelerator and brakes. He met with Jeremy Fillingim, who led engineering work at Fusion-IO before it was sold to SanDisk. Fillingim then came in as an angel investor and later joined as CTO. 

A new vision for intelligent buildings

PassiveLogic is creating an autonomous platform to connect the dots between architectural drawings, engineering designs and building controls. In addition, the PassiveLogic system continuously learns what the building is doing over time so that an accurate record of the building’s digital twin as it ages and is maintained. 

The building control industry is led by incumbents such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens and Schneider Electric. These companies are developing their own control system that works for their pumps, motors, heater, coolers and sensor systems and, to some extent, with competitors. 

Several companies are building API and control tiers that work with the data from these systems, including Mapped and Zyter. Many others are developing better control systems that work on top of the raw data feeds from the equipment and data consolidation platforms, including BrainBox, Aquicore and Mesa.

PassiveLogic competes across all three tiers with its custom sensors, data integration services and control system. Its control systems combine physics modeling components with AI to improve model accuracy. 

In addition, it has developed a novel generative model for coding the autonomous control system. This extends the emerging concepts of generative design used in the architecture community to building control systems. 

This approach also shares similarities with procedural content generation from the gaming industry. For example, in the gaming context, a character might know what kind of character it is and can generate the AI to define its behavior within the context of the video game. 

“Similarly, we are generating system behavior from the underlying definition of that system, the kinds of equipment the system contains and the physics that defines the behavior of those systems,” Harvey said. 

Confidence in a new approach

This round brings funding to date for PassiveLogic to $65.2 million. 

“Building systems represent a massive end market, consisting of highly complex technologies which are typically siloed and built on legacy hardware and software,” Josh Raffaelli, managing partner at Brookfield, told VentureBeat,

Raffaelli says he was attracted by the platform’s ease of use, which allows building managers to set up a digital twin of a facility by walking around a property with an iPad. After mapping each room, they can add additional details like sensors and then connect to control systems by other automation vendors. 
He is betting that this new offering could help drive efficiency across building operations of all sizes. He hopes to deploy the technology across Brookfield’s massive footprint of office, retail, residential and industrial warehouse space.

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