Friday 15 November 2019

Smartzone eyes €10m windfall from WiFi valve

Cork firm targets new-build homes, insurers and water utility firms with smart tech, writes Fearghal O'Connor

Justin McInerney, chief executive of smart home and business technology provider Smartzone.
Justin McInerney, chief executive of smart home and business technology provider Smartzone.

An innovative WiFi-enabled water valve is set to drive Cork-based Smartzone's international revenues as it plans a fundraising of up to €20m to keep pace with forecast growth.

The Irish provider of smart home technology is launching its new Flowsafe water valve in Ireland, the US and the UK this month, in conjunction with global smart homes giant Alarm.com.

Smartzone and Alarm.com customers use an app to monitor and adjust thermostats, CCTV, security, lights and other household systems.

The new valve, invented by Smartzone, integrates with these systems to monitor water usage with a very high degree of accuracy and automatically shuts off water when leaks are detected.

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"This is the most accurate water valve available and can show you if there is a leak or even a dripping tap in your home," said Smartzone chief executive Justin McInerney.

Smartzone currently has revenues of about €2.4m, but it expects growth of about €10m in 2020 in the UK alone, said McInerney.

"In the UK, by the end of 2021, we expect to be doing about 50,000 connections a year, half new-build and half retro-fit, generated by water utility companies," he said.

"We are going to have to raise some funds next year, which we have already put in train. There is a lot of interest from the water industry utility market, for example. They are very keen.

"We are well-funded up until the middle of next year, but we will need up to €20m for the following three years."

The equipment, which costs €400 to install, is to be marketed at a number of different sectors, including large-scale multi-family builds and the private rental sector, so that landlords can protect their properties.

"We will initially target the seven million smart home customers that Alarm.com has in the US and Canada, and we have already pre-sold about 6,000 units into new-build and social housing in the UK."

McInerney said Smartzone is also "working closely with a number of high-rise and multi-family dwelling developers in London, for example Ballymore's latest development of 1,500 apartments". It is also likely to agree discounts of up to 10pc with a number of major home insurers, for customers who install the new valve.

"Water leaks account for 40pc of all domestic home insurance claims - more than €12bn per annum throughout Europe. If you can solve that problem, as this valve can, that is a huge saving in payouts for insurance companies," he said.

The business is working with a number of water utility companies, which could use the valve to identify leaks by installing them in homes across their networks.

He added: "Cities like London and Dublin are in danger of running out of water in the years ahead, and solving the problem is going to cost billions. Installing this valve on a wide scale allows water companies to become far more efficient and save huge money, because the water companies can use the data they receive from this to accurately identify where leaks are occurring, as well as incentivising customers to save water."

The valve interacts with other connected systems in the home. So, for example, it can be set to turn off the water when you leave the house and turn it back on when you return.

McInerney said: "Our goal was to create the world's most accurate water valve.

"This tells you precisely how much water you are using, how many showers, how many washing machine cycles you are running and, crucially, it will tell you if you have a leak, and if so it will turn off the water for you."

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