This week we put Future Decisions co-founder, Richard McElligott, under the V3 spotlight to find out more about the startup that provides predictive analytics for smart cities.
What does Future Decisions do?
Future Decisions was formed to provide predictive analytics for smart cities. In short we work with buildings to make them more connected and provide them with predictive data so they can manage their energy use, reducing their cost and carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint.
Who founded it?
The company was founded by all five members, having each at different times worked together on a variety of projects in the energy sector.
The founders are Dr Neil Glover (machine learning and control), Dr John Moriarty (probability theory), Dr Richard McElligott (energy data systems), Graham Turner (intelligent buildings) and Vincent Hendricksen (high-performance computing).
We were each aware of each other's work but it wasn't until we all had synchronous caffeine cravings did we all sit down at the same time. Our company was formed over coffee and cake.
When did you start Future Decisions?
We launched officially in January when we were accepted onto the Canary Wharf Cognicity Challenge. The Cognicity Challenge comprises six main categories from urban transport to automated building management. We were one of six companies accepted to the latter.
Where are you based?
We are based in Yateley but for the duration of the challenge we have been given office space in One Canada Square, courtesy of Cognicity & Canary Wharf Group.
Why did you choose to develop this service?
The motivation was to find a better way to manage buildings, particularly with respect to their energy use and how it impacts current energy infrastructure.
We looked at all the possible technologies out there and then ended up back at the start with: ‘Let's use what's in front of us'. The solution for us was to use the thermal capability of commercial buildings, such as One Canada Square, to provide energy flexibility.
As HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) can consume up to 50 percent of the building's demand the ability to move this energy in time in combination with other buildings provides a very large energy flexibility.
If you can reduce peak consumption at times when it's expensive or when CO2 (dirty) generation is high then you can lower the cost of energy and the building's CO2 footprint.
Tell us how you got Future Decisions off the ground?
Our business was launched upon successfully getting into the Cognicity challenge. As we were only formed the month before, this has truly been an accelerator for us.
What technology do you use?
Within the building we use a ProVision box for our integration platform courtesy of One-Sight Solutions. We use a mix of technologies namely Java for coding, which we use both on the ProVisions box and webserver end. This enables us to make connected buildings with HVAC control.
We use enterprise-grade infrastructure due to the need to keep security levels at their maximum.
The biggest obstacle to smart cities is the risk of turning traditionally isolated buildings into connected one. As such, security is a primary focus so that we can build trust and confidence in these new systems.
What level of funding have you received so far?
We are self-funded to date.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Technically and commercially we have a strong plan, however, for us it is the increased paperwork overhead. The need to make applications for funding, marketing, demos, all while developing with so few people means you have to cut corners, namely with sleep.
What's been the biggest highlight for Future Decisions to date?
The biggest highlight to date was when we looked at our experimental data and found that it was four times better than expected.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
It nearly always ends with sport and a Guinness. This year the Six Nations was a highlight and we are now looking forward to the Rugby World Cup.
What did you do before starting up Future Decisions?
I worked as the chief technology officer for Tempus Energy.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
Favourite: When you are working with good friends taking the highs and lows in a subject area we are all passionate about - what more could you ask for?
Worst: You never get downtime. You are always responsible for the business and the team.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which company would it be?
I don't have a company I would like to emulate, but my inspirations would be Sir Tim Berners-Lee and David Attenborough.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
We work remotely but do try to get together as much as possible. We are still very young so keeping overheads down is important.
Archimedes: with no computers and no internet he created fantastic original inventions. We believe he made the first smart city technology when protecting his home city of Syracuse. Everything from the Archimedes screw to the Archimedes claw.
Smart or casual?
We have no policy, it's a free-for-all. That said, I remember getting caught out wearing casual at a suited event, so ever since then it's suits for me.
Coffee shop of choice?
Costa when there is no smaller local options. I prefer to support the local cafes where possible.
Beverage of choice?
Robo Defence, a game on Android.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Yes, very much so. Cognicity has been a great environment to launch our company. The added support networking and general input from all levels has been invaluable.
Can the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
This is a difficult question as you can always argue for more support but the government has other responsibilities. I think currently the balance is correct given the economic climate.
In comparison to other European Union nations I think the UK is ahead of the curve, however if there is a gap to be filled it is investment in the high risk, high reward innovations. It is always easier to fund incremental improvements of established technologies.
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