Interested in how much energy you use? Local Company, Potential Labs, wants you to know.
These days, it seems that we all want to measure everything in real time. We use watches and sensors to monitor the number of steps we take, how fast we run, the amount of water squandered by our appliances, our home’s air quality, and our cars’ tire pressure. These items are just the tip of the iceberg in a movement known as the Internet of Things (IoT). With internet-connected devices embedded with sensors and software, IoT collects and exchanges data for helping inform our decisions to turn off the water, run faster, put air in the tires, and a whole host of other actions.
Ben Lachman and Robin Kinney want to help users make decisions about how much energy they use. The duo started Potential Labs in 2014 after each had experienced difficulty tracking power consumption. Lachman became interested in the opportunity of developing efficiency software after he installed solar panels on his home and couldn’t easily monitor his home’s overall usage. Kinney meanwhile had faced difficulty persuading customers to install an energy monitor he had developed that required a dangerous installation much like other existing systems. Located in Athens, Ohio, the company offers a unique solution to the complex problem of how households and businesses use electricity. The technology comprises of two pieces of equipment. The first component is a patent-pending sensor which is attached to an electric utility box on the outside of the home or business. When manufactured, the device enables users to track electricity usage. The second component is an internet of things device that can be placed anywhere in the house and provides real-time feedback.
During its early stages, TechGROWTH Ohio (TGO), a partner of the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Towards Sustainability) program, provided funding and business consulting services. By working with TechGROWTH, Potential Labs designed the product, validated their idea and began the prototype process. Currently, Potential Labs is working with LIGHTS to identify and connect to financial resources which will aid in the acquisition of a prototype electrical current simulator. The simulator will ensure adequate testing during research, development, and manufacturing of the technology. An additional objective of the enterprise is to create jobs in southeast Ohio.
CEO Ben Lachman likes that the area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem can help startups and long-established companies connect, share best practices and become self-sufficient together. Another partner in LIGHTS’ Regional innovation system, the Muskingum County Business Incubator (MCBI), included Potential Labs in its annual Shark Tub event. The program allowed small businesses in the region to showcase their products.
According to Lachman, “The event created an environment for networking and market research. We plan to use the feedback we gathered at the event to improve our product as we move to the manufacturing phase.” Potential Labs is one of the several unique businesses that is bringing innovation, income, and jobs back into the region. LIGHTS and our partners are excited about what Potential Labs is doing here in Athens, Ohio.
About LIGHTS: Ohio University's Innovation Center founded the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) program in 2016. LIGHTS' Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs, and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission generously funded the program because of its unique way of matching complex problems and opportunities facing corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of two strategically-placed Innovation Hubs and seven Gateways. New marketable products arise from these problems. The Gateways and Hubs are new business incubators and makerspaces serving a 28-county area.