So many smart leak detection and water shut-off solutions have entered the marketplace in the past year, they all start to look alike. Do we have room for yet another product in the category?
Startup Hero Labs, exhibiting for the first time at CEDIA Expo 2019, thinks so. The company is certain its product Sonic is different from all the others, calling it “the smartest leak defender ever designed.”
Hard to trust such claims from an industry outsider, but Hero is no outsider. It was founded by CEDIA-industry veteran Krystian Zajac, founder of the high-end integration firm Andrew Lucas London, and co-founder of Fibaro UK (distributor) and Neos (insurtech), among other smart-home enterprises.
Working with Zajac at Hero Labs is another CEDIA veteran Hamish Neale, whose industry experience includes stints at Control4, Barco and Crestron. Will Brocklebank, another fixture in the CEDIA community, has joined the Hero board on behalf of environmental fund manager Earthworm Group, which recently led a $2.5 million seed round to fund Hero.
“I’m not sure if it’s a feature [of Hero] or not, but it certainly is different,” Neale tells CE Pro. “Of the three directors of Hero Labs, all three of us have sat on CEDIA’s board.”
Sonic by Hero Labs: How the Leak Detection Works
The main Sonic unit, which includes the water-shut-off mechanism and the flow-sensing intelligence, is inserted into the water main.
With its patent-pending ultrasonic technology, the unit can measure flow rates as low as 10ml per minute, “helping Sonic accurately detect low flows of water and identify appliances connected to the plumbing network,” the company claims.
The unit also measures both ambient and pipe temperature to alert users of potential freeze conditions.
An integrated pressure sensor is used to run scheduled pressure checks on the plumbing system, alerting users to “even the smallest possible leak.”
In addition to communicating through the Sonic app, Hero offers local “Signal” devices with visual status indicators and internal sounders to warn of leaks. The device communicates with the main Sonic unit via proprietary HeroLink wireless technology, which is more efficient and effective than Wi-Fi.
Hero provides a few options for powering the Sonic main unit – completely wireless with lithium AA batteries (two-three years’ operation), powered over the AC lines, or a combination of AC power with battery back-up.
Hero vs. Other Leak-Detection Systems
We asked Neale to explain precisely what makes Hero stand out vis-à-vis other leak detection and water shut-off systems in the market. His responses are below.
- As seen in the video (below), we have an easy to access valve override lever. This is important for end users who are untrusting of tech (especially when it comes to an essential life need like water), so if they lose their phone with the app installed and it is not integrated into a control system, it is pretty obvious how to turn the water on or off in the property.
- When it comes to retro install, finding a power outlet to plug in a device like ours can be difficult. We have made Sonic battery- or mains-powered. In battery mode, you will get 2-3 years from 4 AA lithium batteries. In mains powered mode the batteries become a back-up.
- Wi-Fi is often not strong in the position that a device like ours is installed, so we developed our own radio (it runs on 915 mhz in the US and 868 mhz in countries like the UK) and ships with our Signal device in the box. Signal provides visual and audio alerts as to Sonic’s state. Signal also links Sonic to the Wi-Fi network (that is likely stronger where Signal is plugged-in). We have tested the range between Sonic and Signal at up to 984 feet, or through up to 8 concrete floors.
- We are licensees of Contol4’s SDDP technology, and we have tailored our API to the needs of the custom installer. We provide API access to all major functions via the LAN. Only analytics etc are accessed from the cloud, so if the internet is down then the control system will still be able to control Sonic.