Whisker Labs doesn’t ask for much: Just plug one little “Ting” IoT device into any outlet, and you can predict potential electrical fires days or weeks before they occur.
In announcing Ting last week, Whisker Labs called it a “groundbreaking fire prevention technology.” I concur, as long as the device works as demonstrated at Parks Associates’ Connections Conference 2018.
The Wi-Fi-enabled Ting measures electromagnetic data from the home’s electrical network, seeking anomalies that might suggest dangerous arcs and sparks. The Ting app alerts homeowners to potential fire hazards – yellow for caution, red for danger – and instructs them on the next steps. For starters, kill each circuit breaker one-by-one until the app goes back to green.
Fatal electrical fire averted.
It seems simple enough, but “this is a really hard technical problem,” says Whisker Labs CEO Bob Marshall. “We have the best electromechanical engineers on the planet.”
Ting samples electricity 27 million times per second, he says. It might be relatively simple to discern a bad wire on the one circuit where Ting happens to reside – that’s kind of what arc-fault circuit interrupters do – but Ting can find faults on any circuit, thanks to machine learning.
Marshall explains that a spark on one line theoretically is contained to a single circuit, but it still passes minute “bits and pieces” of electromagnetic signals through the breaker box to other circuits and eventually down to the outlet where Ting captures the disruption.
“You’re fighting a lot of noise and anomalies” on the powerlines, Marshall explains, so parsing these disruptions takes some serious machine learning.
Whisker Labs’ Machine-Learning Heritage
If anyone can do it, Whisker Labs can. This is the company that invented a sensor that sits in the breaker box measuring electromagnetic activity for other purposes – ostensibly to disambiguate and identify “non-connected” appliances for diagnostics and energy management.
Whisker Labs has already collected loads of electrical data (so to speak) since it launched in 2014, but it benefits from even more intelligence generated by Earth Networks, which acquired the company in late 2016 (and then spun it off in 2017). Earth Networks claims to own the world’s largest proprietary network of weather stations – more than 10,000 of them – including more than 1,500 sensors measuring lightning globally.
Through its machine-learning platform, Earth Networks provides “real-time, hyperlocal insights” to commercial and government organizations to mitigate weather-related risks.
Marshall was co-founder and CEO of Earth Networks before he went full-time with Whisker Labs, extending the “hyperlocal insights” to the home, and to a single broken wire within the home.
The Danger of Electrical Fires
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), electrical distribution or lighting equipment is the fourth leading cause of home fires, with wire and related equipment (e.g., outlets) accounting for the vast majority of these fires and related losses – 69% of fires, 56% of civilian deaths, and 66% of property damages. (Read the NFPA’s research report on electrical fires.)
More than one-third (34%) of home electrical fires begin with the ignition of wire or cable insulation.
Marshall explains that damages from faulty electrical wiring are so severe because they remain undetected for so long – spreading through walls before the smoke-detector trips and often while people are sleeping, oblivious to warning signs.
RELATED: Insurance Meets Smart Home at Connections 2018
While the smallest share of all electrical fires (24%) occur between midnight and 8 a.m., they account for the highest share of civilian deaths (57%).
“These are the worst fires,” Marshall says. “They’re not like kitchen fires.”
Whisker Labs has sold a “few thousand” Ting devices to casualty companies who are currently testing the product, according to Marshall.
NEXT PAGE: Ting Press Release
Whisker Labs Announces Groundbreaking Fire Prevention Technology
Ting Sensor Service Senses Danger to Alert to Electrical Fire Hazards Throughout the Home with Simple DIY Install
May 22, 2018 –Whisker Labs, Inc., developer of advanced home intelligence technologies, today announced a breakthrough in fire safety with Ting, sensing technology that detects potential fire hazards to help prevent fires. The device installs in minutes to monitor the home’s entire electrical network for the precursors to electrical fires, micro-arcs and sparks that develop over time in cords and wires. Ting then alerts homeowners to potential fire danger and provides instructions on what to do next.
“Protection of loved ones and property are consistently the top ranked value propositions for the smart home. Smart home solutions that detect, prevent, or mitigate safety issues in the home create clear value for consumers”
Every year, electrical fires kill hundreds and injure thousands. Property damage is estimated to be $1.5 billion per year, with more than 80% of electrical fires happening in older homes. Whisker Labs is poised to reduce loss by identifying fire hazards before they develop into fires.
Current technology, Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, are required in most states for new home construction and work on a circuit-by-circuit basis, requiring an electrician to do the install. Retrofitting all U.S. homes could cost as much as $200 billion.
By plugging Ting into any outlet in a home and pairing to WiFi, the service measures electromagnetic data from the home’s electrical network to look for arcs and sparks occurring in any part of the home. Whisker Labs’ expertise in electromagnetic sensing, signal processing and machine learning enables the company’s platform to efficiently detect these possible fire hazards.
“Protection of loved ones and property are consistently the top ranked value propositions for the smart home. Smart home solutions that detect, prevent, or mitigate safety issues in the home create clear value for consumers,” said Tom Kerber, Director of IoT Strategy, Parks Associates.
Ting, which enhances electrical fire prevention in all new and existing homes, includes the following features:
DIY Install in Minutes
The Ting sensor takes the form-factor of a simple smart plug and will work when plugged into any outlet in the home. The homeowner uses a Mobile App to pair the device to WiFi. The device has been optimized for quick and easy DIY installation, and typical installation can be done in one minute. No installers or electricians are needed to activate the Ting service.
Whole Home Protection
Only one Ting sensor is needed to provide whole home protection. The Ting sensing and real-time analytics platform mines the electrical network to monitor and alert to tiny arcs and sparks that are happening in any room within the home. These alerts give a homeowner time to determine the cause of the fire hazard and mitigate the situation.
As part of the its enterprise service, Whisker Labs provides a dashboard to enterprise customers. The dashboard enables a quick and comprehensive view of all homes within a customer’s deployment and gives detailed insight into key metrics such as current fire risks, detection efficiency, WiFi signal strength, and many more.
Additional Benefit: Power Quality Monitoring
The Ting sensor offers additional value to home owners and enterprises by monitoring power quality in the home. Fluctuations in power quality, such as changes in voltage or line frequency, can cause damage to devices and appliances which often requires a full replacement of the appliance. Ting will continuously monitor power quality to the home, and provide real-time visibility through both the enterprise dashboard and homeowner app.
“We are delighted to announce a simple DIY solution that can protect all homes through intelligent fire hazard sensing,” remarked Robert Marshall, CEO of Whisker Labs. “My family has seen first-hand the damage and destruction that electrical fires cause, so I am personally excited to bring Ting to market to protect families and homes from fire, especially existing homes which are the most vulnerable.”
Whisker Labs is teaming with insurance, security platform and other companies to bring Ting to market. The ongoing business model includes an upfront activation fee plus a monthly monitoring fee. At present the company is engaged in demonstration pilots with production expected to ramp up in the second half of 2018.
Whisker Labs will demo and discuss Ting at the Connections Conference in San Francisco on May 22-25, 2018. CEO Bob Marshall will also be speaking at a panel on smart monitoring on May 24.
About Whisker Labs
Whisker Labs develops advanced home intelligence technologies for safety and savings. Our Ting™ monitoring service alerts homeowners to electrical fire hazards with just one plug-in sensor that installs in minutes to protect the whole home. Our energy management services thoughtfully reduce demand during peak load times and optimize thermostats for savings and comfort. We partner with insurance, security and energy providers to bring our offerings to market. Visit www.whiskerlabs.com to learn more.
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