Smart Setback for Room Thermostats

Smart Setback for Room Thermostats

Smart Systems International appears to be succeeding where others have failed, in implementing occupancy-based thermostat setback. Applied first in hotel guest rooms, their systems are now seeing increased interest for use in schools and offices. The technology is “smart” enough to overcome the obstacles that have stopped other attempts, i.e. occupant discomfort and impatience, though the solutions they’ve developed may not be immediately evident.

Upon detailed review, the basis of their success begins to emerge–basically, they’ve thought the problems through and solved them. The system automatically relaxes the heating or air conditioning when guests leave, but in controlled so that it can be restored to the desired temperature in a fixed amount of time (adjustable to 5, 11, 18 minutes) when they return.

The best indication of the merits of their claims is in the market acceptance they’re enjoying with some big name hotel chains and others. Conservation is back in the forefront, and this technology could be a good addition to the arsenal of any ESCO, utility, or building owner.

Ron Davies, President and CEO, or
Tom Kearin, CFO,
Smart Systems International, Las Vegas, NV,


The following material is adapted from the company’s website and press releases.

Smart Systems International develops, manufactures and sells patented in-room energy control systems. These products are designed to support three basic requirements: use advanced thermodynamic algorithms to ensure customer comfort is not sacrificed while maximizing energy savings; use state of the art wireless technology to ensure installation takes minutes, not hours; and design for simplicity and low cost. As a result, SSI controls produce energy savings of 20% – 40% per year without compromising customer comfort and deliver pay backs of 12 – 18 months. The system can control through-the-wall units in individual hotel rooms, a central HVAC system with fan coils, heat pumps, or other HVAC equipment.

The company has installed thousands of Smart Systems in hotel rooms across the U.S. from Alaska to Hawaii and the Caribbean including at such marquee brands as Courtyard by Marriott, Crowne Plaza, Embassy Suites, Fairfield by Marriott, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Homestead Village, Silverleaf Resorts, Sunterra Resorts and others. In addition to the lodging industry, Smart Systems is selling its energy controls to schools, home builders, energy services companies and electric utilities, and the US Postal Service. Installations include the Clark County School District, Escambia County (Pensacola Florida) Schools, Miami Dade Schools, Post Offices in Las Vegas Nevada, Sitterle Homes, the Trane Company and the Public Service Company of New Mexico.

Smart Systems International recently announced the completion of an $11.0 million equity financing, which they will use to support increased sales activities and to expand distribution channels, staffing, customer field support, and inventory.


A recent article about the company can be found at:


Smart Systems International Products

Smart Systems 1000

The Smart Systems 1000 is the original “People Sensing Technology” energy management system. It has been installed in thousands of hotel rooms in every conceivable climate from Anchorage, Alaska to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to prove its performance capabilities. Designed for the fancoil and through the wall systems, the 1000 is just as effective on any window air conditioners. Hotel owners appreciate not only the ease of installation and lack of maintenance required, but also, benefit immediately from the drop in peak demand charges, as well as reduction in energy use of 30-50%. There are two basic models: a plug ‘n’ play unit which simply plugs into the nearest outlet, and a hardwired version which is wired with the HVAC unit.

Smart Systems 2000

The Smart Systems 2000 is the “eye” and “ear” of the base stations and an intergral link in SSDN. It uses passive infrared motion detectors to determine occupied and unoccupied states. It has a 25 foot radius and 360 degree detection range when placed on 8 feet ceilings. It communicates wirelessly through encoded transmissions with the base station. It operates on 4 AA batteries which last about 3 years.

Smart Systems 5000

The Smart Systems 5000 is the radical new design from Smart Systems. Unlike its predecessors, it has a user interface and buttons for various functions unavailable on the Smart Systems 1000. This is the full service model which accommodates users’ sleep time requirements and allows for the adjustment of recovery time at any time. The icon system of buttons and large digit LCD have been tested extensively for simplicity, intuitiveness, and ease of use. All of the instructions in this non-programmable unit fit neatly inside the cover. An adapter allows it to control HVAC systems higher than 24 VAC (the standard for home thermostats), making it the ultimate solution for all HVAC systems: residential, commercial, and industrial. The 5000 communicates wirelessly with PC’s.


The Smart Systems energy management system uses a wireless data and command network protocol, the Smart Systems Digital Network (SSDN), to accomplish specific tasks inside and around buildings and premises, including residential, commercial, and industrial properties. The SSDN is being distributed to third party vendors for use in integrating SSDN communications technology in their products. The SSDN is hardware independent and as such can be set up in many ways. The protocol is based upon a set of common integrated chips using standard 8-bit UART technologies. The chip set, protocol and software needed to set up the SSDN are standard and common components and no special proprietary chip sets, microcode, or software are required. Download the SSDN by clicking here.

Startup Company to Develop Wireless Sensors

The June 1998 UFTO Report on Oak Ridge National Lab has this brief entry in the section on Instrumentation & Controls:

… “Wireless Sensors: Spread-spectrum technology is being used in conjunction with sensors-on-a-chip to eliminate instrumentation-related wiring in a plant. Sensors can be added or moved as needed. There is a potential for coupling with global positioning system (GPS) technology, so that the sensor can report its exact location, in addition to other measured data. ” …

I recall being intrigued with the idea that sensors could be deployed inexpensively, almost on the spur of the moment, and in as many inaccessible places as you wanted, throughout a power plant or substation — to monitor temperature, noise, vibration or any other parameter. It makes a lot of sense.

The group at Oak Ridge has continued work on the concept, but hasn’t been able to move forward on building actual devices, for lack of funding and external partners. A nice presentation can be found at
An acrobat presentation of theirs can be downloaded at:

Independently, a new company, Sensitron, was formed here in Silicon Valley. The founders had come up with the same concept, and they’re pursuing it vigorously. Oak Ridge has indicated they’re more than willing to work with them to turn this into a reality.

Their schedule is ambitious: 3 months to breadboard demo, 12 months to field testing of prototype, 18 months to production, 24 months to integrated 2nd generation design.

One of the principals approached me (at our daughters’ Y-Basketball game!) to explore whether UFTO utilities might be interested in working with them (a good example of how UFTO is always on the lookout!).

Here is their summary. Please let me know if you’re interested.
Or you can contact: Blake Putney, 650-960-5948,


Wireless Monitoring Systems to Reduce Utility Maintenance Costs while Increasing Reliability

Recent developments in semiconductor, spread spectrum communications and micro-sensor standards and technology have made it possible to create complete wireless monitoring systems (WMSs) on a single chip the size of a dime. These sensor systems will be capable being cheaply deployed and connected with computer networks. Users will be able quickly deploy these systems to monitor virtually anything anywhere. Our system uses unlicensed communications bands that can be deployed on a site by site basis, without requiring an investment in a wide area cellular communications network. The potential market for these sensors in enormous, from industry, military, hospitals to home applications. The widespread availability of these systems has the potential to impact society in a similar manner as the Internet.

Although the technical feasibility of these systems has been demonstrated, a number of barriers exist for this technology to become a viable business. Existing markets are fragmented, revenue streams from near term applications are insufficient to attract investments from large organizations, and few sensor-oriented companies have the expertise in the technologies necessary to create an integrated product in silicon.

The initial market chosen for the sensors is to monitor conditions of equipment, and locations within electric utilities’ facilities. Deregulation is forcing electric utilities to get the most out of their equipment and staff. Our system will provide a utility the ability to track the health of all their assets remotely and provide the immediate access to information via their computer network. The sensors needed include temperature, vibration, and stress monitors.

This market was chosen because of the simple design requirements for the sensors, high value of these facilities, and the large expense of installing existing instrumentation solutions (up to $1000 per foot of cable). By reducing the cost of connecting a sensor to less than $150 per point, our wireless system will revolutionize maintenance practices at these facilities. The sales potential for WMSs in this market is over $250M at very high margins.

A key aspect of success is to create a complete system that minimizes the needs for components to be developed by third parties. Our system will involve subsystems for the sensor, field deployment and database configuration, and a receiver that collects data and is connected to an Ethernet. For the sensor subsystem, we are creating a modular CMOS chip design including each of the required elements (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), Controllers, and R-F). The installation of this system will be simple enough to be deployed directly by end-users.

Sensitron is looking to attract utility partners that are interested in deploying wireless sensors to reduce operations and maintenance costs, while enhancing system reliability. Our utility partners will gain early benefits of deploying the system, and have the opportunity for equity participation in our enterprise.

Wireless Laser Data Link

Subject: UFTO Note – Wireless Laser Data Link
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998

fSONA Wireless Laser Data Link

(The founder of this company is a personal friend. Though it’s not directly related to utilities, I pass this summary along to you in the chance that it may mesh with your company’s strategic directions. This is a rare instance where the market need was identified first, and the technology identified later. A complete business plan is available. Feel free to contact the company directly, or call me first. For your information, I have a finders fee agreement with the company.)


fSONA Corporation, Vancouver, B.C., has a unique laser communications technology developed by the British Telecom (BT) Laboratories in the UK. fSONA has licensed from BT the exclusive, world-wide rights to line of sight transmission technology that provides optical wireless links at speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for distances up to 4 kilometers. The Company’s goal is to market high speed data transmission or bandwidth products for use in the Telecommunications and Internet services industry.

The data rates attainable with lasercom make it arguably the most cost-effective solution for today’s short haul high speed telecommunications market. Laser links are ideally suited for campus environments and metropolitan locations where interactive, multimedia-based applications, such as video conferencing and telemedicine require significant bandwidth.

Using a combination of optics and photonics technology, fSONA’s laser or optical wireless communications products offer the following advantages over radio-based (RF) products in the access and Local Area Network (LAN) interconnect marketplace:

– Fiber-optic speed.
– Deployable in 24 hours.
– No requirement for radio licensing.
– Secure point to point link between networks.
– Freedom from electro-magnetic (EM) interference

fSONA’s advantage over other laser communication products include:

– Eye safety,
– Lower cost for similar bandwidth and distance capacity,
– Automatic beam alignment to compensate for movement and
building sway,
– Proprietary BT receiver technology that provides vastly improved
performance during periods of atmospheric turbulence.

fSONA’s first commercially available system, the SONAbeam™155, is scheduled for launch in 1998. The SONAbeam™ units consist of off-the-shelf, readily available components from a wide variety of optical and electronics manufacturers in the US and Canada. This system will be capable of transmitting and receiving data at speeds up to 155 megabits per second (Mbps) allowing compatibility with SONET OC-3 format and ATM. fSONA products allow fiber optic network developers the ability to offer fiber optic speed to existing customers and to extend their networks to “off-fiber” high bandwidth customers.

Manufacturing of the first 50 units with product specifications, sourced components, resources and facilities are all ready to commence as soon as financing is in place. Manufacturing of >50 units will be outsourced to one of a short list of suitable manufacturers identified by fSONA.

Sales and Marketing
fSONA is pursuing a two pronged marketing strategy. One, direct sales to Competitive Access Providers (CAPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and large Corporate networks. Two, establishing distribution agreements with Network Equipment Manufacturers (NEMs), System Integrators, and Access Providers. Plans to install the SONAbeam™155 optical wireless transmission products are currently underway at two customer sites in downtown Vancouver. One of these customers has been using laser links successfully for the past year, and is keen to trial the longer distance SONAbeam™ units.

In addition to its two trial customers in Vancouver, fSONA has initiated discussions with a number of potential customers in the Vancouver/Seattle area, who are interested in the results from the trial. Ascend Communications Corp has given fSONA an expression of interest in the trial; one of the benefits that a network OEM would achieve with a product like the SONAbeam155 is the ability to offer customers up to 4km LAN or WAN extensions from their existing equipment and by-pass leased lines for inter LAN connectivity.

fSONA will introduce the SONAbeam™622 and the SONAbeam™1G in its second and third year of operations. These products offer higher bandwidth at the OC-12 (622Mbps) and OC-24 (1.2Gbps) network standards which are currently used only by major trunk carriers such as AT&T and MCI. The introduction of these products will coincide with expanded bandwidth demand anticipated by corporate clients.

Theresa Carbonneau, CEO
fSONA Corporation Tel 604 531 2735
13086 Summerhill Crescent, Fax 604 531 2742
White Rock e-mail
BC V4A 7Y1