Rhys Sullivan, Hux

Growing understanding of productivity costs caused by occupant discomfort in buildings is proving a business boost for IEQ innovator and tech start-up Hux.

Co-founder Rhys Sullivan, who replaced his fellow co-founder and brother Matthew Sullivan-Kilgour as chief executive in December last year, says the business is now in the process of transitioning out of the sustainability area into facilities management.

“The impact can be so much larger in FM,” Mr Sullivan said.

The company’s technology, which includes sensors and a cloud-hosted platform for analytics, is currently installed for clients including City of Melbourne and University of Melbourne.

A deal has also recently been signed for a “major research project” with the CSIRO, and the company is working with AECOM on projects around commissioning and tuning, Mr Sullivan said.

The staff has grown to seven people, with new hires across hardware management, inventory management and business development.

“We are expanding our technical capacity to service larger scale clients,” Mr Sullivan said.

Mr Sullivan said the University of Melbourne project was going well, with the final deployment of technology including sensors imminent. There is also talk of expanding the project beyond the current Melbourne School of Design installation.

Even public housing providers want in

The company is also working on a trial with a public housing provider, and work is underway with a council in Sydney on implementing a suite of products that will assist the council to refine the ongoing business of how it runs its operations and buildings.

There is an “energy in the market” to do something about indoor environment quality and building performance, Mr Sullivan said.

“These costs are becoming more difficult to push under the carpet.

“That is the largest force we’re working with – there are productivity costs with substandard buildings.

“We have people coming saying they are aware of this new science and want to embrace it.”

Demand from overseas

The company has also been fielding enquiries from the US and UK, he said. There are also possibilities for expansion into south east Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia.

A US presence may be established as early as June or July this year.

What clients are seeing is improvements in costs, time managing buildings and building quality. They are also using the technology to augment traditional consulting reports.

In the past 15 months, the tech has gone through a “couple of iterations” that have led to improvements. These are value-added for pre-existing users.

Tech improvements helping business

Mr Sullivan said one of the major positive impacts on business is that “everything is becoming more accessible”. For example, Amazon Web Services and its cloud computing offer has been beneficial.

The cost of hardware prototyping services has also gone down, he said, so even a short run of 100 units can be cost-effectively delivered. At the same time, production quality has gone up.

Another innovation the company is taking advantage of is the emergence of accessible and affordable artificial intelligence platforms, for example IBM’s Watson.

The machine learning systems offer new possibilities.

Mr Sullivan said neural net development technologies were also getting better.

“We are starting to see a situation where computational power and useability reach the point where it can fit into a commercial [building] environment,” he said.

Targeting to lower tiers

This is particularly relevant for where the company sees its core market – the non-premium properties.

The technology can do augmentation of an existing BMS in one of those buildings “very well”, he said.

It can also be a “poor man’s BMS” for the 90 per cent of commercial properties that do not have a BMS at all.

“You can get understanding of the building easily, without the need for a highly technical FM, engineer or consultant.

“You get an operational understanding of the space day to day.”

Even with a manual airconditoning system, for example, the analytics from the Hux Connect platform can help the building’s managers understand when to turn the AC on, when to adjust the set points, and when it is more effective to just open the windows.

“A big goal of ours is to start seeing all of these other [non-premium] buildings managed a bit more.”

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