Nominal Controls Utilizes its Latest Technology to Ensure Stable Power Sources in Rural Kenyan Communities

The Waterloo based makers of tech for the likes of Tesla and NASA is providing 24 of its solid state switches for application on solar power storage systems in Thika, Kenya

March 26, 2021

As AC JumpStart alumni Nominal Controls Inc. prepares to graduate from the program at the end of March, they are also celebrating a new partnership that will make a huge impact on a lower-income community.

All his life, Peter Zhang watched his father Mike develop innovation after innovation as an electronic engineer at various companies like General Electric, Schneider Electric, and Toyota Group. When Peter decided to go to school for marketing, he began thinking of ways to commercialize some of his father’s innovations to build better products. In 2016, the father-son duo joined forces to create Nominal Controls Inc., with a mission to develop measurement and controls technology drastically more effective than the current marketplace options.

Nominal Controls’ first big project was to develop the first iteration of solid state switches for Gigafactory1, with proving success. Since then, they’ve been refining their products for an impressive rolodex of customers such as NASA, General Motors and Rockwell. When they joined the AC JumpStart program, they were looking to enter a new market with a new product.

“Basically the products we were developing really only benefited specialty users with really high power equipment. We figured we could utilize the same solid state technology to create a device for the lower power equipment that's better fitted for general industrial applications, and everyday solar and wind applications” said Peter Zhang, founder and manager at Nominal Controls Inc.

As the AC JumpStart program has an emphasis on product-market-fit, Nominal controls was able to learn an agile product development approach. Zhang explained that this mentorship and guidance really propelled them forward. As they finished developing this new, everyday product, Nominal Controls was approached by a tech company in Thika, Kenya, who were attempting to solve power-related issues in their rural community.

“Currently, they have this solar system set up to only power borehole pumps so they could have [drinking] water stored up in a tank, but they can’t use the power for any other purpose, and power is really precious [in this community],” Zhang explained.

This community is hoping to utilize the water pump’s solar power when it is not operational in efforts to switch the power to homes or to storage batteries, as setting up new dedicated systems is out of the scope. Nominal Control’s new solid state switches are much more reliable than mechanical switches; a mechanical switch, for this project, would have to be replaced every 1-2 years, which would be significantly more costly over time. Therefore, the new solid state switch would be the better option for this community, requiring no upkeep. Through this new collaboration, Nominal Controls is pledging 24 of their new switches to help solve this problem. The first two are set to be delivered on March 26.

“This project is in line with Canada’s initiative to support developing communities. That's one of the things [our company] can help out with,” Zhang said.

As Nominal Controls prepares to graduate the AC JumpStart program, Zhang noted how valuable the relationships are that he built with some of the AC’s mentors. B2B Sales Mentor, Kevin Hood, introduced Nominal Controls to much needed community partners. Customer Experience Mentor Bob Mathers assisted with developing a customer experience program where customers are free to provide valuable feedback.

“Following Product Mentor Don Thompson's advice, we de-risk many aspects of this new product. We are fully confident our customers have a very reliable product for the decades to come,” Zhang added.

“The Accelerator Centre is a really great platform to develop companies and to grow companies. For the last year, we definitely were coached a lot on different things – especially product development. That's how we came up with this new switch that could fit the mass market and help more customers.”

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