Our days and nights are powered by electricity, from the lights in our homes to the racks and racks of servers that power the cloud computing platforms our work depends on. But while electricity is all around us, we often don’t think about the electrical system in our homes or offices until there’s a problem.
There’s a good reason for this. Electrical systems are complex in a multi-story office building or your home. Determining which breaker matches an outlet or fixture can be more challenging than following a buried treasure map. That’s one of the challenges driving CircuitIQ. The Kitchener-based startup has developed a system for electricians that automatically maps circuits to create a digital map of an electrical panel. CircuitIQ’s mission is to make service and updating electrical systems easier.
Electricians use CircuitIQ to map electrical systems from residential to large industrial sites. The system works by plugging sensors into outlets throughout a space paired with a mobile application. Once set up, the mobile application maps all the outlets and switches in a system to the breakers in the circuit panel.
Generating a complete circuit map is only one of the benefits of CircuitIQ. With home electrical vehicle chargers becoming an in-demand request, electricians can use CircuitIQ to map a home and make a data-based decision on whether an upgraded system is required.
In many cases, there can be room in a panel that doesn’t require an expensive upgrade. Begley says another advantage is saving time. Electricians can spend hours mapping a circuit before making a repair. CircuitIQ solves this by giving them a complete history of work done by other electricians.
CircuitIQ can also help identify potential electrical safety issues that could lead to property damage or serious injuries. It’s a problem that CircuitIQ co-founder and CEO Luke Begley knows from personal experience.
The spark behind CircuitIQ
Begley’s journey to becoming an entrepreneur started with an urgent phone call from his wife. His young son was playing and somehow put a dime behind a plugged-in phone charger. The dime caused the outlet to arc and fuse the dime onto the charger’s prongs. The incident could have been severe, but luckily, Begley’s wife caught their son in the act and prevented a fire.
“The power went arcing up the wall, and she screamed because it looked like the Fourth of July in our living room. She was able to get the charger out of the wall, and everything was okay. If she hadn’t been able to get that charger out, it would only take five minutes for the whole house to burn down. Electrical fire is not like other fires. It heats up the lines that run through every wall in the house, and so very quickly, that becomes uncontrollable,” Begley says.
While unplugging a device is often our first reaction, Begley says that turning off the circuit in the breaker is the first thing homeowners should do. There is less risk of electrocution since you are not handling the device or the outlet. The challenge for homeowners is knowing which breaker feeds the outlets and switches throughout their homes.
“The only thing between saving your house and it burning down is the right information. When we got home, we went to the panel and realized it wasn’t labeled correctly. I realized that not only is the panel card really limited in the information it provides, but the actual information isn’t accurate either,” he says.
A homegrown solution to circuit mapping
Begley started to map his home’s circuits the old-fashioned way—plugging in lamps and radios and shouting across the house to see if something went off.
“I was getting frustrated with the process of going up and down the stairs and trying to move things around. I started thinking and thought I could try using a wireless router. That way, when its network would go offline, I’d know which breaker it was,” Begley says.
Using a wireless router worked well, and Begley could map the circuits in his home. The next day at work, he recalled the story about the dime, the sparks, and the circuit mapping solution to his coworker.
“This guy had 30 years of experience as an electrician and said that he had never heard of anyone doing that before. He said I should patent it because this is a problem that all electricians deal with. So I went through the process of patenting it and then started to look at how I could bring this to market,” he says.
Begley quickly realized that while having a patent was important, it didn’t lead to finding a partner who was willing to invest and build out the product.
“I've spent this time, energy, and money investing in this idea, but the businesses I spoke with didn’t understand it. The only thing to do was to take it to market myself, but I had no idea how I was going to do that. I found my co-founder Travis Dunn, and he and I built the first prototype, which eventually got us the Jumpstart funding from the Accelerator Center,” Begley says.
Finding help and mentorship at the Accelerator Centre
The funding to bring the CircuitIQ prototype came from our AC JumpStart program, and Begley says he and Dunn are grateful for that support.
“We applied to the Accelerator Center, and they saw the vision. With the funding, we were able to take our MVP and invest in user design towards creating an experience that skilled electricians would want to use,” he says.
After completing the JumpStart program, CircuitIQ was accepted into the Accelerator Centre’s TD CleanTech Accelerator program. In addition to having a physical space for the CircuitIQ team, Begley says he wanted to be closer to the AC mentors.
“We had a small team and couldn't afford to have all these in-house experts supporting us. Being supported by people that have actually done it before is amazing. Being a part of the AC community also helped build some confidence in the startup investor community too,” Begley says.
Being a successful entrepreneur means understanding what you know—and what you need help with. Begley says being introduced to the AC mentors allowed him to see the different things that go into making a successful business.
“There are things that are important as you grow as a company, and then there are things that are day-one or you don’t have a business. I was introduced to a lot of different mentors for those things and then was able to take those suggestions and put them to work. The Accelerator Centre is like a Swiss army knife for mentoring,” Begley says.
Visit circuitIQ.com to learn more about its solution.