Stephen Daniels is a serial entrepreneur with three start-ups under his belt. His fourth venture is NuWave, a company making smart air-quality sensors.
NuWave is producing three different sensor products. The first is aimed at consumers and the second at large-scale applications such as hospitals. The third is designed for the manufacturing sector (clean rooms, for example) while the sensors can also be used to detect problems with sick buildings.
The consumer product will help those with conditions such as asthma or allergies to manage their indoor air quality. It is called Alersense in the US and will cost around $150.
“Rapid detection of contaminants such as pathogens, harmful particles and allergy triggers allows people to take preventative action quickly,” Daniels says.
By day, Daniels is executive director of the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology and a senior lecturer in the School of Electronic Engineering at Dublin City University. He has also worked in industry with companies such as Philips Research, IMEC and the Applied Materials laboratories in California. His partner in NuWave is Lisa Ainsworth, a former executive with GE. NuWave employs eight people and first orders of its Irish-made devices will ship to the UK and the US this spring.
The company’s technology combines a suite of advanced connected sensors and a cloud-based data management/analytics system that continuously monitors airborne contaminants in industrial, domestic and commercial environments.
It measures critical contaminant parameters and communicates the information in real time. Automatic alerts tell users when there is a problem that requires action.
Daniels became interested in airborne contamination when studying its impact on healthcare-associated infections such as those carried by so-called superbugs.
“Airborne contamination can be a serious problem in many environments and is often ‘invisible’ and hard to detect, locate and identify,” Daniels says. “It can lead to health problems for affected individuals and to contamination issues in manufacturing and processing environments.”
Daniels points out that while the devices may look simple, there is a great deal of hi-tech know-how behind both the sensors and the microbiology involved in the detection process.
“When you look at certain cities the air contamination problem is pretty obvious,” Daniels says. “But it’s a global issue and poor air quality can have a profound affect on people’s lives both at home and at work. It’s also of great significance in healthcare settings where people are especially vulnerable.”
Product development began roughly two years ago and Daniels estimates the investment in NuWave to date at around €1m. This was funded from personal resources, and the company also took on consultancy work to help fund its early stage development. It is now generating sales revenue.
Private buyers will pay upfront for the device while the revenue model for commercial users is a combination of capital equipment, leasing and consumables – the cartridges in the units need to be changed monthly. The company will also provide data analysis and alerts for a monthly fee.
NuWave is based at the DCU Alpha Innovation Campus in Glasnevin and Daniels says the aim is to build the business into a viable medium-size company that designs, tests and manufactures its products in Ireland. "We can make the economics of it stack up and we have hand-picked a team of the brightest and best in their fields to ensure we stay ahead of the market," Daniels says.
"We have taken steps to protect our IP and intend to fully exploit our first-mover advantage. We are also looking at working with researchers at Science Foundation Ireland to enhance the data analytics capabilities of our products."
– OLIVE KEOGH