Sense CEO Mike Phillips

2017 Year End Update from Mike

2017 was a great year for Sense–CEO Mike Phillips explains everything that went on.

Happy new year to all of our Sense users and followers!

It’s been a busy year for us at Sense. At the start of the year, we had just begun scaling up the number of deployed Sense monitors and were dealing with all the usual challenges of getting a consumer-facing hardware product to market. So, scaling up manufacturing, shipping, and support – these each went through various emergencies!

Besides these “normal” product scaling challenges, we also have a unique challenge around our core technology. To make Sense work well, we need models for a wide range of devices and appliances. To build these models, we need data (lots of data!). But, the only way to get data is to have deployed monitors in people’s homes! This need for data is true for other machine learning products, but for things like speech recognition or image processing, there is already a lot of data around. For doing appliance identification in homes using high frequency power signals there is no existing useful data out there, so this made the initial launch of our product very tricky.

The good news is that we are now past these initial challenges. Our data science team has recently been shifting from figuring out how to make something work with very little data to now being able to leverage a rapidly increasing amount of data for better and better models. It is paying off! Over the past year, we have doubled the number of devices we find per home and the rate of progress has been increasing – you should continue to see nice improvements over the coming year.

Of course, we’re not just working on improving our device models. We’ve been hard at work this year improving the app, customer support, and manufacturing processes, as well as connecting with our community.

A few stats:

  • 12 application updates across IOS and Android including some community-suggested improvements such as energy costs and custom alerts.
  • Doubled the size of our team (and moved to a new office in Cambridge to allow us to continue to grow!)
  • Increased size of support team and streamlined processes for faster response times.
  • Scaled manufacturing to keep up with demand.
  • Integrated with IFTTT and Alexa.
  • Launched an initial version of our web application.
  • Launched in Canada.
  • Launched on Amazon.

We are looking forward to continuing these trends in 2018! We have some exciting new product features coming soon (all as software updates – even the very first hardware we deployed is fully capable and getting all updates).

These new product features include:

  • new features to help to you track down unknown devices,
  • ability to set goals and budgets,
  • ability to compare your energy usage to similar homes,
  • and of course continued progress on device coverage.

We know many of you ask for a way to “train Sense”. We of course would love to support this! We talk about some of the challenges here. While just giving you a simple way to train Sense won’t really help in meaningful ways, we do have some ideas of how to make use of whatever help you are willing to provide – stay tuned for more on this.

We are also increasing our work on integrations with other connected products. We’ve always thought of Sense as part of a future connected home vs the only device you would ever use. Since most of the IOT world has focused on control (connected thermostats, connected lights, etc.) we don’t need to duplicate that. But, by integrating with these devices we can both make Sense smarter and more complete, and can also help these other connected devices have a more complete view of what is happening in a home. For example, connected thermostats know when they are asking an AC to turn on, but they don’t know if it did really turn on, and don’t know the energy impact of these requests. By connecting at an API (application programming interface) level, with your permission of course, Sense and these other devices can communicate to give a more complete picture of what is happening in your home. We have a number of these integrations underway at the moment so look for some announcements from us in the coming months.

Finally, and most importantly, we are ramping up our efforts around energy efficiency. Our original purpose for starting the company was to see how we could use increased home awareness to help people make their homes work better – including becoming more energy efficient. We’ve spent most of our time so far focusing on the basics of the core product and around device detection. And, while we know some of you are able to use the current version of Sense to find places where you are wasting energy, we think we can do a lot more! We aren’t sharing specifics quite yet, but we are now spending time investigating ways in which Sense could more actively help people improve the efficiency of their homes – we are excited to finally be able to start to work on this!

Thank you for all of your help – your suggestions and feedback continue to be important inputs for our product development so keep it coming!