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Homer startup plans building-control system

By Journal Staff

Date:

HOMER — A startup company in Homer is nearing launch of a new type of control system for building power systems.

Cortland Research, LLC launched in 2011. The firm is a portfolio company of the Clean Tech Center at the Syracuse Technology Garden.

Cortland Research currently employs four, including its president, Steve McMahon. The firm just completed a proof-of-concept demonstration system, McMahon says, and will now spend the next nine months to a year refining the system and designing a production version.

Lining up customers will also be a priority.

The system uses a combination of sensors connected to devices like lights or outlets, a central control system, and a user interface to measure and control power usage in a building. The technology can be set to automatically kill power to lights or outlets at a specific time or based on whether anyone is present in a room, McMahon explains.

Users can access the interface from anywhere with an Internet connection. Cortland Research plans to help its clients set up the systems according to their needs, McMahon adds.

The idea is to reduce power usage and help buildings run more efficiently, he says. Even if an employee of a business shuts down a computer at the end of the day, the machine can still draw power.

And plenty of schools, hospitals, and hotels leave lights on for hours or days when no one is around. It’s that type of “parasitic” power usage Cortland Research is attempting to cut, McMahon says.

The firm’s system can be tailored to user requirements precisely, he adds. If features smart outlets and switches that have micro sensors and RF antennas embedded inside, according to the company.

That allows for real-time analysis and allows users to manage outlets individually if they choose. In addition to time of day and the presence of people, the system can be adjusted based on rates of energy usage and other parameters as well.

The company is focusing initially on commercial buildings since they tend to pay more for power per kilowatt hour, McMahon says. But the system could be used in a residential setting as well, according to the company.

McMahon previously worked as an electrician before earning a master’s degree and working for Sensis Corp. of DeWitt. Several of Cortland Research’s employees are former Sensis employees as well.

The company is financed currently by an individual angel investor, McMahon says.

Cortland Research was a semi-finalist in this year’s Creative Core Emerging Business Competition. The firm did not make the event’s final round.

The contest seeks to honor the most innovative, growth-oriented company in the region and awards a $200,000 grand prize. This year’s winner is MicroGen of Ithaca.

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