Drago Ognjenovic

Portland-based NADAC Systems has developed technology that saves energy by switching off unoccupied spaces.

That recently earned the company a semifinalist position in the 2012 Pacific Northwest Cleantech Open. I met up with NADAC’s CEO, Miodrag Ognjenovic, to find out more.

How is NADAC Systems going to change the world? “Our building control system is capable of identifying who is in a building and then controlling energy based on real occupancy, which could reduce building energy consumption by at least 40 percent.”

What problem are you solving? Existing automation systems can control every energy-consuming device in a building, but they don’t know when to do it because they can’t identify their occupants. So buildings usually adjust HVAC and lighting by operational schedules. Some buildings operate 24/7 because tenants work after hours — building owners actually keep entire buildings on, round the clock, regardless of real occupancy. That’s a huge waste of energy and money.”

How exactly do you fix that? “Our system detects when employees enter the building and it actually powers up their working spaces. It turns on heating, cooling, lighting, computers — whatever is associated with each particular worker. When occupants leave the building, or don’t show up for work, their space is powered off so energy is not wasted.”

Is this software or hardware? “This is both. Our system is a software and hardware solution that connects to any building control system on the market. In a building you have five or six different systems from different vendors. The systems, like access control and environmental control, aren’t easily integrated. Not only that, the vendors don’t always want them to be integrated.

So we developed hardware and software modules to interface with existing equipment on various levels. We can use any method to identify people, from card readers to face recognition. If one doesn’t exist in the building, we can provide it. We can control devices at any level, like a lighting zone or individual thermostat. That makes it easy for building management to deal with each building’s unique configuration, without needing the cooperation of six different vendors. And users can adjust their settings.”

What was your inspiration for this idea? “I’ve always been fascinated with electronics. In my native Yugoslavia I had a company that developed and  installed security systems in commercial buildings. When I came to the U.S., I developed a key management system that ties physical office keys to electronic access systems. I realized it also could be connected with building control systems and save energy that way. I had a unique approach to the energy management problem and developed the technology that could make a real difference in the world, so I kept pursuing it.”

How are you funded so far? “I put some of my savings into this project and am now looking for investors.”

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur? “The entrepreneur stage is very challenging. Currently, assembling a quality and reliable team as well as financing development and operations are the biggest challenges for me.”

This article is one of a series by Denis Du Bois about participants in the 2012 Cleantech Open. Denis is a GeekWire contributor on energy topics, and a volunteer mentor to startups in the Cleantech Open.

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