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Thermal comfort has always been a challenge especially in the age of energy efficiency and the lofty goal of zero emissions.

But never fear, startups with funding from the likes of philanthropists, such as Bill Gates, are working to re-invent air conditioning but without the harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

A startup known as 75F has created smart building automation technology that uses sensors and machine learning to improve thermal comfort and reduce energy use by as much as 50%.

The company has raised $18 million in a series A round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the Bill Gates-led fund that was founded to support climate solutions.

Company CEO, Deepinder Singh, said everyone wants to conserve energy but they want to be comfortable at the same time.

“That’s the key, we want to make sure people are more comfortable and productive, but at the same time, conserve energy,” he said.

The US company has calculated that if its technology was deployed nationally, it would save an equivalent amount of emissions to closing 90 coal plants or saving 827 million barrels of oil.

The system uses multiple sensors in different zones throughout a building, so if a particular area is overheated or too cold, the system can adjust. It also continually monitors the weather forecast and predicts how the building will respond to changing temperatures outside.

The sensors also monitor air quality, so the system can bring in fresh air when needed.

Most commercial buildings still don’t have automated systems to control heating and cooling, and 75F wanted to create a solution that didn't require custom programming.

“We have made a solution that works out of the box,” Singh said.

Even in offices that already have building management systems, Singh said companies have cut energy use by 30% using the system. “It’s really hard to compete with machine learning,” he said. “You could perhaps make the same building work as well, but you would need a dedicated engineer making tweaks each and every minute of the day.”

IT companies are increasingly moving into this market going head to head with traditional HVAC firms such as Johnson Controls and Honeywell International.

In its latest research report, Future Market Insights said new players are shaking up the market including Apple and Google NEST.

“Despite having a robust sphere of influence, leading players will continue to face competition threats from new vendors entering the market with newer promises,” the study said.

These companies will upend the playing field pushing established players to come up with new strategy models, the study said.

Who is 75F?

75F is an IoT-powered Building Management Solution (BMS) that includes wireless sensors, equipment controllers and cloud-based software delivering predictive, proactive building automation right out-of-the-box.

According to the company's web site, it's easy enough for elementary students to install and configure which lowers install time and related costs.

“From automated lighting systems, to smart boiler controls, to energy efficient HVAC systems, we're here to make smart building technology for accessible and affordable for everyone. Oh, and we never say 'no' to a round of ping-pong,” the web site spiel explains. It then goes on to talk about how IoT technology can improve lives and even save the world.

“We're out to save the world....and to have a hell of a good time doing it. Besides - when's the last time you heard the words HVAC and fun in the same sentence?”

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