Schneider Electric Leads $18M Round for Home Energy Startup Sense

Xconomy Boston — 

Sense, a Boston-area home energy monitoring startup, has raised $18 million in fresh funding from a group of backers that includes energy and robotics companies.

Schneider Electric led the Series B financing round, and it was joined by earlier Sense investors Shell Ventures, iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT), Energy Impact Partners, Prelude Ventures, and Capricorn Investment Group. In a press release, Cambridge, MA-based Sense said it has hauled in a total of $38.6 million in venture capital.

The startup’s business sits at the intersection of home automation, connected devices, and energy efficiency. The idea, as co-founder and CEO Mike Phillips previously told Xconomy, is to help enable home automation by constantly measuring the activity and performance of any machine—smart and “dumb” alike—much in the same way people monitor health and fitness using wearable technologies like Fitbit.

Customers are using Sense’s system to identify ways to lower their electric bills, as well as broader applications that might not be immediately apparent.

“Once you can know in detail what’s happening around the house, think of it as feeding into the smart home,” Phillips told Xconomy in 2016. “Are the kids home from school yet? Did I leave the oven on? Is the sump pump on when it’s raining?”

Sense’s home energy monitoring system consists of sensors that attach to the main breakers inside the home’s electrical panel and take readings of all the electricity being pumped to various machines throughout the house. The sensor data gets relayed to a small WiFi-connected box (pictured above) also located inside the electrical panel, which crunches information and sends it to cloud-based servers for more analysis.

Sense has said it’s able to distinguish between the myriad machines running in the home—dishwashers, ovens, clothes dryers, garage doors, TVs, furnaces, air conditioning units, and so on. It accomplishes this with software algorithms that detect the unique electrical signature of each device.

Sense has said the approach is similar to listening to and recognizing the “voice” of each machine. That comparison is no coincidence, as Phillips and several of the company’s key team members previously worked on speech recognition technologies at companies including Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Nuance Communications (NASDAQ: NUAN), SpeechWorks, ScanSoft, and Vlingo.

Sense’s competitors include Curb, an Austin, TX-based startup that has developed a similar system for monitoring home energy usage.

Sense said that the new cash will help it try to win “broader consumer adoption” by forming partnerships with home construction firms, energy providers, and developers of smart home technologies.

[Disclosure: Mike Phillips is the brother-in-law of Xconomy Boston editor Greg Huang. Mr. Huang was not involved in the planning, directing, reporting, or editing of this story.]