– with Jan Peterson, General Manager of XCSpec, Inc. & Ken Sinclair
Sinclair - Can
you give us some general background on XCSpec?
Jan Peterson -
XCSpec is a Marin County,
California-based company founded in 2013 by my husband, Pete Peterson, and I.
Our goal was, and remains, improving commercial and institutional building air
quality and energy efficiency through applied technology. Our initial impetus
was developing technology to respond to requirements for the American
Disabilities Act, which specifies the pressure to be maintained inside the
building to assure doors open readily for handicapped individuals. In this use
case, we controlled a power exhaust fan to maintain building pressure.
Basically, we design, manufacture, and distribute transformative
HVAC controls that leverage four emerging-mainstream technologies:
Wireless communication for device
set up and commissioning.
Cloud-based monitoring/control is
optional. Our controls work locally and do not depend on a cloud.
CO2 sensing (a tracer gas
that mirrors human contaminant loads, including COVID-19).
MicroElectro Mechanical (MEM)
Sensors: absolute pressure sensing (no pneumatic tubes), volatile gases,
temperature, humidity, and dewpoint.
Early research into applying MEMs
technology, which are used by smart watches, for pressure measurement came out
of a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant XCSpec received in 2016
from the National Institute of Technology (NIST). The research centered around
solving the problem of performing building leakage testing (still the largest
energy loss in a building) without disruption to the tenants. Currently to test
for leakage, ducts are sealed off and large blowers are used to pressurize the
buildings, which is very disruptive. XCSpec proposed the use of small
MEMs-based, absolute pressure sensors inside and outside the building. The
Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) has substantial experience in duct
leakage. Working with the WCEC confirmed the feasibility of this approach for
both building and duct leakage detection.
We continue working with academic,
laboratory, and research partners plus also pay close attention to the emerging
requirements in California, Michigan and elsewhere; driven by government
regulation and utility rebate programs. These inputs help drive our product
development focus. Starting with our work with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
to integrate the first Wi-Fi module into a thermostat for Demand Control,
through our current work with the WCEC at UC Davis (University of California,
Davis) XCSpec seeks to apply our pressure measurement system to measure and
isolate duct leakage in buildings.
Our technology has primarily been
developed for the control of HVAC systems: thermostats, Demand Control
Ventilation (based on measured CO-2 levels), economizer control and monitoring,
and exhaust fan control (based on building pressure) typify our offering. These
sub-systems are often integrated into the buildings’ HVAC control or building
Our new AirWatch System, while centered
around monitoring of indoor air quality (IAQ), provides an easy-to-install and
low-cost path to integrating the controls at any time after the monitor is
fielded. As Lord Kelvin stated, “You cannot control what you cannot measure.”
We provide products that support both control as well as measurement.
Sinclair - Who
is on the team and what is their experience?
Jan Peterson -
Peterson and I are Bay Area
tech industry veterans with over 50 years of collective experience in
hardware and software and creating wireless platforms with robust
and security. We understand how to adapt emerging technology in ways
minimize installed cost. We’ve built a network of partner companies and
professionals to bring to bear on any product development challenge.
Ken and I met a number of years ago while we were working on the
thermostat project for Demand Control by utilities.
Sinclair - I
understand you have a product family that can help schools reopen safely as the
pandemic eases, and beyond. Can you tell us about that?
Jan Peterson -
Our AirWatch solution is the first
of its kind visual display allowing teachers and others to see that classroom
air is fresh and healthy. AirWatch is a low-cost and easy-to-install CO2
and airflow monitor. It provides at-a-glance red, amber, and green LEDs to show
CO2 safety levels, and a blue LED that shows fresh air flow based on
positive pressure in the classroom. An outdoor “weather station,” which
connects via wireless to the classroom displays, provides the outdoor
conditions and pressure.The AirWatch solution is constantly determining the
pressure difference between the outside air and the classroom. It is also
constantly measuring the CO2 parts per million (PPM) in the
classroom. This information is provided through the visual interface or may be
monitoring through a cloud for trending data.
Measuring and monitoring is the
first step towards truly healthy air and effective ventilation systems. Because this solution arose
from a controls product first, HVAC professionals can easily upgrade to the
AirWatch Pro offering advanced controls for fresh air dampers, power exhaust,
and demand control ventilation. The
controls can be added to the HVAC system at any time after the monitor is
installed, allowing an upgrade path that is also low cost and takes advantage
of the units already installed. The combination of controlling input air based
on the CO2 PPM count and the exhaust air based on pressure within
the building, while easy to install and low cost, is a very comprehensive
ventilation control solution. It supports introducing fresh outside air input
while actively exhausting the stale, lingering air.
For classrooms we are applying this
as a monitor in accordance with requirements the California Energy Commission
is recommending in bill AB841.
The University of California at Davis has a
white paper that is driving these requirements.
Sinclair - How
is the AirWatch solution different from other available ways to address
Jan Peterson -
What makes this product particularly
unique is the capability to measure the air pressure within each individual
classroom, relative to the outside air. When the pressure inside a room is
higher than the outside
pressure the classroom air will move out towards the lower pressure outside. If
the air is moving, you have confidence that the air content - CO2
and other molecules such as contaminants and virus - are also moving out with
the air. This is a key objective of the school reopening guidance from the
California Energy Commission (CEC) AB841 bill. This bill was greatly influenced
by the WCEC.
The AirWatch depicts the positive pressurization inside the classroom with a blue-LED, keeping with the
at-a-glance visual display for teachers, students or other tenants.
Incidentally Ken, we chose a blue LED because it is the color of the sky on a day with clear, fresh air. Coupled with
the use of CO2 that displays the count of CO2 molecules
in the air, it provides an easy-to-understand reference for the freshness of
the room’s air. AirWatch is the ideal answer for today’s concerns and new
standards designed to decrease the spread of COVID-19, save energy, and improve
living conditions for inhabitants.
Sinclair - Is
it easy to install and set-up?
Jan Peterson -
All AirWatch components are
Wi-Fi-enabled and are easily configured with a mobile device or laptop. Wi-Fi
is a widely accepted and familiar technology to many people today. However, if
needed for a specific application we can incorporate other radio technologies.
We have learned to pay close attention to creating robust and reliable systems.
Cloud-based software allows easy monitoring, troubleshooting, and editing
parameters when needed.
Sinclair - Where
can anyone from a consumer to a system integrator get AirWatch?
Jan Peterson -
Our business model until now has
focused on OEM, System Integrators, and utilities. With the pandemic-driven
concerns about airborne virus and IAQ, we see a need in schools and other
buildings for this offering. So, we are currently expanding our network of
contractors, building owners, and integrators we work with. In June, the
AirWatch product and a starter kit will be available on Amazon.com.
For more information on sales and
distribution opportunities, visit www.XCSpec.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call
AirWatch helps make classroom air quality visible for safety,
health, and learning. It is equally well-suited for other facility
applications. AirWatch incorporates Wi-Fi wireless technology and integrates
seamlessly into higher-level HVAC control and building automation systems.
Jan Peterson’s background includes over 6 years
creating solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) such as mobile apps, cloud
computing and wireless hardware devices. She has deep experience in a start-up,
leading all aspects of product development, working with engineering and
outside partners, from concept through high volume manufacturing. She manages
interdisciplinary teams to deliver field-ready IoT products for commercial and
institutional building instrumentation and development of smart rooftop
equipment. Jan has been a guest lecturer at the IEEE 802 Energy Symposium. She
resides with her husband and business partner, Pete, in Marin County,
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