Interview with Enlighted CEO Joe Costello

With Buildings Get A Brain event around the corner, we chatted with Enlighted CEO Joe Costello on his thoughts around smart buildings.

What inspired you to join Enlighted? How did you end up in the commercial building sector?

The very first company I tried to start was focused on energy conservation. It was right after the oil shock, and people were focused on conserving energy rather than drilling for oil. Then, in 2001, when I was working on the Internet of the Things, it was too early and everyone abandoned it. I see the market now and the opportunity is phenomenal. It’s going to be enormous, it’s going to be surprising, and Enlighted is a perfect example of just that. Enlighted built a platform that brings commercial real estate into the Internet of Things, developing an advanced wireless sensor network across every square foot of a building. With one sensor at every single light fixture, our solutions improves lighting for building occupants while saving energy costs between 60-70%. The amount of energy and dollars that we save justifies the installation of that sensor network.


How do you envision Enlighted shaping the future of intelligent buildings?  

Right now, we are just focusing on lighting. I see us expanding into heating and cooling applications, where our existing sensor networks can analyze HVAC systems and communicate that information to the BMS system which will enable controls. We are trying to alter the whole building experience with greater visibility and control into all aspects of our building. This could include a facilities management tool that gives you real time data on how your building is used, or a conference room management application.


As we continue to see advances in technology, what do you think poses the biggest challenge to the commercial building market?

Far and away, this is not a technology problem. The technology is always improving, so there will inherently be some challenges. The absolute number one problem is that building owners don’t have the capital to invest in efficiency upgrades. The majority of our customers only implement an Enlighted system in one of their buildings. At first we thought it was a product problem, but we were absolutely wrong! One of our customers has 100 buildings using our solution. The obstacle is that people want to do more buildings, but when they go to submit capital, they endure a long and arduous system because capital improvements are low on the priority list. So, what was different for that one customer? We had an internal champion at the company, which made it a no brainer, but their biggest objection was cash. So we decided to build a financing tool which required no capital for the upgrade, no debt, no leasing, and delivered instant operational savings. Enlighted borrows the money, based on the customer’s credit rating, and the collateral is the future energy savings in lighting. We are now looking to roll out this financing tool for all our customers.


What are you most excited to learn about at the Buildings Get a Brain Executive Summit?

This is an instant marketplace; people are just opening up their eyes to the market. We’re looking forward to hearing the wild creativity, the new problems that people haven’t attacked, the various customer needs, how we can solve customer’s problems, and how we can partner with other technologies. For us, I know we need to partner more directly with BMS developers. I’m excited to see the problems people are interested in focusing on and potentially meet new partners.