By Emily stevenson
Burglars, beware: a local technology company is about to make your job that much harder. Greenville-based Sencorables, LLC creates pressure-sensitive underlayments to be installed beneath the flooring in smart homes and buildings. Building managers can use the data to detect presence, direction and movement of people in a building.
“The floor is the most natural way to do it,” says Willem Biesheuvel, CEO of Sencorables. “We walk on it, we sit on it. It’s always there. You can’t bypass a floor.”
Biesheuvel teamed up with Clemson University graduate Andrew Clark, the company’s CTO, to launch the product. At the time, Biesheuvel was living in Dubai working as part-owner of a company that created facades for buildings. In addition, his company handled sun control, such as aluminum shades that can be pulled down to mitigate the heat. Biesheuvel had the idea of a tablet that you could walk on to send signals to the building to lower the shades whenever someone entered the room, but he didn’t know how to build it.
Nearly 6,500 miles away, in Clemson, Clark posted a similar invention on Kickstarter. Biesheuvel contacted Clark in February 2015 and the two met for the first time in July of that year. Shortly thereafter, the two developed the company’s first prototypes and applied for patents. Sencorables was officially born in September 2015.
“We are not a typical startup because we’re not a couple of 20-year-old guys with a bright idea,” says Biesheuvel. “I think a big difference is that we had the idea of developing this floor, and we focused on making the hardware work. We wanted to make sure that it would work the way we wanted it before ever talking to the outside world or developing software for it.”
Sencorables creates the hardware – the pressure-sensing mats and underlayments – as well as the algorithms that translate the raw data into understandable data. While the algorithms are done in-house, the software is contracted out to a company in Greenville called Orange Bees.
“It’s an easier and more accurate system than we’re putting into buildings today,” says Biesheuvel.
The sensors offer better security than typical motion sensors and video cameras, but in a less invasive manner; no photos or videos are taken. Building managers can use the data to track individuals without knowing whom they’re tracking.
There are big implications for this cutting-edge technology. It would give stores the ability to sense when customers entered and to measure how long they wait in line. Office buildings can measure if anyone is still in the building and where they might be. The technology even has big possibilities in terms of health care.
“We see applications with the right software partners, like elderly care,” says Biesheuvel. “A lot of elderly want to live longer at home independently. If you have a floor installed, you could help achieve that. If there is a slip or a fall, you could get a notification. If there are visitors after a certain time of night, you could get a message that there’s an intrusion. You could even set it so that if they went upstairs to bed, you could lock the doors, turn off the light, and close the curtains.”
Biesheuvel points out that the applications will have to be developed by someone else; Sencorables’ goal is to give developers different and more accurate input.
“We sell the hardware and the data that the hardware generates,” he says. “We give you more and more accurate data, and a centralized data source. It’s licensed in the sense that you pay us a monthly fee to get that data.”
Sencorables rolled out its commercial and industrial mats in April. The company then plans to sell full floors for buildings so that no other motion and detection sensors are needed. The company then plans to branch out into other projects.
“Technology advances so much that right now we’re doing flooring, but we could also do a bed with sensors,” says Biesheuvel. “We’ve looked at shoes with sensors, golf clubs, baseball bats. We stopped all these developments and focused on flooring to start with, but as soon as that’s up and running we’ll look into these other products as well.”
To help mitigate the growth, the company is expected to invest $3.5 million and create 25 new jobs in the Greenville area over the next few years. While the decision to locate Sencorables in Greenville had more to do with Clark’s location, starting a company in the United States was a no-brainer for the duo.
“For us, it is more interesting than any other market in the world because it’s a large market with one set of rules and regulations, one language, as opposed to Europe,” says Biesheuvel. “Of course, we also want to move into Europe, but Europe is much more complex.”
Complex, just like the Sencorables sensors. But despite the intricate technology and interaction of hardware and software, Biesheuvel insists that his company’s system is a natural step for buildings of the future.
“The whole thing about buildings is that they’re made for us, as humans, to live and work in,” he says. “Everything revolves around the fact that you want the buildings to react to people being in it.”