Protecting buildings from mold with IoT sensors from RYSTA — a Startup Interview

Originally published in German on energynet.de

The Team of RYSTA GmbH: (from left to right) Sven Eliasson (Gründer & Tech Lead), Lisa Schmidt-Muschner (Business Development), Julia Gebert (Gründerin & CEO) und Juan Ocampo (GF & COO), Foto: Rysta GmbH

Since a few years I write more frequently about innovative start-ups in the energy industry. However, I have rarely presented start-ups with the target group of the construction/housing industry and building technology. Is there so little of it or do I know so few? I will get to know a few startups from the building technology sector at the ISH trade fair in March, the world’s leading trade fair focusing on the responsible management of water and energy in buildings.

For the first time there will be a special space for startups and a startup speed-dating for new contacts. A first impression of the startups in the field of building technology was already given in December at the Kick-Off event in Berlin. There RYSTA GmbH from Berlin emerged as the winner of the stand area. A few weeks before the ISH it is time to present RYSTA in a startup interview. More information about the speed-dating on March 12 and 14 can be found at the end of this article.

IoT data on air quality in buildings with RYSTA

Julia Gebert, founder and managing director of RYSTA GmbH, answered my questions.

How did the idea for RYSTA come about? What is the background?

The idea at the beginning was to develop a smart connected multisensor, which allows companies to collect data in a smart way instead of collecting an infinite amount of data in an uncoordinated way. With the availability of data, we wanted — and still want — to open up value creation potential for our customers.

Since this very broad approach was initially difficult to monetize, we focused on solving a specific problem for which our solution is optimally suited: mold prevention in residential buildings for landlords and tenants. As a result of the energy-optimized construction method, mold is a major problem, with high levels of damage, including health problems.

Our solution is also used as a digital data logger and for monitoring construction sites.

What exactly does RYSTA offer?

We offer an IoT data monitoring solution consisting of three elements: First, our RYSTA Multisensor, which measures six room parameters (temperature and humidity, sound, vibration, light and pressure); second, data analysis in the RYSTA Cloud, for example, calculation of mold risk; and third, making the data available on different user interfaces (e.g. MoldGuard App, Data Portal). We also offer an open API for integration into existing customer systems.

We also take care of the installation of the hardware. In addition to a one-off payment, the customer pays a monthly fee, rental models are also possible.

How can sensors and algorithms help to protect buildings against mold?

Our sensors measure temperature and humidity in individual rooms. The data is sent to our cloud and correlated with weather data. The algorithm developed by us calculates the mold risk and warns by means of a clear Andon system (green-yellow-red logic) of indoor climatic conditions that promote mold growth. More specifically, one is warned if the humidity is so high for a relevant long period that mold would begin to grow. It is important to know that there are mold spores in every room, which inevitably begin to grow as mold when the indoor climate offers appropriate growth conditions.

The data can be viewed by the tenant via our MoldGuard App and by the landlord — who receives considerably less data — via the Landlord Portal.

The special thing about it is that you can see when you need to ventilate, regardless of where you are at the moment. The sensors and the algorithm help you to act correctly in good time. Only with thermometers and hygrometers in every room is this much more complex, but much less precise. Not to mention the landlord, who only finds out about mold when the rent is reduced or when the tenant moves out.

Mold Guard Sensor, Foto: RYSTA GmbH

Wouldn’t mechanical domestic ventilation make more sense? The users still have to become active.

In any case, mechanical ventilation is another sensible option. We are cooperating in this respect with a reknownwindow manufacturer, and further cooperation can be useful here.

However, it should not be forgotten that all this is also a question of costs. Our solution is also particularly aimed at companies in the housing industry who, for cost reasons, can build less high-quality rented housing. This already applies to ventilation systems, mechanical ventilation is unthinkable in this segment. Apart from that, the tenants are usually very happy to receive support from RYSTA for proper ventilation, as we make manual ventilation easier. If one regulates the ventilation only in the lease and prescribes overall x times daily ventilation, nobody is helped. Correct, timely ventilation can only be achieved with sensors. Users still have to become active without mechanical ventilation, but they know when to ventilate in order to prevent mold growth and — this is also very valuable to know — when the windows can remain closed.

In addition to the moisture in new buildings and renovations, which has to escape during the so-called dry living period, the moisture caused by humans (through showering, cooking, drying laundry but also mere breathing) and above all the outside temperature also play a decisive role. Our solution creates great added value because it takes individual conditions into account.

Who is your target group? Who are the customers and how do you address them?

Our customers are the housing industry and construction companies, as well as companies that use digital data loggers. In addition, our sensor solution is also relevant for the insurance industry, as data availability can prevent damage or keep it low.

We are now well networked in the real estate sector and I regularly speak at Proptech and real estate events such as FUTURE:PropTech, ZIA Real Estate Industry Day or ZIA Innovation Day. In addition, we take part in competitions, which also increases visibility, also internationally. Most recently, we were able to present RYSTA as a top 5 finalist at the CBRE Proptech Challenge in Madrid.

Of course, trade fairs are also very important in the classic sense. In January we launched our ConTech solution at BAU2019. The direct exchange with the industry is very important and essential for us to work with the right assumptions from the market and, of course, to make important contacts. Especially in cooperation great results emerge and personal contact remains immensely important even in digital times. We are currently looking forward to making further contacts at the interface to the ventilation industry and the energy industry at the ISH, where we see a lot of untapped potential.

Where were the biggest obstacles so far and how did you react?

Especially in the flourishing real estate industry, long sales cycles and a certain scepticism towards innovations can cause problems for us. The housing industry in particular is definitely one of the slow adopters when it comes to innovation. Unobtrusive persistence is the only way.

Given the large number of innovations, the distinction between “What brings real added value?” and “What is gimmickry or even brings more problems than it solves” is certainly justified. Nevertheless, I am strongly convinced that only those companies that are currently intensively involved in innovation will continue to be among the market leaders in the coming years — regardless of the industry in which they operate.

Connectivity is another challenge. Newer wireless communication standards such as NBIoT and LoRa, which we have developed or are currently developing, will help here.

As a start-up, financing is also always an issue; financial resources and the right sparring partners are simply the key to success alongside the idea, team and product. With High Rise Ventures and Business Angels from the real estate industry, we have strong partners with industry know-how on board. In my experience, however, Germany as a whole is unfortunately very reluctant when it comes to venture capital; you can only react to this circumstance by addressing those who do not see a unicorn from Germany as a mythical creature.

What are the next goals for RYSTA?

We recently launched our second product, our “ConTech solution” for construction site monitoring, and are in the process of further developing the solution with pilot customers. Other interested pilot customers are welcome to contact us.

Together with innovative companies, we also want to develop further applications — wherever data availability allows to gain knowledge about building or user behaviour and to take correct, timely action or make adjustments, we can easily adapt our solution to meet customer-specific requirements.

Our roadmap also includes the production of 1,000 sensors and the development of the LoRa radio standard, which we want to offer in addition to WLAN, mobile communications and NBIoT.

Why is ISH an important trade fair for Rysta?

For the first time at ISH, we will concentrate on the world market leaders in the water, heating and air-conditioning sector. We are relying on synergies with these companies because we see interesting application potential for our solution, for example in the combination with control technology. Many thanks to ISH for the opportunity to present RYSTA in this setting.

Networking with Startups at ISH 2019

RYSTA GmbH is only one of 25 start-ups in the new special ISH area for young innovative companies. In the Galeria, the other start-ups from 11–15 March 2019 can be seen. There will also be a varied programme with pitches, lectures and key notes. The fair will also provide additional space for the exchange of ideas between start-ups, established companies and other players.

A targeted networking with the suitable partners can be found at the startup speed-dating. This will take place on March, 12 and 14. There, the startups can present their innovations to suitable market leaders, industry leaders, medium-sized companies and investors in eight-minute personal discussions. Startup speed-dating at ISH is organised by the EnergieloftInnovation Network, which also organises such a network event at many other trade fairs and congresses. At the beginning of February, for example, over 250 participants took part in the speed-dating at E-World in Essen. Participation is free of charge.

There are further dates for networking with Startups on March 12 from 5 to 7 pm in the VdZ Energy Lounge with delicious sundowner. And who would like to rather start the day with networking and a breakfast, can come on March 14from 8.30 to 9.30 am to the VdZ Energy Lounge already for breakfast. For both dates the VdZ asks for a registration at anmeldung[at]vdzev.de.

Special thanks to the VdZ for making the interview possible.

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Andreas Kuehl

blogging about energy efficiency and renewable energy, daddy of 2 sweet children, more about me (in german): http://t.co/zXR4kztBTg