In 2009, two EPFL PhD students – Fabrizio Lo Conte and Laurent Fabre – developed an ingenious system for controlling everything in a home from a single screen. Their system is based on modules installed behind electrical switches that track power consumption and communicate with each other through the home’s electrical wiring. They founded eSMART in 2011, and the startup quickly attracted interest from construction firms as well as other entrepreneurs. Their first high-profile contract win soon followed, to install their eSMART system in all apartments of an “eco-district” in Gland, Switzerland. eSMART’s technology opens the door to functionalities that are set to become standard in tomorrow’s homes: videophones, temperature controls, controls for lighting and blinds, and systems to track power consumption. In 2013, in response to the increasing use of smartphones, they rolled out a mobile app that lets users control their home systems remotely. eSMART is compatible with most connected objects – another fast-growing market. Jérôme Ramelet later joined the firm to head up sales and marketing and drive its expansion into new markets. Since then eSMART has formed partnerships with a host of other “smart home” companies, including Vaud-based DomoSafety. The first eSMART-equipped buildings in German-speaking Switzerland were constructed in Solothurn in 2014. After recently completing a CHF 1.5 million fund-raising round, the firm now has its sights set on the broader European market.
What makes your technology innovative?
Fabrizio Lo Conte: Our technology, which has given rise to three patents, is very simple and cheap to install. Unlike many existing smart home systems that focus mainly on convenience, we offer an integrated solution with a broader range of functions. For instance, eSMART lets you track your total power consumption in real time and displays the data in an easy-to-read format, giving you the information you need to cut your energy bill. It also includes other features that can be enhanced with additional functionalities and linked to connected objects. One of our innovations is a simplified method for communicating with property rental agencies.
Why did you decide to set up your business in Vaud?
First of all, it was the most obvious choice since both Laurent Fabre, co-founder and COO, and I are EPFL graduates. But also because we are a tech company and intend to stay that way. EPFL is a great place to recruit new engineers, as is the Yverdon school of engineering (HEIG-VD). We also know first-hand how good the coaching, advice, and support is that you can get in Vaud.
Photo caption: The eSMART team celebrates the company’s fifth anniversary in 2016
What benefits will your firm gain from being a Vaud Scale-Up?
It hooks us into a useful network and lets us ask questions to other CEOs who are facing the same challenges. And our being named a “Scale-Up” – rather than a “startup” – is reassuring for our customers, since startups are generally riskier and regarded with caution in the construction industry, where buyers tend to prefer security and established technology. It also sends a signal that we are both growing and financially sound. It tells people that we are not a conventional small business – that we plan to keep innovating and developing new features, all in a growing market.
What are eSMART’s plans for the future?
In 2017, we plan to focus on German-speaking Switzerland. Then we will target international markets, such as France, Germany, Europe, and the Middle East, especially Dubai. Our technology is compatible with these markets, as it is with the US. Demand for systems that monitor household power consumption is clearly growing, and will probably keep doing so thanks in large part to the Paris Agreement. Today’s energy-efficiency certifications for buildings look mainly at the building envelope, but in the future they will also factor in actual power consumption.
Photo caption: eSMART main screen. eSMART’s software lets households carefully track their power consumption, and offers a slate of other “smart home” features.
- 12 awards
- 1,551 apartments, 74 new and existing offices and homes, and 2 hotels equipped with eSMART (in 2016)
- 16 employees
- CHF 1.5 million raised in the most recent fund-raising round