OneWatt: An Ongoing Expansion on Industry 4.0
By Asha Gutierrez
Started by a pair of Filipinos, OneWatt is an AI startup that aims to protect industrial facilities from losing millions due to unplanned motor downtime. They achieve this using their acoustic sensors called EARS (Embedded Acoustic Recognition Sensors). Combining EARS with frequency analysis and machine learning techniques, they provide a non-invasive motor health monitoring solution. OneWatt promises that when your motors complain, they will be there to listen.
The Combination of Great Minds lead to Great Innovation
The company was founded by CEO Emmanuel Bueta and CTO Paolo Samontanez, both graduates of Electronics and Communications Engineering at the University of the Philippines. Lorenzo Yabut, an Interdisciplinary Studies graduate from Ateneo De Manila University, later joined as Marketing Director.
Paolo fancies himself as the ‘think tank’ of the group, constantly dreaming up solutions to problems. Em, on the other hand, grounds and balances his ideas out. Having known each other for more than two decades - both came from Philippine Science, the renowned top high school under DOST - they already know how each other works implicitly.
The Process is What Builds Ideas Up
The idea that would eventually become OneWatt began back in college, when the founders, Emmanuel and Paolo were listening to current DOST USec Rowena Cristina Guevara’s lecture on power systems. “She was talking about the inefficiencies of the Philippine energy grid and she was telling us that the excess energy in the grid is dissipated as waste. Because of this, we were inspired to find a solution to improve the Philippine grid.”, Paolo explains. “So we had the idea of using AI to optimize electricity cost in the Philippines”. The plan was to use AI to predict the electricity market, buy and store electricity when it’s cheap and then use the stored energy when prices peak. During that time, however, the idea was difficult to implement due to market conditions and inexperience starting a business. “The company was still young, batteries were shockingly expensive, and AI was not mainstream yet,” Paolo remarked. Because of this, they dropped the idea until they joined AngelHack in 2015 where they won the first runner-up title. It was a small setback, but they decided to push the project further.
After this, they joined Greenovation, a startup competition organized by DTI and the German Corporation for International Cooperation or GIZ, centered on green technologies. OneWatt won the top prize and received a grant from the German government. They were able to use the grant to build a better prototype.
Eventually, OneWatt started gaining attention. They were supported by ImpactHub and Katalyst and the team got incubated by UP Enterprise to build its network. Under the guidance of Dr. Luis Sison and Jacinto Asuncion Jr., OneWatt refined its business plan and connected with industry partners and key figures.
From here, they were scouted by Rockstart Smart Energy in the Netherlands as one of nine chosen startups - they were the lone Asian representative in the batch. During the program, they found that their solution did not appeal to the global industrial market. Their proposition wasn’t as valuable outside of the Philippines. Undeterred, they dug deeper to find the major pain points in the industrial market. After meeting numerous key players in the industry, they found that the real value in their solution lay in their monitoring module and AI. They found that many industrial facilities suffer from unplanned downtime due to unexpected motor breakdown, which their solution can predict and prevent. It was this eureka moment that spurred the pivot to their current offering.
When asked about the journey of OneWatt, Lorenzo replies, “Some things take time. The idea wasn’t implemented until a full decade after its conception. Patience is key!”
Since then OneWatt has been working with big players in the industrial market in the Netherlands and France and soon Taiwan and Thailand as well.
A Unique Idea with Unlimited Possibilities
When asked how they plan to improve over the next year, they did not hesitate to respond, “Using our Artificial Intelligence has its advantages because we can adapt and cater to any motor regardless of brand or model. Moreover, we can even adapt the technology to expand to other industrial assets - and this is something we’re very excited about. We aim to be the Alexa for industries. Whenever an industrial asset makes a sound, we want to be there to make sense of the noise.” Paolo exclaims.
OneWatt’s main operations are currently based in the Netherlands but have participated in programs in several regions. FOCUS by Usine IO is currently being held in Paris and D-Next by PTT Digital and RISE Accelerator concluded last July in Bangkok.
They also recently won a couple of prizes amounting to $70,000 in InnoVEX held in Taipei. “We were actually the only Philippine representatives there. The rest were from the US, China, and Taiwan during the finals,” Lorenzo said. More recently, they also won Seedstars Manila and will be flying to Switzerland for the world competition as the Philippine representative.
The team is now expanding fast as they improve their product and enhance the business model for new markets that are available. They plan to create a base in Taiwan soon with Lorenzo as the Head of Operations and soon the Philippines and the rest of South East Asia.
When it comes to market size, there are about 500,000,000 industrial motors in the world and this number continually grows every year. Motor condition monitoring alone is worth about $3.5 Billion annually and is expected to quadruple in the next couple of years. OneWatt is now focused on these industrial motors at the moment but they are also looking on to other industrial assets - inching closer towards being a universal solution for Industry 4.0.
Their word to future entrepreneurs, “Embrace failure. Because you can never succeed unless you have failed. Just learn in the process.”
If you are interested, please check their website here.