Green Challenge

What is your business proposition?
Briefly describe your product / service

Ten percent of the world’s residential power is wasted by electronic equipment in standby mode.

BlackRemote technology provides consumers a simple and transparent method for reducing energy loss in home electronic devices. Television sets, DVD/Blu-ray players, video game consoles, and portable music devices all consume electricity when plugged in but turned off.  This energy drain, often referred to as vampire or phantom energy loss, is largely due to devices listening for remote control signals.

The BlackRemote gives users a simple way to conserve energy.  The initial setup involves plugging the BlackRemote into a standard electrical outlet and plugging components of an entertainment system such as a television, DVD/Blu Ray player, and video game console into the BlackRemote.  (Some equipment, such as a DVR require constant power to function properly and would not be used with the BlackRemote.)   Once the initial setup is complete, the remote control used to operate the entertainment system is placed in the cradle of the BlackRemote.  This causes an electrical switch in the cradle to completely disconnect power to the components of the system– eliminating phantom power loss. When the consumer wants to use the system removing the remote from the cradle restores power to the system.

This technology can also be incorporated into individual devices such as portable music devices which include a remote control.  Incorporating a remote control cradle into the main device with an electrical switch would provide the same functionality as described above.

What makes your product/service special and why is it needed?

While the daily cost of a single device is insignificant to an individual consumer, the total cost, both economical and environmental, is quite large.  A study by the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (http://www.energy.unsw.edu.au/NewsInfoStandbyPower.shtml) estimates the percentage of residential power consumption from appliances in standby mode is as follows:

Japan 9.4%,
United Kingdom 8%
Australia 11.6%.

While a majority of consumers are willing to take steps to reduce their own power consumption, the design of most electronic devices does not lend itself to understanding the standby energy costs.  A Playstation2, the most successful game console ever built, contains an active infrared sensor despite the fact that a remote control device is not included with the standard console.   This leads many users of this device to be unaware their PS2 is drawing power when not in use.  A standard television set while turned off but plugged in does not give any outward appearances of consuming electricity such as noise from a fan or lights.

The BlackRemote technology allows for a simple consumer-friendly method to address this problem.  The initial setup requires no special tools or intimate knowledge of how the equipment works, and the daily use only requires placing the remote in the cradle when not in use.  While consumers could achieve the same effects by using a power strip and turning the strip off when not in use, incorporating the power switch into the remote cradle helps eliminate the extra step of disconnecting power to the system.

How will your product/service reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Include how you will measure reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/greentips/energy-vampires.html), phantom energy, across all U.S. households, adds up to an estimated 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. This extra electricity sends more than 87 billion pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.  Calculating how much energy is saved by each BlackRemote unit sold would depend on assumptions of the type and number of electronic components turned off by this technology.  However, even a modest 10% reduction of phantom energy loss would eliminate billions of pounds of carbon dioxide.

Explain the production process and development process.
– How and when do you want to develop your product/service
– What resources do you need?
– How will you get access to these resources?

Many companies currently possess the technology to utilize BlackRemote technology.   Therefore, the main objective to realize these goals is to license the technology to other companies better positioned to produce, develop, manufacture, and distribute the physical product. The first step of the process involved obtaining a United States Patent.  The U.S. Patent 7825545 for “Energy Conservation and Control Systems” was granted by the United States Patent Office on November 19, 2009.

The next step in the process is to get in touch with companies with a similar product line.  This is currently where the BlackRemote technology is working on having more success.  Companies such as Logitech already produce remote control devices which include a cradle for charging the remote control’s batteries.  Adding a simple mechanical switch and extra electrical outlets would be a simple enhancement that would greatly improve the product’s market value. Also, companies have been producing portable music devices with an attached remote control holder.  Adding a small switch to this device would be very simple to implement.

In order to move forward in this process hiring an outside company to help market the idea would be a helpful option.  Another choice would be to hire an individual with experience in the industry to contact companies directly who might find this technology useful.  Getting access to these resources is dependent on the visibility that BlackRemote can generate and the financial resources available to hire additional employees.

What do you need besides money to turn your idea into a successful product or service?

BlackRemote would benefit from establishing relationships with individuals with experience bringing new product ideas to existing electronic manufacturers.  Having no prior experience in this industry has proven to be the biggest challenge for BlackRemote.  Also, getting a foot in the door with a single company would vastly improve our ability to contact additional companies.

Introduce yourself, your qualities, and motivate why you are the
person to realize this idea in a successful way.

My name is Omar Lutfey and I am the founder of BlackRemote technology. I have degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, but in recent years I’ve developed an interest in residential energy conservation.  I believe that small, well thought out changes that can be implemented by millions of households is the best chance for basement inventors like myself to succeed in making a significant change to our environment.  I’ve made significant progress up to this point with the resources at my disposal, and I am eager to see BlackRemote realize it’s full potential.

Who is on your team, and how are you organized?
What expertise and experience is already present, and what are you
still looking for?

I am the only one working on this project at the moment.   Adding individuals well versed in sales and marketing is the main focus of future expansion plans.

Have you involved technical and/or financial partners?
What are their roles, motivations, ties and commitments?

I have hired patent lawyers to help design and submit the patent.  They are not directly involved in any of the efforts to market and develop the technology.

What other stakeholders will be involved in your business?

Currently there are no other stakeholders, but I would like to see this change as the profile of BlackRemote increases.

MARKET MARKETING AND SALES
Specify your target market and why you selected this specific market
– Describe the main characteristics of your potential customer base
and their demand
– Explain why you selected this specific customer group/groups

The target market for the BlackRemote is households with home entertainment centers that include multiple components.   These customers would have the means to spend at least $1000 (USD) in electronic equipment for their entertainment system, but would also see value in saving up to $100 a year on their annual electricity bill.  This market was selected because they would be interested in saving money and helping the environment.

Describe the structure of your target market
– Main competitors, suppliers, other companies
– Similar or complementary products or services
– Market share of players

The main competitors to the BlackRemote product would be existing companies who currently offer residential power saving devises.  This would include companies such as Belkin which offer smart power strips which turn off auxiliary devices when it detects the main device has gone into standby mode.  An example of this device can be found at http://www.belkin.com/conserve/smartav/.  This device has the advantage of being completely transparent to the use, but has disadvantages that it doesn’t turn off power to the main device (usually the television) and it is more complicated to manufacture and would therefore be more expensive than a BlackRemote device.  Complimentary devices to the BlackRemote would include universal remote control devices which already include a remote cradle.  An example of such a product line would be the line of Logitech Harmony universal remotes.  These devices range in price from $40 up to $400, with the high end models including a remote cradle to recharge the batteries of the remote. Adding the BlackRemote technology to this product line would involve minimal effort, and in return the devices could be marketed as being an energy and money saving device.  While Logitech is widely considered the gold standard of universal remote controls, countless other companies sell universal remote controls and could benefit greatly from this expanded functionality.

Describe the market size and the market potential for your product or service in this target market.

A recent survey at http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/med_tel-media-televisions estimates the total number of television in the word at more than 1.4 billion. According to a recent Nielsens report at http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/1149-million-us-television-homes-estimated-for-2009-2010-season/, the United States alone contains 114.9 million television households.  While neither report breaks down how many of these household’s televisions contain remote control functionality, the market for BlackRemote is enormous.  Every household with a remote controlled television could benefit from this technology.

What will your product or service cost?
-What are your sales targets, and how will you achieve them?

Given the simplicity of this technology along with the ability of manufacturers to produce the product in large quantities, I would estimate the BlackRemote to sell for under $10-$20 per unit.  This price would be particularly appealing to customers knowing they would recover the cost in a few months, and from that point on save money every month on their electricity bill.  The sales targets are largely dependent on the ability to produce and distribute the product on a large scale.

How will you inform your (potential) customers about your product?

Once manufacturing and distribution plans are in place a marketing strategy will be implemented focusing on popular media, environmentally minded websites, and in-store promotions.

SWOT ANALYSIS

Strengths
A simple, useful product backed by a United States Patent
Weaknesses
Lack of experience in the industry, limited financial resources
Opportunities
Working with existing companies to license this technology
Threats
Products with similar functionality, companies using technology without compensation

FINANCING AND OTHER SUPPORT
How much money do you require to realise your idea?

Honestly, I do not know.  I could spend an unlimited amount of money promoting this idea to various companies before achieving any financial success.  I could also spend large amounts of money on creating, manufacturing, and selling the product on my own.  I am trying to find a reasonable middle ground where I can get the product to the largest market possible while still being able to recoup the existing investments and realize a reasonable profit for my efforts.

I do not have any formal balance sheets for my product.  My current financial investments in this concept involve money spent on the patent (lawyer fees and patent filing fees) which have totalled around $6000 and creating and maintaining the BlackRemote.com website which cost less then $100 a year.

What will you do with the prize money if you win the Postcode Lottery
Green Challenge?

I would invest the money in the BlackRemote concept in the area of marketing the idea to relevant companies to establish licensing agreements.  While I feel that I have done a respectable job on my efforts up to this point, I understand that taking this idea to the next level is going to require individuals with more experience in areas such as marketing and promotions.

How did you find out about the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge?

I was searching the Internet for websites that related to new ideas in residential energy conservation and I found a link to Dean Gregory, the 2009 winner with the rooftop wind turbine.  I thought that was a really well thought out idea that eliminates many of the problems of residential wind generation.  I looked around the Postcode lottery website and was sold on submitting my idea when I saw the former mayor of Amsterdam riding the unicycle.

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