A minion to track electricity usage

Gokul Shrinivas

How does one monitor the electricity consumption of each device? It is a question that vexes everyone grappling with multiple devices and trying to cut down on electricity consumption. Most energy monitoring devices capture data from the energy consumption of a facility or recording the individual energy consumption of each device. This would require the installation of multiple energy meters with complex wiring and intrusions.

This was the problem that Gokul Shrinivas and Jeyakumar decided to address with the Minion, a smart device that can be plugged into the main circuit and discern how much electricity is consumed by each device. The duo went on to set up a company, Minion Labs in 2016.  

The Bengaluru-based startup was among the five startups selected by Facebook and Invest India to receive nearly Rs 35 lakh each ($50,000) as seed funding to further country-first products.

On the journey

A freak injury on the hockey field cut his playing career short and forced Gokul Shrinivas to try something different. His grades in school were not very high and he struggled to find a good job.

He won a coding contest and bagged a job at Amazon. Working in the Kindle division, he wanted to do something different. He built the Minion in 2015, as a monitoring device and formally set up Minion Labs the following year with his friend.

What does the Minion do

Unlike other smart meters and sensors, the minion uses Machine Learning (ML) and deep learning techniques and leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to disaggregate the net electricity consumption of a building.

It tends to learn about the consumption pattern of each device and can tell users the consumption patterns.  It is powered by more than 10 million-plus data points, a database of over 10,000 hours of energy signatures and currently monitors more than 1 lakh assets in real-time, the company says. The company claims an accuracy rate of 98.24% and says that their algorithm can even identify the power source of the device whether it’s a power grid, diesel generator or a green energy source.

Shrinivas says, “It senses electricity consumption (for offices, shopping malls, hospitals, and even individual houses) and streams it to the server through the internet. It is a device that can disaggregate the whole building’s electricity consumption.”

He points out, “It does not require multiple sensors or devices such as plugins and so on. Once it is installed, users can simply log on and check the electricity connection of the devices. All they need is a functioning internet connection.”

How does it work?

Shrinivas says that the minion is based on a machine learning approach that uses automation to train its algorithm. The algorithm captures voltage and energy signatures to identify individual assets used and study patterns of their consumption. “For instance, your refrigerator and TV will be using electricity in a different manner. This device studies the patterns and will let you know the exact amount both the devices consume.”

Presently, MinionLabs is focussing on commercial buildings, mostly hotels, retailers, and hospitals. Some of its clients include Fortis Hospital, Saudi Aramco and Gopalan Signature mall in Bengaluru. 

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