Different things motivate techies to start a business. For some, it’s all about being their own boss or making a fortune with an outstanding idea.Others are driven by more altruistic intentions– to use technology to create a better world for the benefit of all.Science Park company CityTone’s founder and CEO Steven Yeung certainly belongs in this camp.
CityTone, set up in 2010, develops energy management software. Steven and a co-founder worked together at first to develop management software for a friend’s smart meter business. They became aware of a keen demand for integrated energy management software in the market because businesses and family households were often shocked by exorbitant power bills yet had no way of knowing which installations or appliances were guzzling power, and hence no way of managing their energy use efficiently.
An integrated energy monitoring platform
CityTone provides the solution with its Cloud Energy Management Platform (CEMP). It can be integrated with monitoring devices such as sensors and meters to collect energy use data and generate a report offering a full picture of energy use at a glance. This serves as a reference for developing solutions to moderate energy use and minimise power bills.
CityTone is a software developer specialising in writing software. The hardware in their energy management solution comes from their partners, except for a small IoT Gateway that was non-existent in the market and they had to develop from scratch.
The company’s clientele is diverse, ranging from cafes and restaurants to commercial buildings and factories. By installing sensors on circuit boards, CityTone’s platform can monitor air-conditioning systems, boilers and lighting and computer systems, and then apply energy-saving measures such as adjusting temperatures and brightness and setting timers to turn off equipment.
Meeting commercial energy monitoring needs
Different businesses have their unique energy monitoring needs. The specialised nature of factory production lines, for example, requires dedicated sensors and thermostats to help assess how energy saving practices affect equipment performance. CEMP uses a common data transmission protocol to connect all hardware to collect data and regulate energy use.
CityTone provides a recommended hardware suppliers list including suppliers in mainland China, Taiwan, Britain and Germany. It is very much like a “supermarket”in which customers can choose hardware freely, Steven says.
In terms of its business model, CityTone maintains an energy management contract with each client. The fee is based on potential savings, excluding the hardware costs. For example, if a company’s monthly power bill is $10,000, and CityTone estimates that it can help the company save $4,000, it will offer a guarantee of lowering the power bill to $6,000, and charges a service fee of $2,000 in return. The client will still save $2,000.
Ample market opportunities in the smart energy market
Steven thinks that Hong Kong businesses have significant room to save energy. The data-rich reports generated by CEMP are able to prove that the energy savings meet customers’ expectations. However, CityTone has found that it’s pitch to prospective customers is even more convincing when it presents jointly with a partner such as an LED lighting supplier.
A majority of CityTone’s customers are in Hong Kong and mainland China. CEMP can be used with the company’s Cloud Production Information System (CPIS) to monitor energy use and efficiency at the same time.
Steven points out that as mainland China is applying increasingly stringent conservation rules, the company’s solutions for monitoring a factory’s CO2 emissions will be a big help to the local businesses. This is helping to fuel its growth in China.
HKSTP helps expand customer and partner networks
CityTone moved into Science Park in 2012 and graduated from HKSTP’s Incu-Tech programme in 2015. Stevens says that the Technology from Science Park programme has been most helpful for business development. Through the programme, the company has connected with a host of potential clients and business partners, including listed companies. As well, he is thankful to the HKSTP Incu-App and technology clusters teams for providing very useful suggestions.
CityTone is continuing its R&D to ramp up the functionalities of its software platform, such as introducing smart control technology. Steven says that despite keen competition in the market, CityTone still has an edge –its rich experience and a solid lineup of solutions integrating software and hardware give it great flexibility and functionality. He is pleased to be involved in an environmentally friendly stream of technology that helps the company’s clients as much as themselves, while contributing to sustainable development in society.