Emmet Pierce in Bricks & Bucks
Have you ever wished that your building’s superintendent had an extra pair of eyes and ears? Your wish may finally be coming true. Junction, a New York City-based company, has developed a new product to help co-op and condo supers monitor their building systems, detecting temperature changes, leaks, and mechanical problems before they can cause serious damage.
The JunctionBox device is a sensor system that gathers data, stores it in the cloud, and sends alerts when it detects problems. It monitors such things as air quality, humidity, natural gas, water leaks, and boiler temperatures. Equipped with Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, it begins gathering data as soon as it's plugged in. An online dashboard allows supers and building managers to remotely monitor system functions. The devices contain cameras, which can record both still images and videos.
When a JunctionBox detects something wrong, it immediately sends text and email alerts, says Junction CEO and co-founder Jake Schrader. "All the still and video images are stored for 30 days and the data collected from the sensors is stored forever," says Schrader.
In case of an Internet failure, the unit comes with a cellular modem, which kicks in to guarantee uninterrupted service.
The JunctionBox uses a standard AC power outlet and comes with nine sensors. The device, which is about the size of a large loaf of bread and weighs one pound, costs $499. A service charge of $25 per month or $240 per year pays for Internet hosting, sending alerts and messages, as well as storing data and images. These prices are introductory, Shrader adds, and are likely to rise in the next six months.
The Need for Early Detection
Joe Dedaj, the super of a condo building in Tribeca, says a JunctionBox recently helped him catch a water temperature problem early, before the building's heating and cooling system failed.
"About a week ago I got an alert that the water temperature was climbing," he recalls. "We were able to figure out that the entire system related to the cooling system was off. Rather than units going into failure throughout the complex, were able to avoid it."
William Bonet is the onsite resident manager and operating engineer at 455 Central Park West, a 99-unit condo situated in the landmarked New York Cancer Hospital and a 26-story tower. Bonet says he installed a JunctionBox in the boiler room in February and plans to add a second unit to the chiller room, where air conditioning equipment is kept. He says one of the product's important features is its built-in camera, which functions as a motion detector and tells him when someone has entered the boiler room. Another important feature is the unit's water sensor. “In the event of a leak we get early detection," Bonet says. “It makes my knowledge of what’s happening more complete than ever before. It’s a phenomenal product.”
Jon Walker, who lives in the 68-unit River Lofts condo in Tribeca, brought the JunctionBox to his board's attention because, he says, smaller residential buildings can't afford elaborate building management systems, like the ones that are used to control and monitor equipment in commercial skyscrapers. As a result, the condo board recently agreed to install a JunctionBox.
"We can tell if something is getting out of whack," he said. "It basically is another set of eyes."
A Large Market Potential
Schrader, who co-founded Junction with Bill Gottlieb and Jeff Tarr, is hoping demand for the JunctionBox will grow once co-op and condo boards understand the value of sensor technology.
"In a relatively short time, nobody is going to be comfortable with the notion of hoping things are OK but not being able to understand in real time if they are," he says.
Or as Bonet, of the Central Park West building, puts it, “I can be upstate on vacation and see what’s going on with my systems at all times.”
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