Posted on April 23, 2019 by staff

Smart home tech firm Hero Labs to double headcount


London start-up Hero Labs plans to double in size in six months as it prepares for the release of its artificial intelligence-powered leak detector.

The firm’s ‘Sonic’ detector fits under any standard tap and connects to a mobile app which shows when water is being used in the home in real-time.

Due to be available in the UK in the autumn, the ultrasound technology can also spot anything unusual – such as a slow dripping tap to a burst water pipe – by referencing AI algorithms.

It can then send alerts through the app to automatically shut off the water supply, preventing damage to homes and wasted water. This problem costs the UK £2.5 million a day – £900m a year – according to the company’s founder Krystian Zajac, who revealed plans to expand the start-up’s workforce from 15 to 35.

“This is the heart of the product. We want to help people stop bad things from happening and we want to educate them as well,” he told BusinessCloud.

“Whether it’s the end user, the property developer who needs to guarantee the infrastructure working for five years from the moment they build a house, or insurers who need to stop leaks because they cost them a lot of money.

“Also utility providers because they waste three billion litres of water every single day in the infrastructure so these are really huge numbers.

“Out of the three billion litres, 800 million happen in people’s homes so I think everyone can benefit from our product.”

Zajac said that the product could give people peace of mind about their elderly relatives.

“I’ve got elderly parents and I like to make sure they are well. Many companies try to suggest invasive solutions such as putting cameras in your parents or grandparents homes, which is really invasive for me, this is something I would never do,” he said.

“I am putting a Sonic in my parents’ apartment, because it will stop leaks from happening if there is ever a problem, but also as an additional use, they can add me as a user as part of what we call a ‘circle of trust’ – that way I know that they put the kettle on in the morning, so just by quickly looking into the app it gives me peace of mind that they are going about their lives and nothing bad happened to them.”

Zajac moved from Poland to England in 2001, initially working as a waiter until he set up his own IT consultancy in 2003.

Then in 2010 he was approached by a multi-billionaire home owner who asked him to install home gadgets across his 15 global properties. The experience taught Zajac that his passion was to solve problems in people’s homes.

“Leaks are really painful to deal with – anyone who has suffered with a leak will tell you that it’s the end of the world sometimes for them,” he said.

“Sometimes leaks can damage properties that are irreplaceable. Documents, art or even old photographs – this is something that no money can ever replace.

“We understand and many of our families and friends have suffered from a leak so this is something that is close to my heart.”

In 2015 he built a prototype of the product, but parked the idea to co-found smarter home insurance firm Neos. After selling his share to Aviva in late 2018, he exited the company to focus on Sonic.

“Neos was a very nice experience, but still didn’t solve real-life problems,” he explained.

“Putting a camera into someone’s home will help you learn about them and manage them, but it’s not going to stop bad things from happening.”