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A Tribute to Mark Kerbel, Founder of Encycle Corporation (1975-2017)

Can you imagine a world where the electric light bulb did not exist? Or where the comfort of air conditioning had yet to be discovered. Now we’re on the cusp of a new future where battery-powered electric motors are replacing fossil fuel combustion engines, promising a sweeping transformation of the transportation industry. We’re also living in an exciting era where AI-enhanced technology like Swarm Logic® is driving significant reductions in energy consumption by managing clusters of air conditioning units that sit atop commercial building rooftops.

Swarm Logic, you ask? Yes, Swarm Logic, but more about that later.

The truth is we’d be nowhere as an advanced society without visionaries like Thomas Edison, Willis Carrier, Elon Musk, Mark Kerbel, and thousands of others who – like Kerbel –never garnered global name recognition but were avant-gardes, nonetheless. Through their idealist dreams, boldness, and passion for innovation, these titans of industry transformation and sustainability blazed the trail for a brighter future. Individually, they created ripple effects that made it possible, either intentionally or by default, to use energy and the world’s resources more wisely.

Thomas Edison: A century ahead of his time

Thomas Edison’s company, The Edison Electric Light Company, introduced the incandescent light bulb in 1879. Up to that point in time, for millenniums, mankind created light through combustion. People burned wood, oil, or anything else that would sustain fire. The oil lamp was the immediate predecessor to the electric light bulb. So, imagine if the electric bulb was never invented and the seven billion humans currently inhabiting the planet burned oil to light their homes. Now THAT would create a very severe emissions problem. Thanks, Mr. Edison, for your early invention. You are a sustainability hero – even though we suspect you never heard of that term.

Interestingly, Mr. Edison’s lightbulb continued as the technology of choice for almost a century. And then, in the 1960s, the LED (light-emitting diode) bulb was invented, gaining serious traction in commercial markets during the 1980s. Now using up to 90% less energy and lasting up to 25 times longer than comparable incandescent bulbs, LEDs represent a giant leap forward for sustainability initiatives, many of which have already been implemented across the globe.

Elon Musk: Accelerating the transition to sustainable energy with electric cars

The charismatic and often controversial visionary entrepreneur, Elon Musk, is the co-founder or founder of many giant enterprises, including PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink. Perhaps more than any other influential tech leader, Mr. Musk has made it his mission to tackle global warming. Earlier this year, the CEO of Tesla, an American manufacturer of electric automobiles and solar panels, announced the company would donate $100 million to whoever came up with the best carbon-capture technology.

Mr. Musk is regarded as the father of the electric car, dedicated to accelerating sustainable transportation by bringing mass-market electric cars into fruition in the very near future. As of 2018, the transportation sector accounted for 28% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States.1 While large contributions to emissions reductions will likely not be made for at least another decade, electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to completely decarbonize the U.S. transportation sector.

Willis Carrier: The father of air conditioning

In the early 1900s, Willis Carrier fulfilled one of humanity’s most desirable needs for comfort when he invented the first commercial air conditioning unit. Then an emerging technology, air conditioning allowed industries to flourish and virtually uninhabitable geographies to become thriving metropolises. Eventually, air conditioners powered by Carrier made it possible for heat-producing computers and servers to power the internet.

Of course, this remarkable invention didn’t come without trade-offs. In the quest to control indoor temperature and humidity, air conditioners became the highest electric-consuming devices on the planet. Driven by environmental impact concerns over the past several decades, AC manufacturers started taking incremental steps to make their equipment more energy efficient. Manufacturing ENERGY STAR certified products that meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards helps consumers use less energy, thus reducing GHG emissions that contribute to climate change.

Still, commercial air conditioners (generally rooftop units or RTUs) consume approximately 40% of a building’s total energy consumption. All these RTUs are controlled individually, either by a thermostat or sensor, that tells the unit when to turn on and off. This deficiency left Mark Kerbel, the next titan of industry transformation and sustainability, wondering whether he could develop a control technology to optimize AC systems the way LED technology optimized lighting systems.

Mark Kerbel: Taking efficiency cues from nature to AC optimization

Remember the earlier references to Mark Kerbel? Maybe his name isn’t as familiar as other illustrious contributors to society, but Mr. Kerbel played a vital role in helping today’s commercial and industrial enterprise-level companies significantly reduce their energy consumption.

Equipped with an engineering and electrical background, Mr. Kerbel was a thought leader on emergent systems theory and a believer in environmental capitalism. He felt businesses could be economically profitable but also be socially and environmentally responsible. He became fascinated with the concept of biomimicry, admiring the efficiency in which honeybees conducted their daily affairs by using simple rules that governed their individual actions. Applying this swarm intelligence, Mr. Kerbel invented a transformational energy management software called Swarm Logic and co-founded Encyle in 2005.

Swarm Logic solved the energy inefficiencies associated with commercial AC rooftop units operating individually without data-driven decision sets. Mr. Kerbel’s unique technology enabled RTUs to work together and communicate every five minutes, adjusting their operating status in response to ever-changing conditions like outdoor temperature and building occupancy levels. With his first patents under his belt, Mr. Kerbel’s technology innovation demonstrated proven energy savings as high as 25%.

Today, Swarm Logic is deployed across thousands of facilities. Energy and sustainability officers of leading Fortune 500 companies are recognizing Swarm Logic as “the next big thing” in energy efficiency since the LED revolution. Encycle customers have saved millions of dollars in energy costs and avoided over 68,000 tons of GHG emissions with Swarm Logic, thanks to Mr. Kerbel’s passion for sustainability.

Of course, this is just the beginning. Try envisioning a future where every enterprise organization adopts Swarm Logic to reduce their HVAC energy and related emissions. It’s easy to imagine since the energy-as-a-service (EaaS) offering requires no capital investment. In the next decade alone, Swarm Logic has the potential to completely transform the HVAC controls industry by delivering unprecedented, autonomous energy savings that rival the sustainability gains achieved through LED technology transitions.

Collectively, we owe Mark Kerbel the utmost gratitude for his invention of Swarm Logic that undoubtedly placed him among the company of stellar individuals whose innovative minds have helped improve the planet. Thank you, Mark. You will indeed be remembered as a Transformation Titan!

On November 29, 2017, we lost Mark Kerbel to a valiant battle with cancer. He was an outstanding friend, founder, and visionary. This article is dedicated to Mark, who made a profound and lasting impact on the world.

Author: Author: Robert M. Chiste, Chairman and CEO, Encycle Corporation

1 McConnell, Virginia, and Benjamin Leard. “Progress and Potential for Electric Vehicles to Reduce Carbon Emissions.” Resources for the Future, 8 Dec. 2020, https://www.rff.org/publications/reports/potential-role-and-impact-evs-us-decarbonization-strategies/.

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