Global Water Center helps young company get started

Noah Technologies Inc.

Innovation: A water leak detection sensor for use in homes or businesses.

It’s been two months since the Global Water Center celebrated its grand opening, which means the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator program is well underway.

At the press conference for the grand opening, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) chief executive officer Reed Hall said the Global Water Center is the most impactful effort the WEDC has worked on. The effort includes an initiative in which four startups were accepted into an initial six-month accelerator program, each receiving a $50,000 grant and office space in the Global Water Center.

One of those companies is Noah Technologies Inc., which moved its office there from Port Washington.

WEDC communications manager Mark Maley said the selection process that resulted in Noah Technologies being chosen for the accelerator involved a review by experts from The Water Council and other organizations to evaluate how they fit in with the mission of the Global Water Center.

Maley said the funding was specifically designed for startup costs, and that there is certain criteria that companies need to accomplish throughout the program.

“The companies are receiving payments in three tranches: start of the program, another portion after training milestones have been achieved and final payment at the conclusion of the six-month program,” said Maley.

Noah Technologies president David Rice said that being in the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator is having a major impact on the business.

“What we have found is how incredibly helpful this place is and how useful it is to us,” he said. “We’re learning how to run a business much better.”

Rice said the impact of the Global Water Center and the accelerator program has been seen in building more contacts and connections to develop the business, and also through collaborative classes run by the WEDC.

“We all come together and solve each other’s problems,” said Rice. “The collaboration is so fantastic.”

The product that Noah Technologies has developed is called Intelli-Sensor, an advanced water leak detection sensor for use in homes or businesses that is manufactured in Milwaukee.

When a leak is detected, Intelli-Sensor does two things; it shuts the water supply, and it sends an alarm notification via text message and email to the property owner, manager or other chosen contacts.

Shutting off the water supply is automated and happens nearly instantaneously and the notification message is sent in less than five minutes after a leak occurs.

Some of the product’s technology is fairly simple – the Intelli-Sensor runs on standard AAA batteries – but the actual sensor is more advanced, differentiating it from others on the market, said Rice.

As opposed to other technology that senses leaks using conductivity, the Intelli-Sensor uses electromagnetic fields, giving it a broader range of what it’s able to detect and allowing it to do so in a more controlled manner.

“Many water sensors were on two little pins that, when water touches them, it detects the conductivity through the water – those are everywhere,” said Rice. “This works with an electromagnetic antenna that sends out an electromagnetic field that measures over a wide area where the water is. It’s precisely controlled. It’s not just a little pinpoint where the water is, it’s over an area.”

Rice, along with company vice president Dan Fish, started the company in early 2011. Rice, an electronic engineer from England who moved to Milwaukee for work 15 years ago, has spent his career in research and development and developed the patented Intelli-Sensor. Fish is a Florida-based contractor and is handling the sales and marketing for Noah Technologies.

In part because of Fish’s connections to and knowledge of the real estate market in Florida, the company is targeting condominiums there as a market to sell the Intelli-Sensor.

“We are aiming at expensive, high-rise condos in southwest Florida, at the moment,” said Rice. “The reason for that is, they’ve got the money and many of those condos have poor plumbing and have lots of plumbing issues.”

One of those issues is leaks in cavity walls. Rice said detecting those types of leaks is something the Intelli-Sensor can do, but other sensors on the market cannot.

Being in the Global Water Center is allowing the business to move forward in different ways. Rice has worked with a number of the building’s tenants, including Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and A.O. Smith, and plans to remain in the building even after the six-month accelerator program is completed.

“We’re getting so much from being here, we will probably continue to rent office space in this building, at least for the six months after (the accelerator program),” said Rice. “Coming here has really made the difference. We would not have been able to do what we’ve done unless we were here.”

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