UWI, Mona churns out next generation of entrepreneurs
Everyone dreams. But not everyone has the tenacity to turn dreams into reality. Yekini Wallen-Bryan, chief executive officer and managing director of Preelabs Ltd seems to have what it takes. Through sheer tenacity, Wallen-Bryan has produced a technological device called PowerPree which allows users to control and monitor his/her electrical appliances from anywhere in the world from their smartphone or computer. He is marketing this device through Preelabs Ltd and the product will be officially launched on the local market by mid-2017.
Wallen-Bryan has been making automated systems as a hobby since he was an undergraduate student at The UWI, Mona where he pursued a double major in Electronics and Energy & Environmental Physics. He graduated in 2016 with a BSc Upper Second Class Honours degree, and is currently doing an MPhil in Electronics.
Wallen-Bryan… We recommend that consumers attach as many appliances to a PowerPree as possible to adequately manage their overall energy usage
This 22 year-old Wolmer’s old boy never views shortcomings as failures, constantly analyses setbacks, picks himself up, and tries again. “The reason I have been able to accomplish what I have is because I have tried a lot of things, and I keep trying every time I fall short. The experience I get from working hard is invaluable. A lot of people give up after falling short after working hard because giving up is easy and can be tempting,” he said.
His love for making technological solutions led him to join and captain The UWI Robotics Team during 2015 - 2016. Under his captaincy, the Robotics team entered a robot that operated a scaled-down version of a shipping wharf in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) SouthEastCon Robotics competition in Norfolk, Virginia, last year. The team placed third amongst 42 US universities. The robot was designed to autonomously navigate the course, and identify and sort shipping containers for transport via rail, truck or sea, based on the colour, size and barcode of the containers.
While doing his double major, Wallen-Bryan created several other electronic solutions, his first being a substitute, automatic switch which turns on lights in the event of a power failure. Another one of his ideas is a motion sensor alarm system for the home which goes off if someone enters without inserting the correct password. He also formulated a device that switches a pond water pump from electrical power to solar-charged battery power during a power outage.
After all these inventions, he landed his big breakthrough in February 2016 when he entered and won the GreenTech Startup Boot Camp hosted by the World Bank and the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) with the pitch for the PowerPree device. This led to the start of his own company – Preelabs Ltd – with funding from the World Bank through the CCIC. PreeLabs Ltd is a company that develops technological products and offers custom, automated systems solutions. The namesake product of the company is the PowerPree. Some of the team members who entered the competition along with Wallen-Bryan are currently working with him and making several prototypes of the product.
“We did our market research to find out the challenges facing business places and homeowners when trying to manage their energy usage, and we used that to tailor the features of our product. The core feature of PowerPree is to inform and report on how much energy is being used in kilowatt hours and Jamaican dollars,” Wallen-Bryan said.
A sample of the PreeLabs brochure
PowerPree can also be used to turn on/off appliances via the smartphone or computer from anywhere in the world. “This feature has practical applications in the everyday lives of a range of individuals – from businesspeople and homeowners. For example, after ironing your clothes, you leave for work and wonder if you left your iron on. With the PowerPree device you don’t have to wonder or return home to check, you can continue on your journey to work and PowerPree will let you know whether you left it on or off, how much energy you’re using, as well as give you the option to turn it off, thus preventing any unwanted fires or abnormally high light bills,” Wallen-Bryan explained.
Screen 1 - screen of the app showing different appliances that use the PowerPree system
Set-up for the PowerPree is also fairly simple. You simply plug your electrical appliance into the PowerPree plug, download the app or log into the PowerPree webpage, connect it to your Wi-Fi router and you’re ready to go in a few minutes. There is also a switch version for in-wall fixtures such as light or heater switches. “With PowerPree you can also set the water heater to turn on before you wake up in the morning so that the water is warm when you are ready for it, thus allowing you to have a warm shower at just the right temperature as soon as you go under the shower. The device can also turn off the heater for you when you leave for work or go to bed,” Wallen-Bryan said.
“We recommend that consumers attach as many appliances to a PowerPree as possible to adequately manage their overall energy usage and, as such, we plan to offer substantial discounts for multiple orders. With PowerPree you will not have to wonder about your light bill and wait for the post-mortem; you can be provided with a projected estimate of what your bill will be like weeks before you actually receive it,” Wallen-Bryan added.
Wallen-Bryan likes the concept of problem-solving, and considers himself a problem-solver. “I am very passionate about using technology to solve problems. It is a powerful tool to not only know how much energy you are using at any given time in dollars, but to also be able to do something about it. Additionally, this contributes to the bigger picture. The more conscious we are and the less energy the grid wastes is the more our cost of energy is lowered. This leads to lower energy bills which can trigger bigger things like increased attraction to foreign investors interested in setting up businesses or industry here,” Wallen-Bryan said.
PowerPree will be sold for between $7,000 and $8,000 when it hits the market, and discounts will be available for bulk orders. “Right now, we are beta-testing and getting feedback on the product, which has actually been very positive so far,” Wallen-Bryan affirmed.