On Tuesday, pandemic-era biosafety company, R-Zero, announced the acquisition of CoWorkr — a company that develops living room sensors. The acquisition marks a shift in focus for R-Zero as people return to work, vaccines are administered and companies that have emerged in response to COVID-19 adapt to the second phase of the pandemic.
When R-Zero was founded in April 2020, the company focused primarily on developing hospital-grade UVC disinfection systems, or lights that could neutralize certain types of viruses (more on this later). ). As the companies scrambled for ways to clean up the buildings, the company raised a total of $58.8 million in funding at a valuation of $256.5 million. R-Zero now has approximately 1,000 private and public sector clients ranging from correctional facilities to the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, to the South San Francisco Unified School District.
CoWorkr was founded in 2014 and has invested a total of $200,000 in seed funding, per crunchbase.
R-Zero founder Grant Morgan says that with the acquisition of CoWorkr, R-Zero plans to develop an Internet of Things-style sensor network that will manage both personnel and workplace cleanliness. The company is moving beyond simply disinfecting the air and surfaces, and will focus on managing the flow of people (and viruses and bacteria) in public places.
“It’s like an OS for the workplace. That’s what we’re building: tools that help create and maintain an indoor environment with health and productivity at its core,” Morgan tells ClearTips.
Elizabeth Redmond and Keenan May, both co-founders of CoWorkr, will remain in full-time roles, where they will run a corporate real estate initiative, and develop an IoT capability.
“We have spent a lot of time with our clients to understand and understand our clients’ initiatives, particularly in commercial real estate,” Redmond told ClearTips.
“The majority are moving to a hybrid working scenario and that means you know they really need occupancy information,” she continues. “Our initiative to associate with R-Zero highlights much of what the future of hybrid work looks like and what the future of commercial real estate looks like.”
Pre-Coworker, R-Zero’s flagship product was a UVC light called the Arc – a rectangular light that can be rotated into office space once janitor employees leave the office. It also offered a product called Arc Air, an air filter that also uses UVC light to kill germs, and can be used in occupied spaces.
UVC lights had a brief moment of fame in mid-2020 for several reasons: They seemed like powerful ways to disinfect communal spaces, and something for companies to implement tech-based solutions for COVID-19. There were incentives.
UVC lights have been used for decades in hospitals to clean surfaces such as scanners or to clean the air when UV is poured into air ducts. Studies have shown that it can be flu virus in the air. Limited evidence also noted that UVC may also be deactivating. SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus By destroying the outer protein coating of the virus.
These lights were also used in real life during the pandemic. For example, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority purchased $1 million Each evening’s worth of UVC lights to disinfect subway cars. The CARES Act passed in March 2020 was to allow companies and public sector institutions to access government loans purchase cleaning servicesIncluding UV illumination.
Still, some consumer-facing lamps have gotten their fair share. Criticism. For one, if people are in contact with them for a long time, they can cause eye injury or irritation. A review UVC Disinfection (in particular, written by two scientists with ties to a UVC disinfection company) offered a clear assessment that “claims of unscientific performance” were “pervasive” in the nascent industry.
For its part, there’s a third-party test called R-Zero’s Arc—it was shown to reduce 99.99% of two viruses: a common cold coronavirus, and a surrogate for norovirus—on surfaces. It was also 99.99% effective at killing e coli and methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Despite some back-and-forth on the usefulness of UVC lights as a disinfection technology, some analysts suggest the industry is going nowhere (for one, LG has entered UV based cleaning spot). Tim Mulrooney, a commercial services equity analyst for William Blair The told Washington Post That we are living through a “paradigm shift” in the way people think about cleanliness.
2020 polling shows that cleaning procedures were top of mind for employees and customers alike. out of 3,000 people Survey By Deloitte, 64% of employees said that regular cleaning of shared spaces was important to them and 62% of customers wanted surfaces to be cleaned after each interaction. (This is despite evidence that surfaces are not believed to spread COVID-19.)
At this point, it is unclear how the rise of vaccines may affect perceptions of office cleanliness. But Morgan is betting that companies (and employees) are now more aware of the germs among us than they may have been pre-pandemic, and will be eager for ways to control their spread — including in an office. It involves managing the flow of people within. .
For R-Zero that means moving from UVC disinfection to a focus on occupancy management, with the acquisition of CoWorkr.
Morgan calls CoWorkr’s sensors the “eyes and ears” of the R-Zero. R-Zero plans to announce two UVC-based products that address the cleanliness of the air in occupied spaces, and will use CoWorkr’s sensors to ensure “complete automation.”
For example, coworker’s battery-powered thermal sensors allow employers to know which rooms are being occupied in an office. He says that information could help trigger the use of UV-based air filters or other cleaning products.
That information may tell the janitor staff to clean the room more thoroughly that evening—or conversely, skip cleaning a room that hasn’t been touched all day.
“What our customers are seeing is they are getting immediate ROI. Our customers are reducing labor costs by 30-40%,” says Morgan.
Overall, Morgan says, the company is optimistic on the idea that people will still crave a clean workspace; Perhaps due to some “scar tissue” from the pandemic, he notes.
“In almost 100% of cases, our clients are viewing this as a long-term investment,” says Morgan.