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50 Leading Companies to Watch 2022

Saving lives and improving health with preemptive fire alarms and air quality detection devices—SAAM Inc.

Saving lives and improving health with preemptive fire alarms and air quality detection devices—SAAM Inc.

A house fire may be one of the most frightening scenarios any homeowner can imagine. A moment of carelessness can destroy a lifetime of treasured mementos and cause severe injury or death. A fire can start instantly and continue to rage until its fuel source is depleted, destroying homes and property.

According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments respond to over 350,000 home structure fires a year nationwide, causing almost $7 billion in direct damage. Far more tragic than property destruction is the more than 2,500 civilian fire deaths and 12,300 civilian fire injuries annually.

Fire detection systems play a pivotal role in safeguarding lives and properties from fires by detecting a fire quickly and accurately and providing early warning notification.

SAAM Inc.’s next-gen S-Series air quality device saves lives by preemptively alerting hazardous conditions and preventing lost lives due to preventable fires. SAAM Inc. is a company dedicated to improving global health and safety through the design and implementation of affordable air quality, smoke, fire, and gas monitoring devices. The firm’s S-Series three-in-one air quality device eliminates the need for multiple detection devices while providing a more comprehensive and cost-effective solution to in-home health and safety.

The following excerpts were taken from conversation with Rob Qualls, Founder and Board Member of SAAM Inc.

Q. How often does your organization assess its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in order to understand the current business climate? 

Often. Our long-term strategy never changed. No one could have predicted the pandemic; however, we were forced to make daily adjustments since we were in a fund-raising mode and new investors were nervous about making investment commitments.  We had to take a step back, bootstrap product development, this delayed our planned strategy, which was to partner with a tier one that had a significant presence in our sensor technology and/or commercial product space. We are now back on track and moving forward at an aggressive pace, thanks to our team and their commitment. This year, SAAM completed a Series A fund raise with a global tier one company with a significant presence in the fire technology and smart sensor space.

Q. How effective is your organization’s strategic vision?

The global market for sensors is estimated to grow from USD$156.6 billion in 2021 to reach USD$249.6 billion by 2026 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% during the forecast period of 2021-2026. The global smart sensor market is expected to grow from USD$45.8 billion in 2022 to USD$104.5 billion by 2027; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.9% during 2022–2027.

Key factors fueling this market’s growth include surging demand for smart sensors in IoT-based devices and consumer electronics; increasing use of smart sensors in revolutionizing industries; high demand for smart sensors by automobile manufacturers to deliver enhanced safety and comfort; and accelerating use of wireless technology to monitor and control security.

As a start-up in an unfamiliar health and safety space, the challenge has been ramping up knowledge of competing technologies, the various market conditions, understanding consumer mindset, and educating ourselves on industry standards and the changes, equally important, convincing investors this was the correct pivot for our company.  What we have done well is all the above and partnering with a global tier-one organization with a long-term presence in the smoke and fire technology space, which from my view is the only strategy that works for our company. If we were to go it alone, the risks increase exponentially. With our strategic vision, we minimize risk by partnering with a company that has decades of smoke and fire technology product development, commercialization, and distribution experience.

Q. How well does your organization strategically differentiate from the competition in terms of the capabilities of its product? How clear is your organization’s strategy for this?

SAAM will introduce a new, novel, patented technology that is different from the standard technology commercial today. The technology utilized in commercial smoke alarms is 50-70 years old, the 70-year-old technology, ionization technology, is in 95% of homes in the USA today and typically will not sound an alarm during the type of fires that occur in homes and business today. 70-years ago ionization technology was perfect for the homes built in the 1950’s, all natural materials to build and furnish a home, so fires would consume property fast. In today’s homes, the furniture and building materials are made of synthetic substances, which are slower to burn and commonly known as “Smoldering fires.” Ionization technology has difficulty detecting this type of fire since by virtue of ionization technology, which contain a small amount of radioactive material that is positioned between two plates with electrical charges, the charge ionizes the air between the plates causing a current to move between the plates, smoke needs to enter the alarm disrupting the air in the ionization technology which causes the alarm to sound. The SAAM Non-dispersive Infrared technology continuously measures contaminants in the air, as well as chemical changes in the air and will sound the alarm, thereby making the SAAM technology a preemptive alert system and will alert before a potential catastrophic event. In independent testing, the SAAM S-Series alerted up to 400% faster than leading competitive alarms.

Q. Tell us about the effectiveness of your organization’s delivery model?

SAAM is not yet commercial and is in the final stages after 18-months of product improvements and testing.

SAAM is fortunate to have a team of engineers who are the best in their field. They all bring unique but complimentary skills to SAAM. 

Tell us about the history of SAAM

In 2016, and after initial testing to demonstrate our technology, the S-Series detected chemical changes in the air indicative of smoke and fire, so we began meeting with industry experts to determine their level of interest, which was very high. In late summer early fall of 2018 we began assembling our current team to facilitate the new strategy, a team with expertise and varying skill sets. In November of 2019, we adopted the name “SAAM,” an acronym for “Spectral Analytical Air Monitoring.” In February of this year, we completed a Series A round of funding with a tier-one company that has a global presence in the fire protection industry.

Q. How successful is your mission to save lives and improve health?

The SAAM technology has not been introduced commercially.  However, testing at independent test facilities, including “Worcester Polytechnic Institute,” and a tier one’s fire test lab, we demonstrated our technology is very effective in alerting considerably faster than competing devices, and prior to a potential catastrophic event.

30-years ago, you had an average of 17-minutes to evacuate at the sound of a smoke alarm, today, the average is 3-minutes, so seconds count. The SAAM technology can save precious minutes by pre-emptively alerting occupants.

Explicate about your technology being distinct.

SAAM currently has 5-patents issued and 1-patent pending. The NDIR technology is a technology that has existed for decades but has been too large and expensive for consumer applications. The SAAM patents miniaturized this technology, thereby reducing the cost making NDIR technology affordable to the consumer.

The leadership at the forefront of SAAM Inc.

Rob Qualls, Founder and Board Member: Mr. Qualls has 40 years of experience in marketing, Sales, and General Management in the Global OEM/Aftermarket industry as it relates to advanced technology.  Rob has held executive positions at several US and International companies. He also has extensive experience as an entrepreneur with commercial success.

Dr. Erik Deutsch, Founder and Board Member: Dr. Deutsch is a senior engineering executive, entrepreneur, and recognized expert in QCL, MEMS, FTIR, and spectroscopy. He brings over 20 years of experience leading the strategic development of diverse new and existing technologies and bringing disruptive handheld and miniature spectroscopy products to market. He has authored over 10 patents in novel spectroscopy technologies and systems. Dr. Deutsch received his B.A. in Physics with a minor in Computer Science from Vassar College and his S.M. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT with a focus in MEMS and Optics.

Greg Stewart, Founder and Board Member: Mr. Stewart has extensive experience in global operations, managing large P&L businesses at Fortune 500 companies. Inclusive of that experience are 12 years running Asia Pacific companies while residing as an Expat in China and Singapore. Greg has a strong background managing LCC sourcing organizations while in Asia, as well as Six Sigma quality certifications. 

Phil McCormack, Founder and Board Member: Mr. McCormack is a seasoned executive with extensive experience in finance, M&A, and executive management in the vtech sector. Phil is currently a Board Director with four tech companies, including an ASX listed company and has extensive tech start up experience. 

Joe Huehnerhoff, Chief Technology Officer: Mr. Huehnerhoff has an extensive background in systems engineering of complex spectroscopic and imaging solutions. Joe brings his experience in product development; specifically, optical, mechanical, and electrical integration of systems for hyperspectral reflectance Raman imaging and spectroscopy systems. Previous experience includes working for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and University of Washington with a focus on Optics, Mechanics, Electronics, and Software as it relates to Spectroscopy and complex optomechanical systems. Mr. Huehnerhoff received his master’s in science, specializing in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Washington and was a Physics Research Fellow at Harvard University.

Sibu Janardhanan, Operations: With over 20 years of experience, Mr. Janardhanan has an extensive background in commercial leadership, finance, operations, strategic planning, and executive management with Fortune 100 and 500 companies.

“On a Mission to Save Lives and Improve Health.”

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