Feb 16, 2023

Portfolio Watch: We’re investing in R-Zero to accelerate IoT enabled Smart Cities

Director at Qualcomm Ventures


Today, we’re thrilled to announce our investment in R-Zero’s $105M Series C round. R-Zero is envisioned to revolutionize the post-pandemic disinfection ecosystem by using technology to make indoor spaces safer, further helping drive the “healthy building movement”.  Their holistic IoT-enabled, data-driven platform provides real-time disinfection solutions and operational visibility to enable healthier buildings. Within 2 years of launching, R-Zero has developed three edge AI embedded hardware product lines, as well as a software layer to automate and optimize workflow based on real-time risk assessment.  As of today, R-Zero has over 300 customers, shipped 3000+ units, and launched in 1000+ locations across 11 industries. Primary customers include K-12 schools, college campuses, corporate campuses, hospitals, senior care communities, parks and recreation, and other government facilities.

Why did we invest and why now?

We believe there is a huge opportunity resulting from post-pandemic demand for a more reliable and healthier disinfection system to help advance the future of healthy building infrastructure.  R-Zero has developed an innovative solution for this upcoming “healthy building movement”.

An Urgent & Unmet demand 

Over the past 3 years, the pandemic has completely altered the way we live and changed our view of indoor public health.  As a result, we’re seeing a new paradigm shift driven by a new normal, higher standard for sanitation and the desire for healthier indoor environments.  Unfortunately, the current chemical-based disinfection system is unsustainable and costly.  More importantly, it’s not the most effective method for the prevention of infectious diseases. In addition, the economic impact to our public health system is huge – cold, flu, and Covid-19 sick leave costs employers up to $575 billion/year.  As such, a new type of disinfection system is needed to help reduce the transmission of airborne diseases and make our work, living, and education environments healthier.

R-Zero’s Product Innovation: 1st IoT connected  healthy building solution   

What should the next generation of healthy building infrastructure look like and how can you improve existing HVAC systems to ensure safer shared spaces for occupants? The missing piece is smart UVC light. UVC kills pathogens by directly deactivating their DNA in real-time. We validated this by talking to numerous schools and healthcare institutions who have done a tremendous amount of research since Covid-19 began in early 2020.  UVC is considered one of the most effective methods to control Covid-19 virus transmission [source: Nature Paper].  Interestingly, it has been used in hospitals for disinfection since 1950. However, the lack of technological innovation has prevented its adoption in non-medical applications.  

R-Zero identified this gap in early 2020 and developed a unique solution to address this challenge. They built a full-stack healthy building platform (Hardware + Software + Sensor) with IoT connected intelligence that quantifies the risk of indoor spaces and automatically disinfects the air and surfaces. It’s a cutting-edge technology solution that provides hospital-grade efficacy for commercial use and applies a software and data-driven approach to enable visibility, automate workflows, and provide actionable insights for building and facility managers. 

(Source: R-Zero)

Hardware: Three IoT-connected product lines, namely Arc (for unoccupied rooms), Beam (upper room UVGI light), and Vive (Far UVC light with proprietary patented filter), achieved the best efficacy and ensured 24/7 coverage in any indoor space, while being three times less expensive than incumbent solutions.  The efficacy of all three products has been validated by independent laboratory tests. 

Software innovation: R-Zero also developed an edge AI-based software layer plus data gathering sensor which can provide real-time monitoring of space occupancy and utilization, optimization of the devices’ working schedule, and a timely disinfection tracing dashboard. These product features can directly integrate with existing building management systems and truly upgrade to a  “Healthy Building Infrastructure”. 

This new paradigm of the “Healthy Building Movement” and Sustainability is coming.  The investment in R-Zero aligns well with our expertise in edge AI, IoT, and connected devices as well as Qualcomm’s IoT Smart Cities initiatives.  We are delighted to support R-Zero’s mission of creating a new standard of healthier buildings and to join in this investment along with CDPQ (Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec), DBL partners, Upfront Ventures, and John Doerr.  

We warmly welcome R-Zero to the Qualcomm Ventures family and are excited to support them on this exciting journey!