Circuit breakers can be found anywhere that electricity flows, preventing overloads from shorting circuits and starting fires. But the fundamental design of these electromechanical switches has changed little from the days of Thomas Edison, despite the rapid modernization and digitalization of the electricity world around them.
Atom Power CEO Ryan Kennedy hopes his company’s digital circuit breakers can break that century-old paradigm. Over the past four years, the North Carolina startup has designed and won UL certification for its products: semiconductor-based, software-configured circuit breakers that outperform their analog cousins on safety and flexibility measures — and pack the functionality of hundreds of other devices in one unit.
Atom Power got its first $3 million funding round in 2017 from Siemens, ABB and Eaton, and last year it raised $17.8 million from investors including ABB and Rockwell Automation. Siemens, ABB and Eaton are among the major manufacturers of circuit breakers for a global market that rakes in more than $10 billion per year, and Rockwell is a major maker of industrial control systems. That’s the market Atom Power first targeted when it rolled out its commercial products in 2019.
To be sure, Atom Power’s devices are quite a bit more expensive than the standard circuit breaker. That’s why Kennedy said the company focused its “initial commercialization outlook [on] some really high-value, high-impact customers,” such as data centers, manufacturers, and food and beverage processing facilities, he said. Kennedy characterized that as “the hardest market to check the box on first.”
Now, with those proving points under its belt, Atom Power is targeting two new markets that “lend themselves to exploit the full power of a digital circuit breaker,” he said in an interview earlier this month: electric vehicle charging and residential energy automation.