By Paul Maryniak, AFN Executive Editor
As partners in business as well as life, Yani and Jodi Deros have been the parents of invention.
The Ahwatukee couple’s company, ATOM, has conceptualized, tested and developed over 300 products for a range of national and global brands from Honeywell, KitchenAid and UBS to Axon, the former Taser International – generating more than $3 billion in product orders over 15 years.
Now, they say, their latest invention, CIRQ+CLEAN, could be the answer to the arduous task of cleaning and disinfecting hotel rooms, offices and even classrooms.
They’ve already met with leaders in five states to tout Cirq+Clean’s potential to effectively – and in touchless fashion – decontaminate classrooms and spare teachers, students and custodians of the arduous task in a matter of minutes.
The year had not started out that way for the 19-year Ahwatukee residents and Boston transplants who base their company in Skysong, Arizona State University’s economic development complex in Scottsdale.
When 2020 began, the Deroses were touting CIRQ+, a mult-functioning hub that resembles a miniature version of the Star Wars robot R2D2 and turns hotel rooms into smart hotel rooms.
“We have engaged with almost 1,000 hotels and properties around the world to capture their challenges, aspirations and unmet needs that eventually built the foundation of CIRQ+,” Yani explained, adding that spending at least 100 nights a year in hotels while traveling for his business got him thinking about the technology in the first place.
“As a result, we found an incredible opportunity to develop a technology solution that could transform any hotel room in the world instantly, modernizing the space with one system.”
Depending on the model, Cirq+ allows guests to control thermostats and lights and interface with the front desk and room service.
One benefit of the app, Yani said, is that the user’s preferences, such as room temperature, will travel with him or her between CIRQ-equipped hotels.
The technology has benefits for hotel operators, too, enabling them to control energy costs and include thermal occupancy sensors that reduce energy consumption when rooms are not occupied.
As 2020 began, he and Jodi were upbeat about their invention.
“We raised $1.6 million to help us advance this technology and we were going on an incredible tear at the beginning of the year with our second-generation system – and then COVID-19 hit,” he said.
Suddenly, travel ground to a halt – and with it the hotel industry.
And, as Yani explained, the couple confronted a decision: “We either sit back and ride this out or we take it upon ourselves to use our smart room technology and develop a solution to take on COVID.”
“We saw the devastation that was happening across the world and sitting back in our home, we were saying, ‘What are we going to do? You know the future doesn’t look so bright,’” Yani explained.
ATOM got to work and by September they were unveiling at a New York City media event CIRQ+CLEAN, a touchless sterilization device that moves around the room on a robot and dispenses an electrostatically-charged mist of an EPA-registered fluid.
“Because we’re technologists and innovators, we started thinking about how can we leverage our smart room capabilities to take on COVID-19 and through a series of internal meetings and brainstorming we leveraged our capabilities and discovered a natural liquid.”
The liquid, HOCL or hypochlorous acid, “is a natural substance that is similar to what your white blood cells make to fight off infections and diseases in your body,” Yani said, explaining that it has been used since World War II in caring for wounds.