Katie Steele, Cheribim

Cheribim make digital products and services for the heritage sector to make information management and data insights for historic buildings user-friendly and affordable

Hi, Katie. Tell us a little bit about you and your business…

We make digital products and services for the heritage sector with a primary focus of making information management and data insights for historic buildings user-friendly and affordable via our web-app, Cheribim. 

I started the company after working with volunteers responsible for church buildings for about five years. My background is in historic building conservation, and before that architecture and engineering. When I saw the huge variations in the systems which were being used for organising and sharing information relating to church buildings’ upkeep and adaptation – as well as how this was affecting decision making – I felt there was a real opportunity to help address some of the most common frustrations I was witnessing. 

Historic buildings can be complex and expensive to maintain – requiring specialist skills and knowledge. But volunteers bring an unbelievable amount of value to their management – often at significant cost – not least in time and energy, to themselves. Our products are designed specifically to make their lives easier, reducing the administrative burden of managing sometimes huge amounts of asset, project and stakeholder information, as well as providing additional automated sources of data to make their decisions more efficient and effective. 

What has been Cheribim’s greatest success?

At the end of last year, we were lucky enough to be awarded a Fast Start Grant by Innovate UK. The project has enabled us to develop additional building inspection features for our church and inspector user types, as well as pilot IoT sensors for environmental monitoring at diverse sites across South Yorkshire, and soon sites in West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. 

The IoT pilot has created a super exciting addition to our product range, and the enthusiasm and interest it’s been met with has exceeded all of our expectations. Historic buildings are constructed and behave differently to the modern buildings which we are often accustomed to – as well as the expectations of comfort and maintenance requirements they create. Equipping church building managers with live readings of temperature and humidity in different spaces allows them to, for example, understand in much more detail how the mechanical and natural heating and cooling of their buildings is working and make changes accordingly to address issues affecting occupants’ comfort or the buildings fabric.

What about your greatest challenges?

Definitely navigating all of this as a solo ‘non-technical’ founder! But there are so many amazing programmes and networks in Sheffield and I have ad so much support – from advice for business and accounting, to an amazing space to work out of at Sheffield Technology Parks whilst I’ve participated in the Cooper project, complete with friendly, familiar faces to say hello to in the morning! As well as the fantastic graduate recruitment programme RISE, which Awais, our Data Management Executive joined the company through…and of course, IoT Engine!

I can’t overstate how important these initiatives have been to Cheribim – or how grateful I am to everyone involved. 

Why is IoT important to you?

It aligns so strongly with everything we’re trying to do!

It’s afforable, easy to set up and provides accurate – and most importantly, useful – data to the people who need it on the ground, completely automatically. It facilitates the churches we support to take control of the information they need to make decisions about how they’re managing their buildings. For example to make adjustments to their heating and see real-time the effects this has so they can alter and reduce their energy consumption patterns, or longer term monitoring the effects of interventions to improve thermal efficiency. It stops them being priced or ‘expertised’ out of the market on readily-available technology which could help them achieve sustainability in all its senses – but not least in terms of working towards the ambitious net-zero targets many have committed to.

IoT can not only help raise the baseline on upkeep and sustainable management of many of the UK’s most important historic buildings, but it can also help transform the way data and information management is thought about in the heritage and built environment conservation sectors through empowerment of some of its most influential actors. 

What have your experiences on the IoT Engine been like?

Brilliant! Having Rikki there to support both me and Awais as we’ve grappled with implementing our pilot, me with the logistics and Awais with the tech, has been invaluable. And of course the location and fantastic facilities in Barnsley have also been greate – just a short train ride from Sheffield, and helpfully a stone’s throw from some of our pilot sites in surrounding villages!

Meeting Lauren and Ceri and having them cheer us on and make introductions at the amazing IoT and DMC events is something I’m so grateful for too, and has definitely made a huge difference to our productivity and the impact we’ve managed to have with our pilot. Our introduction to Steve Jubb and the Urban Flows Laboratory at the University of Sheffield is just one example of how their help has brought a whole new dimension to the work. 

The support and enthusiasm for what we’re trying to do has been so unexpected and wonderful, and I’m incredibly grateful.

What’s next for Cheribim?

We’ve got SO MANY plans for the data we’re gradually collecting – both from sensors and information stored on the Cheribim platform – and ideas for practical applications which could be absolutely transformatice to our users; from predictive inspection features to net-zero intervention insights – watch this space!