Duco Ventilation & Sun Control: IoT Turns Real-World Info into Data-Driven R&D

An AI-ready, Azure IoT Edge solution enables insights for smart systems and even smarter business processes built from true-life data.

  • Expertise and Solution in this case
Executive summary

Change is in the air: Duco Ventilation & Sun Control moves towards a future in AI, expanding its capacity for data intelligence through Azure IoT Edge. The future-ready solution offers Duco real-life insights into its residential climate systems, supports stakeholders with easy installation and enhanced device monitoring, and gives end-users more control.

  • Challenge
  • Approach
  • Results

The Challenge

Motivated by its mission to provide innovative climate control systems, Duco Ventilation & Sun Control wanted to lay the groundwork for AI with a first step in IoT. Enabling a more accurate view of its residential ventilation systems’ performance and stakeholders’ experience, Duco saw IoT as the key towards optimizing its products through data-driven processes.

To unlock this critical information, Duco needed a solution with multi-location data capture, centralized system monitoring, as well as device and data management – all while providing an enhanced experience for various stakeholder groups along the way.

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Duco Ventilation & Sun Control provides state-of-the-art ventilation and solar shade systems that guarantee end-users a naturally healthy, comfortable, and energy-efficient indoor climate. And as leading European producer of ventilation and solar shading systems, the company has won several innovation awards for its inventive solutions that fulfill this promise. Building on these achievements, Duco wanted to further advance its offering, equipping its systems for data intelligence and laying the groundwork for AI.

To tap into the full advantages of cloud-native technology, Duco looked to move beyond simply connecting its ventilation products to the cloud and into developing a full-circle, data-driven approach for building, managing, and maintaining the smart systems.

“For us it was about a new process not a new product,” explains Koen Maertens, Duco Ventilation & Sun Control R&D Director, “Our business driver was to prepare our company for what comes next. This project was a proactive next step towards our vision of where we plan to be in future. The end goal wasn’t just about developing smart systems and a method for installing them but instead a cloud-connected solution that would allow us to manage those systems from production until their end of life.”

Duco envisioned a solution that provided a comprehensive view of its residential ventilation systems’ performance, ability to respond to issues, and maintenance needs while also enabling communication to and from them. And with various stakeholder groups along the supply chain, the solution also needed to address varying needs for ideal installation, management, and daily use.

To ensure correct and consistent configuration, Duco wanted to provide an easy connection process for all installers, regardless of their experience with cloud-native technology or data platforms. Once installed and functioning, the cloud-connected devices needed to aggregate system health and performance statistics for the property and systems management companies who monitor them. And on the consumer side, Duco needed data-functionality set up in its end-user application for residents to share feedback, control system settings, and receive maintenance notifications.

To realize its vision for this multi-dimensional solution, Duco knew it needed a long-term partner with experience across the full scope of IoT, who would continue to support them after implementation. Impressed with Codit’s high-quality service from a previous project, in-depth IoT expertise, and innovative reputation as a Microsoft elite IoT partner, Duco identified Codit as the perfect choice.

Maertens adds, “We wanted a partner who would help us all the way – developing the concepts, setting up the solutions, and afterwards managing as a second line support. That’s the reason we contacted Codit.”

Codit bridges the gap between companies and the constantly evolving developments in IoT.

Koen Maertens R&D Director @ Duco Ventilation & Sun Control

The Approach

Leveraging Azure IoT Edge, Codit established a gateway to capture data from each residential ventilation system and then stream it into a centralized cloud backend. To put the collected information to use and bring the solution full-circle, the team built an API-driven solution for both sending actions from the cloud to the smart systems as well as communicating commands between the devices and an end-user application. For processing and consumption of the data, Azure Data Explorer was used to allow the operational teams and R&D department perform time series analysis on the data, build KQL queries to calculate KPIs and view the results within an operational dashboard.

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The Codit team built Azure IoT Edge modules and a data-exposing API to develop a solution that collects real-time IoT data for more accurate system monitoring and management as well as and more convenient communication with end-users.

Azure IoT Edge is a Microsoft Azure Cloud service that allows companies to overcome various connectivity issues, such as remote or multi-location equipment like Duco’s systems, to benefit from cloud-native technology. To connect each of Duco’s ventilation systems to the centralized cloud backend, Codit built edge computing modules to run on a hardware device, called a DucoGateway, that connects to the systems installed in the homes.

Frederik Gheysels, Codit Azure Architect, explains, “First we built modules, using Azure IoT Edge gateway and Azure IoT Hub, to gather data from the ventilation systems, publish it to the cloud, and send translated commands back to the systems. This gateway sends data to the Azure IoT Hub, where data is available and can be processed in the cloud, stored in a database, and exposed through an API to the end-user application.”

After establishing a bridge between the devices and the cloud, Codit then extended the data flow to the existing end-user application. To do so, the Codit team built an API that transmits actions and commands between the systems and the residents using them.

“This API connects the collected IoT data with the end-user application, making the data visible to residents as insights, such as air quality level and system maintenance needs,” says Gheysels, “Additionally, the API allows these residents to control the systems through the application, translating the end-user commands – such as to increase or decrease ventilation, schedule system programs, turn on/off the heat pump – from anywhere with access to the cloud-connected application.”

The API also allows communication between the cloud backend and Duco’s database and data management systems, transferring information to where the company can analyze and transform it into actionable insights.

In order to simplify set up for those installing the ventilation systems and their accompanying Duco Gateways, the Codit team ensured automatic connection and configuration by foreseeing a simple registration process. During this easy-to-launch process, installers need only push a button on the Duco Gateway hardware and scan a QR code to connect the gateway to the cloud as well as to the end-user application.

The Results

With its Azure IoT Edge solution, Duco Ventilation & Sun Control has prepared its company today for where it wants to go in the future. Thanks to off-site cloud connectivity, real-world IoT data, and a deeper look into its systems’ lifecycle, Duco is now equipped to more precisely and proactively meet the needs of its market. And this forward-looking solution enables the company to dive into AI when it chooses.

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Combining an automatic, remote cloud connection, a comprehensive view of systems’ behavior, and a convenient method for end-user communication, the final solution offers benefits to all Duco Ventilation & Sun Control stakeholders.

“Our company and our stakeholders can all benefit from this solution – it’s ‘high-tech’ but everything works on its own,” shares Koen Maertens, Duco Ventilation & Sun Control R&D Director.

The solution’s instant connection makes installation fast and easy and ensures critical configuration is completed correctly and successfully for each system.

With its real-time data capture and advanced system monitoring capabilities, the solution enables property and system managers with more effective and efficient preventative and predictive maintenance.

And end-users now have more control with user-friendly application to regulate the Duco ventilation systems in their home and communicate their preferences.

As for the company itself, Duco is now equipped with a more profound and practical view into both its product offering and the market it serves. The company can utilize the IoT data to better analyze its systems’ performance, enhance its products, and optimize its business processes with data-driven insights.

“With this new cloud-connected IoT functionality, we know better about the different systems installed in homes,” Maertens explains, “Already in testing we saw benefits in both business intelligence as well as technological intelligence. We can be more confident in software maturity before releasing a product into the market. For example, where we once were constrained to simulation testing, we now have a deeper insight into real-life system behavior while developing software and the quality checks after it’s been released.”

With initial testing complete, Duco is rolling out its solution to more residential homes. The company sees the completion of this project stage as simply the beginning of another exciting phase in the company’s digital transformation.

Maertens adds, “This is a very big step for us, but it is just a first step into the process of transforming how we approach developing our systems. Now that we’re equipped with capabilities for IoT data, we can use that information to better understand how our systems are interacting with the environment.”

A word from the client

“Many companies implement IoT on their own, and when it comes time to scale up, they may need technologies that they’re not even aware of. But in a partnership like we have with Codit, you’re always covered.”

Koen Maertens R&D Director

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