Automating Ventilation to the next level
At Sweet Mustard we are always looking for ways to improve the way we assist our customers. That’s why we recently organised an innovation day for our developers, challenging them to find interesting projects and create a functioning prototype.
The 'ventilation automation' concept is one of those interesting solutions that were researched during the latest iteration of this event. The result was a fully scalable & extendable framework, ready for a manufacturer to pick it up and take their ventilation automation to the next level!
The current pandemic has led the Belgian government to formulate a ventilation plan for indoors locations. This plan was obviously developed to limit the transmission of viral particles, with the added benefit of improving air quality of indoors locations in the long run.
CO2 is a good proxy for the amount of aerosols in the air, so CO2 meters are used as an indication of air quality. The problem is that non-connected CO2 meters require manual interaction to improve the airflow in case the air quality worsens.
However, in the face of tightening environmental regulations, a lot of buildings are now equipped with an HVAC system, enabling ventilation of highly isolated homes. If we could connect CO2 meters with these HVAC systems, we could create a fully automated ventilation system that ensures a safer environment without requiring constant manual attention.
To develop the solution, we purchased a number of NDIR CO2 sensors in combination with arduino devices for control and communication with the rest of the network. Once assembled, we connected these devices wirelessly, ensuring that our solution would be easily deployable without requiring additional cabling throughout a building.
Though this was only an innovation day POC, scalability was always considered in case the solution needed to be developed further. That’s why we decided to work with Google Cloud’s IoT, a fully managed service that allows us to easily and securely connect, manage, and ingest data from globally dispersed devices.
Connecting to Google Cloud, we developed a custom mobile application to visualise the current CO2 levels and send an alert when particle levels exceed a specific threshold. This eliminates the need for manual monitoring and reduces the time between excessive particle concentrations and human intervention.
Because we did not have access to a commercial HVAC controller in the timespan of the innovation day, we could not yet implement a fully automated solution. However, thanks to our scalable and open standard architecture combined with Google’s IoT Core, adding additional components or logic is possible with the cooperation of a hardware manufacturer.
The speed at which the solution had been developed was impressive even for the participating developers. The solution included multiple wireless NDIR CO2 sensors, a local sensor gateway, a fully configured IoT Core environment and a mobile application for visualisation.