Swedish air purification equipment manufacturer Blueair and Accenture have built a cloud-based internet of things (IoT) platform to enable customers to remotely monitor and manage air purifiers.
The 15-month project saw Blueair, which is part of Unilever’s appliance business, work closely with Accenture to create a platform as a service on the Amazon Web Services public cloud.
The manufacturer wanted a platform to support its most advance air purifier, HealthProtect, which protects people from germs and viruses. “We have specific sensors in the product that can be followed and monitored from an app, which is where the platform comes in,” said Daniel Johansson, CTO at Blueair.
Customers can monitor how a purifier is working via a mobile device, with detailed information from different air-quality sensors provided to them. For example, users are alerted to the need to use features on the product to eliminate bacteria and viruses.
Controlling the purifiers is user-friendly, with voice control available. “Our purifiers can communicate with all the major voice assistant platforms,” said Johansson.
Most of Blueair’s customers are consumers, with the majority of its annual one million purifier sales through its business-to-consumer operation, but it also sells to corporate customers. It has been making air purifiers for 25 years, ranging from those for small rooms in houses to purifiers used in large office buildings.
The decision to make a new platform and engage with Accenture came after Blueair recognised that its existing platform to connect to purifiers was built in 2013/14 and was out of date. “A couple of years ago, when I came into this role, we realised the platform was obsolete and we needed something new,” said Johansson.
One of the main challenges is to ensure that the devices and the data they collect do not infringe data privacy and security regulations, he added.
“We realised that our customers need to be protected from a privacy and security point of view. We have over 40,000 points that collect data to improve the products and of course this is private data that is stored according to GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] and other regulations.”
Johansson said Accenture, with its vast corporate experience, was considered a good partner to help Blueair meet these regulations.
The platform took about 15 months from the start to when the first connected product was delivered to a customer in late August. It was first launched in China and is now also in the US, South Korea and Japan.
The company is currently developing an app that enables customers to buy purifier replenishments through the platform, which will monitor the purifiers and alert customers when the equipment is not working properly. “We are looking at smoothing the process of getting new filters,” said Johansson.
Before the platform was introduced, about 10% of Blueair’s purifiers were connected, and now the goal is to make this 90%. “The purpose of this platform was to be scalable,” Johansson added.
Johansson heads up research and development and IT at Blueair, after having experience of both in his previous job at Swedish appliance maker Electrolux. “In my previous job, I worked with product development for most of that time, but the last couple of years I was leading teams doing internet security and cloud architecture,” he said. “Now at Blueair, I am responsible for all of it.”
He said IT is small at Blueair with a staff of only five, but the company partners IT services companies for development, with “most outsourced”.