Towards smart district heating
The Finnish artificial intelligence service platform Leanheat is a great example of a progressive district heating service. Smart control of district heat optimizes energy use – resulting in energy savings and better living conditions.
Ten years ago, software company Pandia and a number of Finnish property owners began to devise a system to save on the energy costs of district heating. Based on artificial intelligence, measurement data and IoT technologies, the Leanheat solution was the first system to optimize building heating with an installation in 2014.
“Our customers are residential property owners. They acquire Leanheat to save money through energy efficiency and facilitate building maintenance while also offering their residents better indoor conditions,” states Leanheat Oy managing director Jukka Aho.
The district heating companies are also important partners. With Leanheat, they enhance their production and get closer to the users.
“District heating companies have invested in technology for the district heating network and production side. They should also invest in the customer properties. At present, buildings use energy in an unprofitable way for the district heating companies”, says development manager Ossi Porri.
Partners are part of the solution
A cloud based artificial intelligence that understands and predicts the heat demand and behavior of buildings is the heart of the Leanheat system. It works by means of sensor networks and heat controllers in individual building apartments. Artificial intelligence and predictive analysis allow not only smart property management, but also new business models for the industry.
“Leanheat is a small part of the transformation of the energy and property sector. Cooperation and partnerships are important. We have artificial intelligence and are able to make use of the data. Without the sensors and remote heat controllers for example, we would not be able to deliver the services to the customer,” explains Porri.
“Leanheat is a small part of the transformation of the energy and property sector. Cooperation and partnerships are important. We have artificial intelligence and are able to make use of the data. Without the sensors and remote heat controllers for example, we would not be able to deliver the services to the customer,”
The partnership network can be diverse; consisting of energy companies, sensor and automation equipment manufacturers, property management companies, and property service providers for example. The Finnish postal service Posti is a good example of synergy partnership – they install Leanheat measuring sensors in connection with mail deliveries.
With partnerships, Leanheat also wants to ensure that customer service does not stop at problem resolution, but a solution is found for all related parties.
“Whether it is an apartment ventilation or heating problem, our partners allow us to offer a complete solution to our customers,” adds Aho.
Smart energy abroad
Leanheat has followed a fast growth path in Finland. Its market share is significant with most major property owners part of the customer base and by the end of year 2018 installations will be made in more than 100,000 apartment homes.
“Roughly one third of Finnish town house and apartment block homes are owned by large property developers. However, individual housing cooperatives are the largest market group where we want to bring Leanheat services with our partners,” says the company’s Finland sales director Pekka Paaskunta.
Growth is also promising globally. Pilot trials are ongoing in China, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. China is particularly interested in the light of heat production.
“District heating is a major growth sector in China. Differences in emissions compared to Finland are significant, while at the same time sector development there lags behind. The potential is enormous,” states Aho.
Numerous development opportunities
District heat has been used in Finland for over 60 years and still has much to offer.
“There are tremendous opportunities in district heating. Much has been invested in the existing energy transfer network. District heat has also a ready link with its customers,” says Aho.
One of the prerequisites for Leanheat operations is the synergy of partnerships that it calls itself an “open ecosystem”. This continues from where the artificial intelligence ends. All players at the interface are welcome to join.
“Transparency is important and a big choice for a company to truly adopt an open approach to new hardware and services. The optimization of production and services through openness is surely an emerging theme for the industry in the future,” concludes Paaskunta.
Text: Daniela Holm
Pictures: Panu Suurnäkki