Heating Failures Goodbye: How Digitalization Revolutionizes Old Heating Systems and Minimizes Downtime

Heating Failures Goodbye: How Digitalization Revolutionizes Old Heating Systems and Minimizes Downtime

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Heating Failures Goodbye: How Digitalization Revolutionizes Old Heating Systems and Minimizes Downtime

Warmth within one's own four walls is not only a basic need but also an aspect of living comfort that no one wants to miss. Especially in the cold months, the importance of a functioning heating system becomes all the more apparent. The Bosch spin-off Anysight has taken on this challenge and developed an innovative technology to prevent heating failures, especially in urban areas, thereby ensuring the well-being of people.

The challenges of maintaining central heating systems in urban residential areas

In urban centers, large heating plants often provide warmth to entire residential blocks and neighborhoods. A failure of these central systems can have dramatic consequences, as individual households and whole communities are affected. Housing associations face the enormous task of ensuring the maintenance and upkeep of these often outdated and complex heating systems. A significant problem is that these old systems are often inadequately documented, making fault diagnosis and rectification extraordinarily time-consuming and costly. A typical procedure for a heating failure includes identifying the failure, reporting it to the housing association, inspection by an installer, procuring spare parts, and finally, the repair. This process can take several days, leading to a high volume of complaints and significantly affecting customer satisfaction.

Change by focusing on user needs

We first intensively dealt with the situations surrounding heating failures and the people involved. This helped us better understand the needs and challenges of all participants. Through joint workshops, we gained a technical understanding of the solution developed by Anysight and, based on this, defined initial use cases as solution spaces.

Co-creation workshop with user story mapping

Systematic digitalization

The use cases "Installation," "Retrofitting the heating system," and "Reporting a malfunction or failure" were explored in the context of the Anysight solution. For this purpose, we involved experts in heating installation, property management, building maintenance, and renting in our co-creation formats, allowing us to consider all relevant perspectives and requirements. As a result of this step, a detailed analysis of the status quo and target images in the form of specific user-centered scenarios were created.

Inventory of the status quo of an incident
Using user story mappings and wireframes, we then visually elaborated the usage scenarios to achieve a common understanding of the processes. Additionally, wireframes helped us identify and solve dependencies and technical challenges. The results were concepts for a mobile application for installing the Anysight solution and a platform for monitoring the installed systems.
Platform Concept

During the project, we elaborated on the visual design for the app and the platform to reduce the scope for interpretation in the subsequent technical implementation. To achieve quick results for the app design, we based it on the "Material Design" design system. For the platform, we chose "Bootstrap." Our customer has already used both systems.

Framework-based design system and keyscreen

In the next step, we created prototypes to make our concepts even more tangible and enable targeted user tests. This made the product concept tangible and further reduced the scope for interpretation. Expert reviews and isolated prototype tests with target group members, such as installers, tenants, and housing association employees, further validated the concept. We worked closely with development in production support to adapt the concept and design to technical conditions.

Screenshot of Clickdummy

Efficient, economical, reliable: A retrofittable system

The end product is a retrofittable, cost-effective system for remote monitoring and diagnosing large heating systems. It collects temperature data via sensors and uses an algorithm to predict failures and potential sources of error. The system allows for efficient digitization of old heating systems without completely replacing them. For this system, we designed and developed an app for system setup for installers and a platform for monitoring the installed systems for housing associations.

Gateway und Sensoren auf einer Hutschiene

The system reduces installers' visits and enables better prediction of technical problems and failures. In addition, users experience fewer problems, failures, and downtime. To further support installers, we also developed offline assets that are delivered with the hardware and simplify initial access to the system.

Printed brochure for the installer

The mobile app and the platform were developed with a user-centered approach specifically for installers and employees of the housing industry and validated in user tests.

Complex problems, simple solution

When a large heating plant fails, the problems are correspondingly complex. Such a plant cannot be replaced quickly, as with single-family homes. Yet, especially in the cold season, a functioning heating system is relevant. At the same time, larger housing companies employ their complex systems, which require an integrative approach when introducing new technologies.

Retrofit and partial digitalization as a solution

The subsequent retrofitting of modern technologies into existing heating systems can sustainably secure the basic need for warmth. It offers the possibility to reduce or completely avoid long downtime, reduce costs, and detect problems early. A user-friendly mobile application and a platform-based system enable deep integration into the processes of housing associations. In retrofit, digitalization offers opportunities to make existing systems future-proof without replacing them altogether. In this specific case, it supports the housing industry in preparing for the requirements of Industry 4.0 and enables a gradual transformation through digitizing individual aspects.