A new solution offers fresh air—not as a dream, but a service

BrandPost By Keith E. Greenberg, SAP Contributor
Oct 03, 20235 mins
Digital Transformation

Believing that everyone should have clean air, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, (HVAC) company ActoVent built a solution accurately monitoring indoor air quality and ensuring that only purified air circulates.

hvac worker man
Credit: iStock

“Air is our most important food.”

That’s the operating philosophy of German heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company ActoVent, an enterprise built around the simple philosophy that the air we breathe and release into the environment should be clean.

During the pandemic, air quality became an obsession to many people. Adding to the concern was the limited understanding of air pollution processes in workplaces, schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.

On a practical level, the lack of transparency was expensive, given the rising price of raw materials and energy costs. And with the HVAC industry suffering from a shortage of skilled labor, few maintenance professionals knew when to change and replace filters and v-belts, how many were in stock, and even whether the correct ones were in place. 

Indeed, filter changes were often performed because of the specifications in time-based contracts rather than actual need.

As ActoVent examined the landscape, it took on a bold mission: to create the first solution that literally offered Fresh Air as a Service.  

The new business model would be centered around an all-in-one platform processing crucial data to monitor and control the full end-to-end processes needed for individual buildings, taking the facility’s requirements into account instead of forcing management to prescribe to generalized rules.

Above all, the innovation would be predicated on the notion that all humans have the same core need: clean air.

Clean air, inside and out

Founded in 2009, ActoVent was initially a specialist wholesaler for residential ventilation, but expanded to include air filters and protective products for a range of buildings, air measurement technology, and maintenance and consulting services.

As it embarked on its Fresh Air as a Service journey, the company turned to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software leader SAP, largely due to the more than 15-year relationship ActoVent’s parent company enjoyed with the multinational corporation.

Management consulting company Agilita was brought in as a participating partner because of its history of overseeing SAP implementations.

Given the array of tools available on SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP) – a unified suite offering everything from analytics to application development to artificial intelligence (AI) – the FreshAirManager (FAM) solution could be swiftly constructed to collect and analyze data in real-time, simplify processes and improve air filtration and quality. 

Machine learning (ML) would identify how system control and air quality were related in a particular building, delivering instructions to technicians on ways to adjust the system and even supplying them with the proper equipment when filters or other items needed to be replaced.

The beneficiaries of this transformation would be students in gym classes and classrooms, workers sitting at their desks and socializing in the cafeteria, shoppers and employees in large stores, and even neighbors who never entered the buildings, since – with the new platform in place – clean air would be spread indoors while only purified air left the facilities.

Uncomplicated and uncontaminated

In 2022, with the help of SAP cloud application programing, the FAM solution was implemented after just three weeks.

Although more than 1,000 HVAC systems were initially optimized, ActoVent set a target of overseeing 2,600 by the next year.

Unlike ever before, the platform has ensured that users can fully trust the air quality data they receive – and have the ability to manage the various aspects of the HVAC system network themselves.

The impact is just beginning

In an instant, the industry was metamorphosized. The old method of providing single services based on fixed contracts can be replaced by new demand-driven arrangements, as the data vital to an individual building’s air quality is rapidly compiled and integrated. 

Near Bern, Switzerland, for instance, the dieMobilar Arena reports that it has been able to increase its energy and cost savings by more than 20%. As more information is collected, though, the number is expected to climb to 40%.

“We can save costs because the system is always perfectly adjusted,” noted Daniel Weber, the facility’s managing director of youth sports programs.

Even more impressive than specific numbers about expense reductions is the prospect of eliminating illnesses caused by exposure to unclean air.

For using digital transformation to combat the spread of air pollution, ActoVent was distinguished as a finalist at the 2023 SAP Innovation Awards, a yearly event honoring organizations making a difference. (You can read more about what ActoVent accomplished to earn this distinguished honor in their pitch deck.)