November 16, 2015

Fourdeg gives heating costs the cold shoulder

Fourdeg has developed an automated solution for buildings heated by water radiators that can be controlled in the palm of your hand.
Fourdeg has developed an automated solution for buildings heated by water radiators that can be controlled in the palm of your hand.
Fourdeg

Given the prevalence of cooler months here up north, it’s unsurprising that an innovative approach to heating has emerged from Finland.

Winter in Finland typically means sub-zero temperatures, thick blankets of snow and frozen lakes and sea. Yes, you read correctly: salt water can actually freeze! With up to six months of Arctic chill each year, Finns have learned to adapt in a number of ways. Layered clothing is a must, as are winter tyres on your car, triple glazing for windows and regular visits to the sauna.

Now, local company Fourdeg is further extending the level of comfort by offering an automated solution for buildings heated by water radiators that can be controlled in the palm of your hand.

“With Fourdeg, people can tune their own indoor climate as they wish, within certain safety limits,” explains CEO Markku Makkonen. “They control it via the phone or pad app, adjust every room and can make a schedule.”

Nonetheless, 90 per cent of users rely on Fourdeg’s automated system, with its proven learning algorithms facilitating temperature control throughout the whole building with ease. No programming, setting up parameters or system knowledge is needed. Meanwhile, for the statistically curious, detailed reports and temperature analyses are readily available.

Warming up

Like so many Finnish innovators at present, the company emerged in light of Nokia’s declining fortunes. Drawing on their earlier experience with building automation, the three former colleagues combined their knowledge and set about gauging market interest.

I hope we are a positive example of ‘constructive destruction’

“We visited the best customers for this kind of system and asked if they would need this kind of thing,” Makkonen recalls. “They said yes. Then we asked had they been offered these kinds of things before. They said no.”

Striking while the iron was hot, the company was swiftly established in early 2013.

Boosted by support from Finnish funding agency Tekes, Fourdeg built their first prototype, utilising learning algorhythms developed with Aalto University. A two-man crew then spent three hours altogether installing the inaugural system in a two-story midsized office building. This was done during a regular workday, with office employees remaining undisturbed during the process. The system was up and running automatically some 15-30 minutes later, exactly as they had planned.

Heating benefits

The Fourdeg solution reduces energy costs between 10-35 per cent, depending on the type of building and its insulation. This is nothing but good news for district heating companies, their main clients.

The Fourdeg solution reduces energy costs between 10-35 per cent, depending on the type of building and its insulation.

The Fourdeg solution reduces energy costs between 10-35 per cent, depending on the type of building and its insulation.

Fourdeg

“We can balance the district heating network loading, their own production costs, so they have cost reduction there,” Makkonen explains, before pointing out another significant reduction: the use of carbon dioxide. “Companies have the opportunity to join in the energy efficiency business, making them more competitive. They can also provide new services for their customers; more and more digital services, which will ensure the end user quality and lots of savings in building maintenance.”

Others have been quick to point out the benefits of the system. After winning the 50 000-euro pitching competition at the Arctic15 conference, Fourdeg was recognised for its business-to-business model of supporting the ecosystem and its modern approach towards the Internet of Things and cloud software setup.

And so, with their days at Nokia increasingly further behind them, the Fourdeg trio stands in the warm glow of an optimistic future.

“I hope we are a positive example of ‘constructive destruction’,” Makkonen states. “With the telecom ecosystem collapsing a bit in Finland, people who are talented and experienced now have opportunities and must do something new.”

The competition is heating up.

Text: James O’Sullivan

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