Apr 22, 2021

The Hycleen Automation System by GF Piping Systems retrofitted in just 4 months using akenza’s IoT platform

Alexis Leibbrandt

At the core of the digital transformation strategy of GF is the Hycleen Automation System (Hycleen AS), a sanitary automation system for large drinking water installations. In this article, we cover how the system was retrofitted in just 4 months using the akenza platforms, and what results are obtained by doing so.

The Internet of Things is accelerating the digitization of products and services, equally impacting the potable water industry and infrastructure. The ever-changing technology is a challenge that opens new opportunities for Georg Fischer, globally known for their premium products in their three divisions: piping systems, casting solutions and machinery solutions. The Swiss company was founded in 1802 and is an impressive illustration of how constant adaptation to change is essential for any company wanting to remain successful.

At the core of the product digital transformation strategy in the section building technology is the Hycleen Automation System (Hycleen AS). The Hycleen AS is a sanitary automation system for large/complex drinking water installations. It ensures with a perfectly balanced hot/cold water circulation system, a regular water exchange best comfort, and hygienic conditions. Furthermore, it monitors and logs many critical points in the drinking water system and, thanks to the accurate data evaluation, helps to implement optimization measures with a lot of potential, such as energy savings.

The obvious next step: Hycleen Connect “a cloud-based remote access solution that offers four major benefits: remote monitoring, remote control, personalized alarming and data management.”

Benefits of a digital and smart drinking water installation

Satisfied users and save water hygiene

Hot and cold water at the right temperature with a short delivery time at each tap is perceived as a convenience and highly appreciated by users. However, if this intended operation of a drinking water installation in the building is not maintained, there is a risk of microbial contamination with harmful bacteria such as legionella. The European Union stated the Legionnaires’ disease as the highest health burden of all waterborne pathogens and is a form of atypical pneumonia. Among other factors, the bacteria tend to multiply especially in the lukewarm temperature range (between 20/25°C and 50°C). This temperature range must be avoided, i.e. the cold water must be cold and the hot water must be hot. Furthermore, the drinking water should not remain in the building for too long (stagnation), which means that all taps are used regularly. The Hycleen AS offers smart solutions for both of these requirements.

Sustainability and cost reduction

The energy consumption of a building has been steadily reduced in recent decades through improvements in its insulation, especially on the heating side. This has not yet been the case for hot water, and the energy consumption for hot water supply accounts for a significant and increasingly large share of the building's total energy consumption.
Thanks to perfect hydraulic balancing and well-founded data collection and evaluation, the Hycleen AS now allows significant efficiency optimizations in hot water preparation, which, in addition to the advantages of sustainability, also contribute to cost savings.

This project has won the “Smart Construction Solution of the Year” IoT Breakthrough Award 2021

The mission of the award is to recognize innovators, leaders and visionaries around the globe in a range of IoT categories

This year’s program attracted more than 3850 nominations from companies all over the world

Benefits of cloud based remote access to your drinking water installation

Together with akenza, GF transformed their infrastructure into a smart product by retrofitting it with IoT, connecting their Georg Fischer Hycleen Automation System to the cloud through the akenza Platform. The core of the project focused on a firmware upgrade of the master device of the system, responsible for the collection of data from the valves, to support the communication to and from the cloud.

Without the cloud, the Hycleen AS requires a connection with a higher-level control system (BMS) or a person on site, who could read and download the data, assessing what is offered by the Hycleen AS. Needing a specialist on site can cause an inconvenience, which often was reflected in neglecting necessary inspections, increasing the risk of improper operation or unawareness of incorrect usage by the user. As mentioned above, these could cause major problems.

In order to extend the capability of the Hycleen master, which could so far only be managed locally, the decision was taken to further retrofit the solution with remote capabilities using the akenza platform.

Being able to operate the system remotely allows facility managers to optimize processes, therefore increasing efficiency and lowering the costs.

The smart upgrading of the Hycleen AS is a solution making it possible to remote access and control multiple water installations, of multiple buildings. The decentralization of the system does not demand one specialist present, but can be accessed from any location and device with an internet connection, offering:

  • Remote monitoring: the client is able to monitor and see current and past data in well prepared dashboards.

  • Remote control: The client has remote accessibility to the application and valve parameters.

  • Remote alarming: the client is able to set up an individual alarm that will send an email triggered by certain values in the collected data.

  • Remote service: The client has the option to request maintenance services by sending GF access to their installation and data.

  • Remote updates: The Hycleen Master always has the newest Firmware available.

“The Hycleen Automation System is a state-of-the-art circulation control system that is quick and easy to install and commission. It also gives the possibility of automated flushing of the water lines. It allows for all system data to be logged, evaluated and displayed on a 10-inch touch screen. All system data can be conveniently monitored remotely; status information and unusual occurrences are reported via push messages.”

- GF on their website

Making the Hycleen AS more connected in only 4 months

In collaboration with akenza, this retrofit project was realized in a record time of only 4 months. With a simple firmware update of the master device and thanks to the akenza IoT Application Enablement Platform, it was possible to connect the Hycleen AS to the cloud via MQTT without the need for additional hardware development.

The Master device connects itself to the akenza platform and creates its digital twin. The master device is directly connected to the internet with an MQTT protocol, which is responsible for the bi-directional communication of up & downlinks. The akenza platform serves as an MQTT broker and device manager and thanks to the agnostic architecture it makes it possible to register any device, via any connectivity network. The platform then decodes the data, processes it and makes it available to the cloud in the final Hycleen Connect application. In the current case, the akenza platform is fully integrated as a white label solution in the Hycleen Connect solution, thus being completely transparent for the end-user.

The use of a strong IoT platform made it possible to validate the proof of concept in just one month and create a production ready-solution in an additional three months. This dramatically reduced time to market while requiring only minimal investments. The partnership between GF and akenza allowed enhancing the capabilities of an existing product and implementing it in the GF Connect cloud easily. Lastly, the addition of the product in the GF marketplace leads to an improved end-user experience. This was made possible without investing significant R&D resources in mastering the IoT complexity.

Results of the product upgrade

The upgrade of the newly integrated Hycleen Connect offers a user-friendly remote asset management platform, which supports all features of the previous system such as user comfort optimization, energy saving through hydraulic balance and hygiene risk reduction (risk reduction of Legionnaires’ disease), but offers as well new possibilities:

  • Remote monitoring: building managers have access to a centralized point to operate different buildings and coordinate maintenance services.

  • Cost reduction: optimizing maintenance processes leads to a reduction in costs.

  • Data accessibility: the available data makes it easier to document the conditions for the public health authorities.

  • Reaction time: the trigger of immediate alarms, based on data recorded by the system, making it fast to correct any problems or errors within the system.

The solution of akenza enables Georg Fischer to manage a high number of devices and data in one scalable cloud infrastructure. During the whole process, the technical experts from akenza worked in close collaboration with Georg Fischer to upgrade the product with the added connectivity layer and to support the deployment of the solution in Georg Fischer’s private cloud.

akenza offered the ideal IoT stack, allowing product development in a record time and at a low cost, opening up new breakthroughs in the retrofit of on-site solutions.

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