Creating Smarter Buildings and Business Processes with Deployment to the Azure Cloud

#Think Digital #Internet Of Things


As a technical service provider, Unica Group is in the middle of a complex technical landscape where electrical-, mechanical- and IT-systems are all coming together. Especially in the field of IT innovation a lot is happening, and at a very high pace. Upcoming technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will potentially create a big impact within the technical installation industry. To explore and enable the potential of these new types of technologies, the Unica Group founded Unica Innovation Center.

As they were already extensively using proven Microsoft software products, Unica Group and Unica Innovation Center decided to use Microsoft Azure as their platform of choice to develop their new initiatives around IoT and AI. As a result, Unica Innovation Center was looking for an experienced Azure development partner that could help them further develop their initiatives into successes.



In the past three years we have been working with several clients to make their IoT & AI initiatives successful. As a Microsoft gold partner, we do this by deploying the use of the Microsoft Azure Technology Stack in combination with open-source software. Unica Innovation Center has asked us to think along in creating an IoT cloud architecture that is both flexible and scalable in connecting and processing different kinds of data sources.

To ensure flexibility and agility, we have agreed with Unica Innovation Center to collaborate on the platform development in an agile way. This resulted in a scalable architecture that offers a lot of flexibilities for processing IoT related data. To do so, the platform makes use of Azure native components such as IoT Hub, Azure Functions and Blob Storage, in combination with open source technologies such as Swagger, TensorFlow, PostgreSQL and ReactJS.

Long-term collaboration

Unica Innovation Center and Heroes have agreed upon a long-term collaboration around IoT & AI on Azure. Since the beginning of 2020 we started with a solid development and implementation of the architecture framework, where we connected various data sources within the Unica Group to the platform. In doing so, our primary goal was to make the data easily accessible for all the Unica companies to unlock use cases that were previously considered as not possible / feasible.

And this is exactly what is happening at the moment! Since the public launch of the platform, branded as Building Insight, Unica Innovation Center receives a lot of requests to create data driven application. The first deployments at customers of Unica already show great benefits of the intensive use of building data, resulting in actions that improve the overall building performance; higher comfort levels, improved energy efficiency and reduced CO2 footprint. 

Explore, Prototype and Test

With the platform in place, exploration of opportunities has begun in collaboration with companies in the group. During one of the first explorations, we focused on how the platform could be used to add value to the entire Unica Group. By means of a Design Sprint workshop we started collaboratively designing a concept around a corporate application for Unica customers. The goal of the app was to make data around their assets easily accessible.

The outcome of the Design Sprint resulted in a mock-up of an app where data would be made available regarding the asset of the customer. This would include real time insights regarding building use, comfort levels, energy performance, planned maintenance and asset documentation. Currently the Unica Insights App is in a minimal viable product (MVP) phase and features are being tested. Below a sneak peak of the MVP.

Besides corporate initiatives, the platform is also being used for the use of customer specific applications. One example is the feedback application. It is used to receive feedback from building users on how they experience comfort levels. By means of QR-codes placed throughout the building, people are directed to a web page where they get real time insights on the comfort conditions in that area.  Subsequently they can provide feedback by giving a score on their perception on the comfort conditions. This data is then being saved on the platform and used to analyse and optimize the performance of the technical installations.