The Belgian companies Hamster Cleaning (Genk) and SmartLog (Bilzen) have developed a technology that allows to constantly measure and monitor the dirt in air ducts. Additional advantage: hygiene in ventilation systems is assured, especially important in Covid-19 times. This technology was developed with the help of an innovation premium of 50 000 Euros given by the province of Limburg. “By the means of this innovation we can monitor the cleanliness of the air ducts from a distance and determine more accurately when an air duct cleaning has to be planned’’, claim the inventors Seppe Thys (Managing Director of Hamster Cleaning) and Jo Nelissen (CEO of SmartLog). The sensor network will be available on the market in the first half of 2021. ‘’Digital innovations can make economic activities more effective and efficient. The smart and payable sensor technology from this project clears the way for new services and helps us to remain a leading knowledge economy’’, according to Tom Vandeput, deputy of Economy.

Dust and dirt accumulation in ventilation systems are unfortunately inevitable. Systematic maintenance and cleaning of these systems is therefore extremely important. Not only for the environment, but also for the installation. Without such cleaning the extraction systems have to work harder, the fire risk increases and the life span of the often expensive installation is significantly reduced.

Since 2014 the Belgian company Hamster Cleaning is specialized in air duct inspection and cleaning. “The market is continuously growing but is still relatively new in Belgium’’, explains Seppe Thys, director of Hamster Cleaning. ‘’Nowadays air ducts were often controlled by the means of a visual assessment, pictures or videos or a swipe sample. These inspection methods can give a view on the current situation but are often burdensome, expensive or not completely trustworthy. In addition, it is a very invasive approach because inspection hatches need to be made in the air ducts.’’

In order to make the inspection faster, more efficient and cheaper, Hamster Cleaning started a partnership with the nearby company SmartLog. This company is specialized in HVAC-diagnosis (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and has developed a sensor technology to map the dirtiness degree inside the air ducts. The main role in this technology is for a chip that can detect dust particles from barely 1 milligram. This detection is possible under varying pressure and does not depend on the air flow, humidity or temperature. In combination with specifically developed software an accurate prediction of the dirtiness can be made.

Digital transformation

“With this project we monitor in real time the amount of dust particles’’, says Jo Nelissen, the driving force behind SmartLog. “The sensors are positioned on intelligent places and are connected to a network. On regular moments the chip sends data to a digital platform that allows to follow up the contamination online. As soon as the predetermined limit values are crossed, an air duct cleaning will be automatically planned and executed.’’

The development of the sensor network generates a digital transformation in the sector.

“The integration of digital systems and the connection between those systems make companies smart and competitive. In the transition to the industry 4.0 it is important for us to encourage this in order to make a productivity leap’’, believes deputy of Economy Tom Vandeput. Furthermore, the network is an extra weapon to guarantee the hygiene of the ventilation system and therefore the entire building. In Covid-19 times this is a very big advantage.

Twenty times faster

The introduction of the sensor networks with their customers allows Hamster Cleaning to offer an extra service and to develop a long term relationship.

“In previous years we sent out our technicians to inspect the condition of the ventilation system when we had a suspicion that the amount of dirtiness exceeded the norm. This inspection took easily one or several days. From now on we will be able to deliver our customers a very reliable analysis within one hour without visiting the site. A win-win situation for both our customers as for our company’’, concludes Seppe.

Thanks to the sensor network everything goes at least twenty times faster. The time saved thanks to the sensor network allows Hamster Cleaning to do more cleaning projects. SmartLog can integrate the knowledge in other market applications, such as monitoring the position of gravity particles in sterile working environments where inspection nowadays is done by the means of very expensive laser equipment. The developed sensor network is a much cheaper and at least just as accurate alternative.

“By combining specialization and expertise, companies can make an important technological advance on their competitors. This innovation premium with a value of 50 000 Euros had a real leverage effect. Not only for the involved companies but also for the regional manufacturing industry which can further specialize in the production and assembling of these type of products in smart digital applications that can create new jobs and new investments’’, according to Tom Vandeput, deputy of Economy.

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