Building a scalable IoT system for connected air purifiers on AWS IoT: Blueair (a Unilever company)
Our homes contain everything from dust, cooking fumes, and chemicals released from paint, furniture, and cleaning agents. Add to that polluted outdoor air making its way into our homes through ventilation, and you’ve got a cocktail of toxins floating around between your four walls. Clean air has proven positive health benefits. It can provide asthma and allergy relief, prevent sickness from bacteria and viruses, and help us sleep better which in turn boosts our immune system. Clean air even makes us smarter according to research. Blueair (a Unilever company) is a leading producer of premium air purifiers for home and professional use. They launched a new generation of connected products called HealthProtect, which proactively monitor air quality and track levels of fine particles and volatile organic compounds as well as the probability of germ growth. Blueair was already a player in the connected device space, but as it noticed that more of its customers were using connected home products, the company knew it was time to prepare for a future when all its devices, which are popular in over 60 countries, would be connected on the Internet of Things (IoT).
To achieve the global scalability necessary to support a growing number of connected devices around the world, Blueair rapidly developed and deployed its HealthProtect product line using an IoT system on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Building on AWS enables enhanced security and privacy for Blueair’s customers and supports releases of new and upgraded features so that every air purifier continues to deliver value throughout its life span. “Freedom to breathe clean, healthy air as nature intended is our promise to consumers,” says Johan Alvenberg, Global IoT program lead at Blueair. “By proactively monitoring the air quality and ensuring 24/7 protection against harmful pollutants, we are doing just that. For the tech savvy we have also added smart, premium usability and functions.”
Blueair built a complete end-to-end IoT platform on AWS in record time and scaled globally with ease to reach customers in more regions.
Centralizing device management on AWS IoT Core
When implementing the HealthProtect product line, Blueair opted to use AWS IoT Core as a central point for managing its growing system of connected devices. From there, it used microservices to store air-quality data and support functionalities such as voice assistance through Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for AWS IoT and 1-Click filter reordering through Amazon Dash Replenishment. The company also introduced a SmartFilter feature, which calculates each filter’s life span, tracks its life cycle, and reminds the customer to replace it when the time comes. It’s simple for customers to automate the reordering of replacement filters either directly from Blueair or through third parties, such as Amazon Dash Replenishment, so customers always have a high level of air purification.
To engage with their home devices, customers use the Blueair app, which communicates using Amazon API Gateway —a fully managed service that enables developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs. Customers can ultimately engage with the device itself by way of Device Shadow, a feature of AWS IoT Core. Device shadows store the latest state of a connected device, which can be read or set at any time, even when an air purifier is turned off. This is critical for supporting the HealthProtect air purifier’s GermShield function, which detects germ-prone environments and kills bacteria and viruses, even when the device is on standby. For security, Blueair leveraged AWS IoT Device Defender and its machine learning feature, ML Detect, to easily implement always-on, proactive security, ensuring the devices were always safe, secured, and fully functional.
For its computing needs, Blueair uses AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service that enables developers to run code without provisioning or managing servers. Finally, it securely stores data, including air-quality information, on Amazon DynamoDB, a serverless NoSQL database. The security features built into all AWS services enable secure communication among Blueair’s devices, its mobile app, and AWS. Maintaining high standards for protecting customer privacy has never been simpler for Blueair.
Once architecture and business requirements were clear, Blueair was able to bring HealthProtect air purifiers from development to initial sales to customers’ homes in less than one year—an acceleration of their product development timeline. Since the turnaround time for new products was previously greater than 1 year, the company achieved a shorter timeline. Not only did Blueair speed time to market, the solution also enables continuous innovation without service disruption to its customers.
Planning for cleaner air on a global scale
By building a new line of connected air purifiers from the ground up on AWS, Blueair gained the ability to scale up securely, cost efficiently, and with the robust foundation needed to regularly release new features to a growing network of devices. Eventually, the company expects to support millions of connected air purifiers around the world.
Blueair also plans to use artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities on AWS to unlock new, innovative potential. “We’ve always been a premium brand,” says Alvenberg. “On AWS, we can deliver premium digitally connected experiences as well.”
About the authors
Syed Rehan is a Sr. Specialist Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services and is based in London. He is covering global span of customers and supporting them as lead IoT Solution Architect. Syed has in-depth knowledge of IoT and cloud and works in this role with global customers ranging from start-up to enterprises to enable them to build IoT solutions with the AWS eco system.
Johan Alvenberg is a Global Solutions Architect IoT and IT at Blueair (a Unilever company). He has been driving the IoT initiative from idea to realization.