From Problem to Digital Product
For Virtual Super, we set out to create a solution for a problem that has plagued property owners since the advent of indoor plumbing.
Water leaks or burst pipes can cause catastrophic damage to buildings and destroy personal effects owned by tenants. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in damage can happen in just a matter of seconds. And it can strike at any time -- in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping, or over a weekend when no one is present to report the problem. When a water leak happens, the property owner can be completely unaware or powerless to stop it from wreaking havoc.
This isn’t just a one-off problem. Landlords everywhere face the same dilemma. We set out to not only create an advanced digital product, but also to design a digital, internet of things (IoT)-based business, starting with a simple and common problem and driving it all the way through to execution and taking it to market.
We couldn’t stop water problems from happening entirely, but we could certainly create a solution to minimize the damage and give property owners the power to halt a crisis in its tracks.
New Thinking for an Age-Old Challenge
Behind Virtual Super was a single visionary. Although this entrepreneur had vast experience and industry knowledge about the problem he wanted to solve, he had no staff or experience building products or technology companies. Our team became his de facto engineering, design, and strategy departments -- we took his vision and brought it to life.
We started by assessing the problem at a fundamental level, breaking it down into the core components that would allow us to build a solution based on a very specific set of circumstances and insights about the eventual end user.
There are plenty of water monitoring devices on the market. But they’re all built on ancient technology, relying on analog sensors and on-site alarms.
We needed an innovative way to give building owners total control. We needed to reinvent the solution from the ground up to use smarter, mobile technology to minimize risk.
We established the following goals:
- There needed to be both a hardware component to monitor the building and a mobile software component that provided reporting and alerts.
- It had to detect unexpected changes in moisture, temperature, or flow and have the intelligence to know “good” changes from ones that indicate a problem.
- Real-time monitoring had to capture data across multiple buildings at multiple points, simultaneously.
- The platform needed to be accessible and controllable remotely -- allowing the user to shut off the main water valve if necessary to stop or prevent damages.
- Everything needed to operate completely independent from the building’s power and internet infrastructure to provide telephone alerts and remote access even in the case of a disaster. Everything needed to happen in real time.
To make the Virtual Super product a reality, we had to develop both a suite of hardware sensors and a software interface that could control everything.
Our team of engineers and creatives combined powers to solve some exciting technical challenges, while ultimately creating a product that could be branded and marketed to other property owners.
A System with Purpose
We knew from the get-go that this was a perfect problem to solve with IoT. This allows us to string devices together, providing them a way to communicate and interact in real time, as well as monitor and control the devices from anywhere in the world.
We tapped into the latest in connected device technology by both partnering with IoT leaders and designing and building our own custom hardware sensors that would monitor the status of the building at all times. One sensor is used to detect moisture, one for flow, and one for temperature.
Each sensor has a pre-built and configurable rule set that allows the property owner to deploy the sensors where they’re needed and then predict or detect problems as they arise.
"In my first meeting with Croscon I presented a rough business idea. They then partnered with me to not only build the sensors, network & app but they built an actual business. No other company can match their ingenuity and ability to creatively deliver. If you're looking to build a business, you've found the right team."
- Joshua Smith, CEO, VirtualSuper
Types Of Sensors
Water Detected! These sensors are strategically placed in areas prone to water leaks or damage and trigger an alert if moisture is detected.
Dropping temperatures can cause pipes to burst. Our temperature sensors can predict an impending pipe burst or other related incident and provide early warning.
Each of the sensors relays information back to a central device, which monitors and tracks the entire system in real time. It transmits the status of the building to the owner’s or supervisor’s mobile device.
To bring the whole system together, we built a custom iOS application that puts total control right into the customer’s hand. From their phone, they can monitor the status of their building, provide alerts if something seems awry, and even cut off water remotely if there’s a problem that could be causing damage -- giving them complete control from anywhere and at any time.
How it Works
A Leak is Detected
It's 3am on Monday morning and unscheduled water flow is detected to an office on the 10th floor. The flow was caused by a pipe rupture which is now releasing water into the space :(
An Alert is sent out
The gateway communicates to the Virtual Super cloud via the cellular network. APNS messages are dispatched and our repetitive phone calls bust through phone DND modes and wake up building management.
User is notified of leak - Closes the main valve
The user opens the app, identifies the alert(s) and decides to shut the main water valve until they can get onsite to investigate and go back to ZzzZzzZ.
Main Water Valve
A message is dispatched to the IoT enabled water valve and the valve to the building is shut. The water leak on the 10th floor stops and considerable damage is averted in minutes.
Knowing that WiFi can be vulnerable, especially in an emergency situation, we built the system to connect via the more-reliable cellular network, meaning that even if the power or internet suffer outages, the system will stay online and functional.
In the end, we took a common problem and developed a digital and IoT product that is ready to be sold to property owners across the world.