A New Business Model for a Midsize Business: Fresh Air As A Service

New cloud platform technologies have unleashed new opportunities for business model innovation. Midsize companies, in particular, can leverage their deep understand of their customer needs to go beyond providing products or simple transactional services, and instead introduce more value-added solutions on a subscription basis.

ActoVent in Germany is a great example of this trend, and has explained the technical and business opportunities in their entry to the SAP Innovation Awards 2023.

The family business, with only a handful of employees, was founded in 2009 as a specialist wholesaler of residential ventilation. But the company has now introduced a new product called FreshAirManager (“frischluftManager”) an all-in-one solution that orchestrates everything required to provide “Fresh air as a service.”

It’s designed for large buildings such as office, factories, retail stores, hospitals, and climbing gyms, and provides clear benefits: poor indoor air quality is associated with poorer health and lower productivity, and constant changes in building use mean that most ventilation systems to consume energy unnecessarily. There are already over 1,000 ventilation systems already using the platform, with benefits of up to 40% energy savings (with corresponding cost and CO2 savings, depending on the source energy used).

With the help of services partner AGILITA, the customer portal was built in just days using design thinking approaches and the SAP Business Technology Platform. You can see this system in action in this video featuring the Mobilier Arena in Bern, Switzerland:


For an initial investment of less than €3,000, the system has allowed the optimization, automation, and visualization of all aspects of the air conditioning systems, by connecting to devices to detect fine dust particles and air pressure. This has helped guarantee high quality air while reducing energy costs by more than 20% — with further cost cutting opportunities expected in the future. Machine learning is used to identify correlations between air quality and system control and give technicians suggestions on how to adjust the system.

The system can also detect when filters are getting blocked, resulting in more cheaper, more proactive, more sustainable maintenance — In a recent interview, the two actoVent managing directors, Jörg and Franz Penka explained:

“Today, many filters are purchased based on price. Equipment owners are often unaware that the filter price represents only about 15% of the total cost of a filter’s life. Over 70% is for the energy costs of the filter. Unfortunately, this is not a topic that a buyer necessarily finds on their target agenda. It is difficult to position the topic of sustainability in the current supply chain process. In addition, the majority of filter changes are performed according to fixed change intervals. With the Frischluftmanager, we can offer our customers those filters that optimize their energy needs as well as provide a total cost analysis. With affordable measurement systems, we can monitor the filters and then order the change when it is actually necessary. We help to achieve the optimum in terms of energy demand, price, quality and changeover time, while achieving the desired as well as required air qualities.”

It’s a great example of how cheaper sensors, combined with intelligence sensors, a customer portal, and a new pricing model is a win/win/win opportunity. It has helped provide a better experience for customers, improved efficiency and cut costs, and helped make the world a better place!

For more examples of new business models with a little help from SAP Business Technology Platform, check out my interviews with innovation leaders as part of the SAP Better Together Customer Series.