Insero Live Lab – A living laboratory of the future

Insero Live Lab was Insero’s realisation of a large living laboratory in the fields of energy and ICT. Here, new technologies were tested and developed in collaboration between companies, local families and research institutions. INSERO LIVE LAB tegning In the Insero Live Lab project, 20 families in the Danish village of Stenderup had their homes upgraded to the intelligent home of the future with the latest technology within energy and ICT – linked together and managed via a local Smart Grid. The families tested the technologies in real life and developed them further in close cooperation with suppliers and manufacturers.

With Insero Live Lab, innovative companies and entrepreneurs alike were presented with a unique opportunity to have their products and services demonstrated in a real world setting, with real life end-users and with a specific market in mind. The result was new business opportunities, new projects and new knowledge about the energy and IT solutions of the future, and how they function together in practice. The living laboratory thus formed a strong foundation for further development and growth. The 20 families had their  homes fitted with the latest equipment within energy and ICT, and via a Smart Grid, the families tested the mutual interaction of the technologies as well as their coherence with the entire energy system. The 20 homes were all situated in Insero’s local area, but a selection criterion was that they were outside the collective district heating area.

The houses were equipped with:

  • A heat pump connected to a hydronic heating system
  • A solar heating system
  • Photovoltaic cells
  • A complete ‘Home Automation’ system for control of indoor climate and comfort
  • A charging box for an electric vehicle
  • An electric vehicle (rental)
  • A broadband Internet connection

While tests were taking place, the families had access to live information about market prices, weather forecasts, production and consumption forecasts, etc. This happened via an intelligent IT-cloud system, through which utility companies, suppliers and other third parties could also interact with the different houses. The initial expectation was that the new equipment combined with presentation of useful information would influence the families’ behaviour and energy consumption in a positive way – which was also true to some degree,  as the families got more and more interested in energy consumption. Simulateously, the user interface to the overall Smart Grid was to be developed in a way that the families would find easy and simple to use. Finally, the families not only tested the technologies and services. They also helped develop them further in close cooperation with suppliers and manufacturers, and as a result, they represented the prosumers of the future – a combination of an energy producer and consumer. The families benefitted from participating, partly through lower monthly energy costs combined with improved indoor climate and comfort, partly through the exhilarating experience of being part of a new project, thereby influencing the development of future technologies and their real-life uses.

Development platform for companies

In addition to the family benefits, Insero Live Lab offered a series of new opportunities for local, national and internatiuonal companies and entrepreneurs. A living laboratory is characterized by being a place or an area, where ‘real people’ use, test and evaluate new technologies and services, and where the technologies play a natural part in these people’s everyday lives. This provided the partners with valuable data about how the families actually used the technologies in their everyday lives, and how they could be improved, so that even more people would benefit from them. Generally, a living lab is a powerful way to demonstrate technologies and their interaction in practice. Here, the users of the future are at the centre of a co-creation innovation process, meaning that new knowledge and ideas for products or services are developed based on actual user needs. This results in a dynamic development, where both the users and the market are part of the development process from the very beginning.

Part of a larger project

While Insero Live Lab was taking shape in Insero’s local region, corresponding trial sites were found in six other European countries. This was because Insero Live Lab was part of a larger European venture – the FINESCE project – aimed at testing and developing the future Internet for various industries. In this project, Insero was in charge of developing a system, which would be used for controlling energy production and consumption. Parallel to Insero Live Lab, a similar construction was being established in an office building in Madrid.

Madrid

The building in Madrid

The control of energy production and consumption using Smart Grid was chosen for testing, because a reliable, sustainable and cost-effective energy supply was  at the peak of the political agenda all over the world – not least in Denmark. All of Europe was – and is still – preoccupied with security of supply, and therefore development projects that offer solutions for multiple energy-related challenges are being prioritized. Among other things, one challenge was to balance the supply and demand of energy in the future and this was where the Smart Grid came into play. Smart Grid is thus supposed to manage and optimize the balance between supply and demand in an intelligent way. Similar to Insero Live Lab, the European FINESCE project had a duration of two years. With Insero Live Lab, Insero took the lead in pairing the stated need for new and better solutions in the Smart Grid area with the ability to create growth and development. At the same time, Insero wanted to use the live lab for opening up to the outside world and to exchange experience and knowledge with other European trial sites. The goal was to create new knowledge, new technologies and new jobs.

Behind Insero Live Lab

Insero Live Lab was run by the Insero group, which invests in companies, projects and innovative research in the fields of energy and ICT. The purpose of these investments is to spur growth and development in the region between Horsens, Hedensted, Juelsminde and Vejle. Insero Live Lab was another step in Insero efforts to proactively create growth and development through development and demonstration projects – a commitment that started with the development project Prøv1elbil, where 100 families tested an electric vehicle for three months. The Insero Horsens foundation invested six million kr. in Insero Live Lab, while the large European commitment to develop the future Internet had a total budget of 143 million kr. Out of this, 12 million kr. were reserved for the development of the local laboratory in Horsens. From Insero, all areas of competence were involved in the project, which included test of business models for electric vehicles, user involvement, communication, finances, events, and innovation activities in the project. Furthermore, Insero handled the development, implementation and operation of the IT infrastructure, which was used for controlling energy production and consumption, and Insero was also in charge of developing and running the demonstration facility – i.e. the 20 houses.  

This post is also available in: Danish