Case Study: Partnering with Utopi to create  building monitoring sensors 

The challenge

Digital technology company Utopi has developed a data platform to give the owners and operators of residential properties a real-time insight into how their buildings are performing. Its platform is built on the internet of things (IoT), which involves linking together not only computers but also other electronic equipment and sensors, so that they can share data.

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Monitoring the performance of buildings is a key step towards tackling the climate emergency. Giving building owners and operators real-time data allows them to control the energy use of their properties, cutting down on needless greenhouse gas emissions by turning off the heating or lighting when they’re not needed, and saving money at the same time.

Utopi needed a device that could be installed in homes to measure a range of factors, from temperature, humidity, and air pressure through to motion, noise, and ambient light. The devices will be deployed in scores of rented properties, student flats, and retirement homes, and so needed to be low cost and also draw very little power.

Falk Bleyl, chief technology officer at Utopi, which is based at Hamilton in Scotland, explained: “The device not only needed to be packed full of sensors but also aesthetically pleasing – it will be installed in high-quality homes, and so it mustn’t look out of place among flatscreen televisions, recessed lighting, and other pieces of modern technology.

“In short, we were looking for a unicorn – something that didn’t exist – so we had to create it. We didn’t have much experience in the electronics industry, and so teaming up with CB Technology was the ideal solution because they guided us through each step of the process.”

The solution

Utopi worked initially with Censis – Scotland’s centre of excellence for sensing, imaging, and IoT technologies – to prove its concept. CB Technology then used its experience with sensors in the oil and gas industry and other industrial sectors to turn that concept into a working device that could be manufactured at scale.

CB Technology began working with Utopi at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, with the teams getting to know each other and learning about the project’s requirements over telephone calls and video conferences. Those initial steps meant CB Technology was involved in supporting the design of the electronics for manufacturability and material selection  as well as helping Utopi manage the supply chain for its plastic case, while keeping the costs within the client’s budget.


CB Technology’s team at Livingston in Scotland worked into the Christmas break to assess plastics suppliers in order to keep the project on track and to avoid the Chinese New Year slowdown and ongoing supply chain problems caused by the pandemic. They were also involved in working with Utopi and Censis to design an automated test solution such that the devices left the factory ready to be used and already tested on the remote transmission data network that forms the backbone of the building management control infrastructure designed by Utopi.

Graeme Robertson, Sales and Business Development Director at CB Technology, said: “Starting the project during the pandemic meant we didn’t meet Falk in person until we manufactured the prototype circuit boards in May. We’d been in touch so much and worked so closely together that it didn’t feel like we were meeting for the first time.

“Working remotely – and using tools like video conferencing and workflow management programs – is going to become much more common. This project showed how well that process can work, even for highly-complex devices.”


Falk Bleyl of Utopi said: “Working with CB Technology was like having an in-house manufacturing department. They worked so closely with us and kept us up to date at every step in the process, from the designs and the prototypes through to sourcing the components and testing the final devices.

“Having that project management support from CB Technology was key to the success of this project because they filled-in the gaps in our own experience when it came to building a device and setting up a supply chain. We’re very proud to have been able to partner with a fellow Scottish company, which allowed us to carry out manufacturing at home, rather than outsourcing it overseas.”

Graeme Robertson of CB Technology  added: “Understanding what our customer wants is essential to make sure that projects deliver their goals. By listening carefully to Utopi’s brief and then communicating clearly at each step on the journey, we were able to deliver the device on time and on budget, even during a pandemic.

“All the hours we spent building that relationship with Utopi was time well spent because it meant we could have open and honest conversations all the way through the process. Whenever we hit a bump in the road, it meant we trusted each other and we were able to work together to implement a strong solution and keep the project on track.”


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