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Smart Solutions for Solar: The Solarts Journey

The renewable energy landscape is rapidly transforming, and photovoltaics sits at the epicenter of this green revolution. In a world increasingly focused on sustainability, solar technologies have become a beacon of hope. Solar Technologies Scandinavia AS, a company based in Norway, has dedicated itself to harnessing the power of the sun and bringing clean energy to homes across Scandinavia.

miko lehman
Miko Lehman
CEO @ GMI Software
11 September 2023 13 MIN OF READING

The renewable energy landscape is rapidly transforming, and photovoltaics sits at the epicenter of this green revolution. In a world increasingly focused on sustainability, solar technologies have become a beacon of hope. Solar Technologies Scandinavia AS, a company based in Norway, has dedicated itself to harnessing the power of the sun and bringing clean energy to homes across Scandinavia.

At the heart of their innovative approach is Solarts, an advanced software solution that simplifies the complex process of solar panel installation. Traditionally, deciding on the correct photovoltaic panels, determining their optimal placement, and selecting a suitable installer were tasks that required time, expertise, and a certain degree of trial and error. Solarts turned these challenges into a streamlined, user-friendly experience.

The Solarts project aimed to empower customers with the tools to get a quick quote for the purchase and installation of photovoltaic panels. Users simply enter their address to receive a preview of their roof design, onto which they can virtually place the panels. This 2D and 3D visualization, combined with the software’s ability to suggest an optimal setup based on environmental factors and available products, was a game changer in the photovoltaic industry.

The technology behind Solarts is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Solar Technologies Scandinavia AS and GMI Software. This case study delves into the fascinating journey of how GMI Software, leveraging its technological prowess and innovative thinking, turned the Solarts vision into reality.

Identifying the Needs

In the arena of renewable energy, the journey from idea to execution is often paved with challenges. Solar Technologies Scandinavia AS, an industry leader in sustainable solutions, recognized a gap in the process of purchasing and installing photovoltaic panels. The traditional approach was a complex labyrinth of choices, often discouraging potential customers. These initial hurdles needed to be addressed to ensure solar energy could truly be accessible to all.

Eradicating Inefficiencies: The Quest for Streamlining Processes

The conventional process of procuring and installing photovoltaic panels was laborious and time-consuming. The convoluted search for the suitable panels, navigating through various installers, and deciding on the appropriate mounting systems could take up to 10 long weeks. The demand for a digital solution that could declutter this process, improve the overall efficiency, and significantly reduce the timeframe was palpable. It was clear that a radical transformation was necessary to take solar technology to the masses.

Seeing is Believing: The Need for Visual Clarity

The lack of a robust visualization tool added to the uncertainty faced by customers during the purchasing process. A picture speaks a thousand words – more so when making decisions about installing equipment on one’s property. The ability to virtually view the layout of the panels on their roof before making a purchase decision was a pressing requirement. Customers yearned for a tool that would allow them to ‘see’ the future of their homes powered by the sun. This led to the recognition of a need for a system capable of providing a realistic 2D and 3D representation of the solar panel layout on specific buildings.

Smart Solutions: A Call for Intelligent Recommendations

Purchasing photovoltaic panels isn’t just about choosing the most attractive ones; it’s about selecting the right panel and mounting system based on a range of environmental factors such as building insolation and snow load. This process required a level of technical expertise that most customers didn’t possess, often leading to incorrect or suboptimal choices. Thus, the demand arose for an intelligent recommendation system capable of factoring in these variables and suggesting the optimal panels and mounting system automatically.

Bridging the Gap: Connecting with the Right Installer

Finding a reliable and experienced installer in their area was another significant hurdle for customers. The quality of the installation is as important as the quality of the panels themselves, and the lack of a reliable platform connecting customers to a network of trusted professionals was a glaring issue. This pain point underscored the need for a comprehensive platform that ensured a seamless end-to-end process, right from panel selection to installation.

The Project Team and their Roles

To bring the ambitious vision of Solarts to life, a multidisciplinary team was assembled. This blend of diverse talent, brought together by GMI Software, was the catalyst needed to tackle the project’s complexities head-on.

The vCTO / PO: Navigating the Project

At the helm of the project was the vCTO/PO (Virtual Chief Technology Officer / Product Owner), whose primary responsibility was to steer the ship. With a bird’s-eye view of the project’s roadmap, they ensured the alignment of technological capabilities with the business objectives, setting the tone for the project’s direction. Their role involved translating complex project requirements into actionable tasks, coordinating with stakeholders, and managing the project’s scope and timeline.

The UI/UX Designer: Crafting the User Experience

The User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) designer was entrusted with a crucial task: transforming a technologically complex process into a user-friendly experience. They created intuitive and interactive designs, optimized workflows, and ensured the software was accessible and engaging. Every button placement, color choice, and transition was a result of their meticulous planning and design thinking.

The Full Stack Developer: Building the Backbone

The Full Stack Developer was the architect of the software, working on both the server-side and the client-side of the application. They were responsible for implementing the core logic, maintaining the database, and developing user-facing elements. Their expertise ensured seamless integration between the front-end and the back-end, creating a fluid user experience.

The Backend Developer: Powering the Engine

The Backend Developer worked behind the scenes, focusing on server-side logic, databases, and ensuring high performance and responsiveness to requests from the front-end. They played a critical role in managing data exchange between the server and the user, an essential component of the Solarts software.

The Frontend Developer: Polishing the Interface

The Frontend Developer focused on crafting the visible part of the software, ensuring it was aesthetically pleasing and functionally effective. They transformed the UI/UX designs into a living, interactive application, bringing the software to life for the end-user.

The 3D Developer: Sculpting the Virtual World

In a project where visualization was key, the role of the 3D Developer was paramount. They were responsible for creating the 3D models of the buildings and the photovoltaic panels, providing users with an immersive and realistic view of their potential solar installations.

Each of these roles, while distinct, synergistically contributed to the project’s success. Together, they navigated the challenges and complexities that came their way, creating a tool that revolutionized the solar panel installation process. Their collaboration and dedication ensured the vision of Solar Technologies Scandinavia AS was realized, turning Solarts into the game-changing solution it is today.

The Project Backlog and Design Stage

In the vast ocean of software development, navigating through complex project requirements and translating them into tangible solutions is a daunting task. For the Solarts project, the lighthouse guiding this voyage was established during the Discovery and Design Stage. This crucial phase embodied the soul of the project, setting the compass for the development journey.

Mapping the Customer Journey: The Compass to User Engagement

The initial step in this monumental undertaking involved crafting a detailed map of the customer journey. Understanding the numerous touchpoints of a customer’s interaction with Solarts, from the initiation of the process to the final stages, was essential. By empathizing with the customer’s needs, desires, and pain points, the team was able to weave a user-centric narrative. This careful study of user behavior and patterns served as the backbone for optimizing user experience, engagement, and ultimately, the success of Solarts.

The Product Backlog: A Beacon in the Development Storm

The heart of the project was its meticulously curated product backlog. This prioritized inventory of features, functionalities, and improvements formed the crux of the developmental blueprint. An ever-evolving guide, the backlog dictated the direction of the developmental wind, aligning team efforts towards the next key deliverable. It served as the lighthouse, constantly guiding the team through the turbulent waters of the development process.

Drafting the Future: The Power of Low-Fidelity Sketches

Low-fidelity sketches played a crucial role in the early stages of the design process. Acting as the initial visual draft of Solarts, these sketches facilitated discussions about design elements and user interaction. They set the stage for the exploration of innovative design possibilities, and provided a canvas for the team to envision and plan the user’s interaction with Solarts. This stepping stone in the design process was vital in ensuring a comprehensive and user-friendly design strategy.

Technical Requirements: The Building Blocks of Solarts

The defining of technical requirements was a critical milestone in the project roadmap. This encompassed the nitty-gritty of what technologies, platforms, and specific requirements were necessary to bring the Solarts vision to life. This phase was the bridge between the abstract world of ideas and their concrete implementation. It ensured that the team had a clear understanding of the technological landscape that they were to construct.

Designing the Aesthetic: Crafting the Visual Language

A distinctive visual language was then created in the form of a key visual/style guide/design system. This invaluable resource served as the visual DNA for Solarts, dictating the typography, color schemes, and component designs that would be consistently implemented across the application. It laid the foundation for visual consistency, enhancing user experience and promoting brand recognition. This design system was a powerful tool that guided the design process and ensured that the final product was aesthetically pleasing and intuitively navigable.

The granular planning and in-depth analysis of the Discovery and Design Stage set the rhythm for the subsequent development of Solarts. This phase underscored the importance of a strategic and user-centric approach and showcased how crafting a ground-breaking solution is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Overcoming Challenges 

Architecting an innovative solution such as Solarts necessitated a confluence of creative problem solving and technical proficiency. Each challenge in the path was viewed not as a barrier, but as an opportunity for technological ingenuity. The GMI Software team leveraged their deep expertise in a range of technologies to effectively navigate these challenges, ultimately sculpting Solarts into the game-changing solution it is today.

Navigating 3D Space: Complex Data Transformation and Modeling

One of the pivotal challenges was the creation of accurate 3D models of Norwegian buildings, essential for precise photovoltaic panel installation simulations. The task required interfacing with an API that could return the requisite file format. This data was then programmatically converted into a 3D model and integrated into BabylonJS, a powerful 3D rendering engine.

Accomplishing this required complex data transformations to reflect precise roof dimensions and slope. Leveraging Node.js and Nestjs, server-side JavaScript run-time and progressive Node.js frameworks respectively, the team was able to perform intricate calculations and data transformations required for the 3D model conversion process. This led to the creation of a system that reliably transformed real-world architectural data into interactive 3D visualizations.

Algorithmic Intelligence: Optimal Panel and Mounting System Recommendations

Developing a robust, intelligent system for panel placement recommendation required a significant amount of computational logic. By leveraging React and Next.js, renowned for their efficiency and performance in building dynamic user interfaces, an algorithm was developed that suggested the optimal number of panels and their placement, factoring in various physical constraints such as chimneys, ladders, and skylights.

The recommendation system was further extended to suggest an optimal mounting system. This demanded the integration of a multitude of variables, including the number of fixings, mounting rails, and the local snow load. Node.js and Nestjs were once again employed to devise and implement this complex backend logic. The result was a system that recommended the most suitable mounting system to users, ensuring long-term panel stability and maximum energy production.

Ensuring Product Fidelity: A Comprehensive Product Management Module

Maintaining consistency between the virtual representation of panels and the actual products sold by Solarts was crucial. Using MySQL, a reliable and efficient relational database management system, the team developed a comprehensive product management module. This system stored a vast array of detailed product data, ensuring consistency in data representation across the platform. This integrated solution allowed for a realistic and accurate 3D representation of panels while seamlessly linking it to the product catalog, thus ensuring the virtual and physical panels were indistinguishable.

Impact and Results

The successful development and deployment of Solarts marked a significant leap in the field of solar technology. By turning complex challenges into innovative solutions, the project brought forth an era of accelerated and streamlined solar panel installation, impacting both individual customers and the industry at large.

Tangible Transformation: Significant Time Reduction

One of the most prominent impacts of Solarts was the drastic reduction in the time required for customers to get a quote for solar panel installation. What was once a daunting process taking up to 10 weeks was now simplified and streamlined into a matter of just 2 days. This represented a five-fold increase in efficiency, highlighting the transformative power of technology when combined with thoughtful problem-solving.

Empowering Customers: Enhanced User Experience

Through its intelligent recommendation systems and realistic 3D visualizations, Solarts empowered customers to make informed decisions about their solar panel installation. By providing a platform for customers to visualize the placement of solar panels on their roofs and choose the best installer from their nearest area, Solarts fostered an environment of transparency and control, enhancing customer satisfaction and confidence in the solar panel installation process.

Industry Disruption: Pioneering a New Standard

Beyond its direct impact on customers, Solarts set a new standard in the solar technology industry. Its innovative approach to leveraging technology to simplify the complex process of solar panel installation has established it as a pioneering solution in the field. Its emphasis on user experience, efficiency, and intelligent recommendations has raised the bar for what customers can expect from solar technology solutions.

Conclusion: Lighting the Path to a Sustainable Future

The story of Solarts isn’t just about a breakthrough in solar technology; it’s about the people, passion, and perseverance that made it possible. The team at GMI Software took on complex challenges and, with their rich technological expertise and innovative approach, transformed an ambitious idea into a reality.

Solarts changed the game by cutting the customer quote process from 10 long weeks down to just 2 days, opening the doors to sustainable living for many more people. But it’s not just about what Solarts achieved; it’s about how it raised the bar for the entire industry.

If your company is dreaming big and looking to make a difference, GMI Software is the perfect partner to bring those dreams to life. They see challenges as opportunities for innovation and believe in the power of technology to shape a brighter future.

When you team up with GMI Software, you’re joining a group of people who aren’t just experts in their field, but also passionate about using their skills to make a real difference. So, if your business is ready to make its mark and contribute to a sustainable tomorrow, GMI Software is ready to take that journey with you. Let’s join hands and innovate for a brighter, greener future.