For several decades, oil has been the most important industry in the southwest of Norway, with many businesses having contributed their expertise to the sector’s development. Such was the case for Zaptec, the Stavanger-based company whose name originally derives from the technology it deployed: sending electric currents through oil pipelines to clear out waste products.
Today, Zaptec has taken its oil industry expertise and transferred it to the renewable sector, transforming itself into a world leader in smart chargers.
"You could say we went from 'zapping' oil pipelines to galvanizing the green revolution," says Maiken Økland, Zaptec’s Head of Communications. "Our goal is to create a more sustainable and electric future by combining the latest technology with human-centered design. We hope to allow users to focus on the journey – on new and engaging experiences – rather than worrying about the distances involved," Økland says.
Imagine a housing estate with ten electric car chargers: in the late afternoon, people come home from work, plug in their cars, and go inside to cook dinner for the family. This means that car chargers, ovens, hot water tanks and dishwashers all need power simultaneously. When many people need to charge an electric car in the same locale at the same time – such as in a housing estate, an apartment building or a large business – there isn't always enough power for everyone to charge at full capacity.
This is precisely where Zaptec's cloud-based charging system offers a competitive edge. Each charger communicates information to the cloud, and the system then ensures that the available power is distributed fairly among the chargers.
"Zaptec's smart electric chargers are connected to each other like trees in a forest. They optimize the use of power and ensure that all available energy in the system is used as efficiently as possible," explains Joar Etterlid, System Developer at Zaptec.
The charging system prioritizes and distributes the available power between charging points at larger stations, as well as those installed in private households. Each charging point is an IoT device, meaning it is connected to the Internet in order to make charging more efficient.
"Thanks to our cloud-based solution, Zaptec can leverage up to 66 percent more of the power you already have available – but to reach this goal, we need to be connected to the cloud at all times," says Etterlid.
Zaptec has grand ambitions and is growing rapidly, with several new markets in Europe and other parts of the world on its radar. The company is aiming for a billion-NOK turnover in 2022; recently, its production capacity for smart chargers was expanded to meet demand in countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
"We are also working on a payment service for electric car charging called Charge365. This will address payment needs and make the chargers more user-friendly," says Økland.
Since each charger is connected to the Internet, Zaptec cannot simply update the software continuously, enabling features such as the ability to lock the charging box remotely from the app. The charging system is also integrated into Tibber, a provider that ensures the most affordable electric power at all times. In addition, smart system chargers feature a direct oversight function: this means that when a problem arises, users get direct customer support. Zaptec can perform ongoing maintenance on every single charger, whether the user lives in a single-family home or in an apartment complex.
Obviously, all of these features require a reliable and trustworthy cloud service.
"Orange Business has proven cloud expertise that’s highly valuable to us. Their know-how frees up a lot of time, which we can then use to build new features and improve the product instead of getting bogged down in operations. They ensure the quality of new features in Microsoft Azure, so we don't have to worry about choosing the wrong one. Moreover, they help us scale up and outward into new markets," says Efterlid.
"Operations are the most important thing for a company like ours. Our customer promise is 'charge whenever you want to discover new experiences,’ and this is where our business value lies," says Økland.
For Orange Business, Zaptec is an ideal partner to work with: cloud services are critical to the development of the Internet of Things, and car-charging networks are a perfect example of the kind of progress it can offer.
"The renewable industry inspires us to work toward sustainable digital solutions. Microsoft Azure's speed of innovation and our ability to integrate and operate the system provide Zaptec with a flexible and secure platform to achieve its sustainability goals," explains Robert Baumann, Marketing Manager at Orange Business.