ICR3ATE and Univé work together to prevent fire in the home

A fire in the house often causes enormous havoc with damage that can no longer be repaired. For insurers, this creates a large claim burden. Univé is working with ICR3ATE to develop a sensor that measures certain values so that the insured can be warned in time.

In 2018, Univé participated in a Business Challenge organized by the Chamber of Commerce (KvK). The Chamber of Commerce organizes these challenges to make it easier for large companies and corporations to get in touch with SMEs and Startups. In addition to dozens of other small companies, ICR3ATE signed up for this business challenge. Due to the great diversity of technical disciplines and knowledge with IoT and smart sensors, Univé chose ICR3ATE and partners Fluctus and Studio Mango.

Univé has investigated that chimney fires can be traced back to the improper use of a wood stove. This leads to gigantic claims that the insurer must reimburse and the emotional impact on the insured. But how do you ensure that insured persons will use the wood stove in the right way? That’s a tough question. That is why Univé asked during the Business Challenge whether it is possible to reduce or even prevent chimney fires. But is this even possible?

Is it possible to reduce or prevent chimney fires?

A chimney fire occurs as soon as creosote, a tarry substance, ignites in the flue at 650 °C. But how does creosote end up in a flue? This depends on a number of factors: the length and shape of the flue, the temperature at the beginning and end of the flue, the weather conditions, the humidity level in the wood and the type of wood fired. With so many variable factors, every chimney smokes differently, making it difficult to measure all factors exactly. Nevertheless, the approach was to prevent a chimney fire in a generic way.

Measuring creosote proved difficult, although it was possible to enrich chimneys with sensors that measure certain values. By distilling these measured values in the dataset, it is possible to make predictions for each unique chimney. The data was transferred via the LoRA wireless network, eliminating the need for cabling in the chimney. By means of energy harvesting, we ensured that the outdoor sensor works autonomously. But in addition to measuring and predicting, there were more challenges. Think of placing a sensor in the flue and the representativeness of all observed values.

Creosote is difficult to measure. But it is certainly possible to predict and prevent a fire

The solution lies in using two sensors: above and below in the flue. In this way, the temperature and humidity can be measured in two places. The use of chimneys results in a certain pattern of firing behaviour, with a predictive character (distillation of the dataset). This information was converted into a consumer app. This makes it possible to alert the consumer in time, when the sensors and the dataset predict a dangerous situation. We have developed a dashboard for Univé with which the sensors can be managed and Univé also receives a notification when a possible chimney fire is detected. This ensures a safer situation for all insured persons with a chimney that is easy for Univé to manage.

What does the sensor have to comply with?

  • measuring high temperatures at stove outlet in a non-invasive way (with contact or by e.g. infrared)
  • measuring high temperatures at chimney outlet in a non-invasive way (and which can withstand a fire)
  • use sensor technology that is installed in the chimney
  • investigate whether and to what extent IoT data transfer is possible from a metal chimney channel
  • find out what variety of heater outlets are needed that require more types of temperature sensors than one standard type


During the project, ICR3ATE took new steps of sensory developments. The sensors were relatively simple, but the processes complicated to make generic. This has made it possible to measure and predict creosote formation. The same sensors could be used in other places where incomplete combustion takes place, since we can make predictions based on emissions and prevent fires, among other things. We can also measure other factors that are interesting in waste processing, pellet stoves and other household installations.

ICR3ATE collaborates with Fluctus and Studio Mango. Precisely because the three of us complement each other well, the realization of the chimney sensors was a success. In the end, the biggest challenge was to translate everything that has been successfully tested in the lab into the real world.

The chimney sensor on EenVandaag

Watch the excerpt about the chimney sensor on EenVandaag:

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