Going door-to-door to see if people are interested in a product is one way to drive sales. But is it the best way?
Senior Computer Vision Engineer Haoxin Ma and his teammates at Aurora Solar believe there’s a better way. That’s why Ma and fellow members of the Autoroof team at Aurora Solar collaborated with members of the Lead Capture team to create a new sales solution, Lead Capture AI, which enables marketers at solar businesses to show homeowners a personalized solar estimate by leveraging HD satellite imagery and LIDAR.
“This enables us to expand our sales hive to more customers and is powering our pipeline for solar installers,” Ma said.
SUPPORTING SOLAR BUSINESSES
Aurora Solar’s cloud-based platform uses data, automation and AI to streamline workflows and help solar businesses grow. The company’s newest solution, Lead Capture AI, can be embedded on solar company websites to qualify and capture prospective solar candidates. Burns explained that the technology generates a 3D model of a home using computer vision, places solar panels on it and determines how much a homeowner could save by adding solar energy to their property.
From financing to installation, there are many stages homeowners go through when purchasing solar energy. According to Engineering Manager Meghan Munseeney, Lead Capture AI is designed to facilitate the initial moments in the journey.
“Potential solar buyers and solar installers benefit from having these tools and data at their fingertips as early in the process as possible to better inform decisions and direction,” they said.
Lead Capture AI is part of an overarching aim to broaden Aurora Solar’s purview beyond sales and proposals. For Senior Product Manager Eric Burns, building the company’s latest technology forced the organization to overcome pre-existing perceptions and appeal to new customers.
“It required a lot of outreach to build awareness of what we can do,” he said.
Burns noted that the creation of Lead Capture AI held its fair share of “aha moments,” as he and others involved in the development phase overcame various obstacles and grew along the way. For Ma, the undertaking offered the chance to strengthen both his research and engineering skills.
“I learned how to transform the outcomes of my research into a product, then maintain and improve it over time,” he said.
Building a solution as powerful as Lead Capture AI requires not just cutting-edge technology, but a collaborative culture. According to Ma, Munseeney and Burns, the work that went into creating the company’s latest solution is a reflection of an overarching focus on innovation, teamwork and an eagerness to push the boundaries.
Teamwork Fuels Transformation
Before joining Aurora Solar, Ma had never seen his work fall into the hands of thousands of people.
That changed when he joined the company. Ma helps develop computer vision AI algorithms to support the Lead Capture AI solution while relying heavily on machine learning frameworks, such as PyTorch. He added that his team is often focused on improving their neural networks by regularly re-training them, leveraging an existing database of human-generated designs housed within the Aurora platform.
Ma believes that, apart from cutting-edge technology, collaboration plays an important role in driving success on his team.
“It really amazes me how people collaborate to deliver reliably and efficiently, even though we are spread across multiple time zones,” he said.
With committees for each project, daily or weekly syncs for progress checks and ad-hoc meetings to make alterations and decisions, it’s easy for Ma and his peers to stay on track when tackling projects such as Lead Capture AI. Munseeney echoed this sentiment, sharing that open communication via Slack, pair programming and frequent check-ins are critical to ensuring teams stay connected and organized.
This close-knit teamwork is important for Munseeney, considering their team is constantly discovering new things about how the company’s customers sell solar energy, what matters to them and what matters to their clients.
“Every jurisdiction, roof, installer and homeowner has different needs and nuances,” they explained. “Our challenge continues to be determining how to distill all of this with a sufficient level of accuracy, helping our customers maximize their success while also providing that ‘wow’ moment for homeowners and installers alike.”
At Aurora Solar, products need to be both innovative and influential, meaning it’s important to ensure the technology developed makes a difference in customers’ lives. To accomplish this, Burns explained, his team leans heavily on the company’s marketing department to understand what customers expect out of their technology.
In his mind, this dedication to quality isn’t the only defining feature of the work technologists deliver at Aurora Solar. Burns has seen the company embrace its long-term vision over the years, which he believes was aptly demonstrated in the development of the company’s computer vision technology AutoRoof, which took six years to release.
“To take that technology and develop it into a viable product demonstrates our collective commitment to Aurora’s mission,” he said.
‘A Spirit of Continuous Experimentation’
“What are the hills I will and won’t die on?”
This is the type of question Munseeney asks themself when working on any type of project at Aurora Solar, including Lead Capture AI. They feel empowered to define team values on their own terms and consider activities and rituals that actually make a difference.
For Munseeney, the company continuously gives team members the autonomy to uncover new possibilities while striving toward the same goal. Ma agreed with this idea, sharing that this empowerment can be felt on a daily basis, influencing the ways in which employees accomplish their work and strive toward the same mission together.
“People share their ideas and comments openly regardless of their role or level of experience, and all voices are heard and valued,” Ma said.
The work that went into creating Lead Capture AI reflects all of these different elements — autonomy, curiosity, collaboration and teamwork. While the new solution had many different influences on the company, Burns noted, its greatest impact was catalyzing employees’ eagerness to take risks and make decisions quickly in the pursuit of progress.
“This has been a humbling project, and a lot of the assumptions I had have been proven wrong,” he said. “There’s a spirit of continuous experimentation and willingness to try.”