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It is a long-held tradition in social housing that when government funds are made available for improving the quality of housing stock, the main installations conducted are related to insulation. The current Green Homes Grant is no different and ECO3...

  • Data
  • by Charles Solanki on October 13, 2020

If your properties could talk, what would they say?

When a human gets sick, they go to the doctor. But what happens when a property is sick? Is there a way to let our properties do the talking for us?

As humans, it is in our nature to want to address any issues we find with our bodies. If we have a cut, we wash and plaster it; if it is something more serious, we visit a doctor. We know that pain or discomfort is a sign that something is wrong, and so, we take action to remedy it. Unfortunately, our homes are not yet able to respond as proactively and they are reliant on their occupants to diagnose and remedy problems. This might not be a problem if we humans were metronomic machines, capable of resolving issues with the wave of a hand. Unfortunately, we are not.

As with any deterioration in human health, the physical deterioration of a home compounds over time. The longer it is left, the worse it becomes. Furthermore, we can often underplay issues with our homes, even when those issues might be causing us physical discomfort. So how can we ensure that our homes have a voice and that its needs are met? Remember, this is in our best interest too. The longer an issue is left unresolved, the more costly it becomes for us to fix.

Data is part of the solution

You read a lot about the power of data in the Switchee blog. That’s because we believe it is the answer to a lot of the housing sector’s challenges. We have seen time and again how other sectors and industries have been transformed by the power of data, and more broadly, digitisation: fintech has flipped the financial sector on its head; efficiency in logistics and manufacturing has improved dramatically; marketing and sales are now considerably more targeted; reliability in the automotive sector has improved. On the topic of health, many consumers now wear smartwatches which, whilst not replacing medical check-ups, can provide a good day-to-day way to measure a person’s health. All of these improvements are being driven by data.

data

Of course, retrofitting the 30 million homes in the UK with IoT devices is a challenge. We are not as fortunate as the automotive sector which can rely on consumers swapping their old cars in for a brand new car with all of the latest technology once every 7.8 years. However, this should not stop us from trying to get IoT devices as widely available as possible. With the average annual cost of maintenance and repairs per property in the UK sitting at £1,716, there is a lot of room for improvement in how we manage our homes.

IoT is the most logical route for gathering all of that data

Now, it is unrealistic to suggest that each home has an Alexa-style product that literally talks to its residents about any issues in a property. Rather, we are suggesting the installation of small devices that gather data about a property’s performance and wirelessly communicate this data using quantifiable metrics. If landlords and residents were alerted when a home displayed early signs of mould risk, or, if its heating system wasn’t working at maximum capacity, such issues could be resolved quickly and before the cost of fixing them rises.

With Switchee, for example, humidity sensors in the device (combined with external data, such as the external dew point) help to indicate a property’s risk of mould. With data like this, our customers can understand if a property is at a high, medium or low risk. Armed with this information, housing providers can then prioritise the maintenance of their properties by risk - instead of geography or budget. There are a tonne of other examples of how IoT technology can help improve data-driven decision making and property management in the housing sector.

IoT Devices

What are the benefits?

The benefits of having access to remote data for your portfolio’s stock are threefold. Firstly, you can pre-empt issues in the property, meaning the cost of remedial works is reduced. The earlier an issue with a property can be identified, the cheaper that problem is to fix. Moreover, early intervention can significantly reduce the likelihood of costly disrepair cases being made against you at a later date. Secondly, maintenance teams are able to better manage their resources and reduce the number of emergency and out-of-hours call-outs. This ultimately reduces the cost of maintaining your housing portfolio and helps to improve the quality of service to residents. Thirdly, access to remote data allows you to improve the quality of life of your residents - including a dramatically increased rate of digital inclusion amongst your residents. IoT technology can give you the opportunity to communicate with digitally isolated residents far more effectively - giving residents the confidence that issues with their property have being highlighted to their landlord’s maintenance team. The value of this can be enormous with HACT’s social value bank estimating that ‘the ability to obtain advice locally’ can improve a person’s wellbeing by £1,977 per year.

Having a property that can ‘talk’ offers benefits for all parties – landlords, residents and maintenance teams. As we enter the post-COVID world, data is going to drive more and more of our decisions and it is vital that the housing sector keeps up. Our belief is built on the success in other sectors - resulting in complete transformations following digitisation. We’d love for you to join us on this journey.

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