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Transforming the housing sector with IoT

Increased talk about IoT in affordable housing leads Vinnett Taylor to ask whether the internet of things has the potential to transform the housing sector

The way humans communicate and deliver information has changed dramatically within the last two decades. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning embedded into a deluge of connected devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, telematics and watches have all become staple items in our day-to-day lives. Certainly for younger generations, it is difficult to imagine life without such devices and the immediacy with which information can be sent and received.

As advancements in micro-processor technology continue to drive down the size and cost of connective chips, the number of everyday devices becoming connected is only going to increase. Growth is exponential and by 2020 it is estimated we will have in excess of 50 billion connected devices worldwide.

As the Internet of Things continues to accelerate, it continues to reshape consumer and business experiences.

IOT
 

A great example of IoT technology is in the housing sector and is the introduction of Smart Meters. The UK Government, prompted by the EU, wants energy suppliers to install a smart meter in every home by 2020. Smart Meters are seen as a simple means of upgrading energy supply and tackling climate change, giving residents greater control over their energy usage and increasing understanding of energy bills.

Early adopters of IoT services in the housing sector are already seeing benefits in relation to smarter asset management, enhancing business outcomes and improving resident welfare.

Switchee, the first smart thermostat for Affordable Housing, has been helping Affordable Housing providers save money on maintenance repairs, and improving resident welfare.

This innovation paves the way for housing associations and local authorities to get the data which can shape new asset management solutions.

Real-time and historical data analytics can support different approaches to maintenance. For example, remote temperature and humidity data can now be analysed to identify properties at risk of condensation and mould growth. With this information, landlords can act proactively to prevent damp worsening and combat mould in afflicted properties. Tackling problems before they escalate is more cost effective, allows for better planning and creates better outcomes for residents.

Connected

Data can allow for a greater understanding of the causes of maintenance issues. Humidity readings, for example, can be analysed to determine whether condensation is due to ventilation or a behaviour in the property.  Such insight can help triage responses: knowing if an extractor fan is broken, or simply giving advice to residents on ventilation can save unnecessary visits and better direct resources.

Optimising appointments & compliance

Connected heating controls can act as an innovative new medium for landlord-resident communication. Acting as a communications portal, appointment scheduling will be simplified, more cost effective and allow for greater flexibility in arranging maintenance visits.

Occupancy data can be used to suggest a time a resident will most likely be at home, and subsequently help reduce costs on the number of missed appointments. This will also enable maintenance teams to exploit lulls in boiler usage over the summer to complete boiler services and to prevent the need to pay for an onrush of boiler callouts during the first cold snap of winter. This could pose significant savings for landlords, as they avoid the need to pay for a surge in boiler repairs.

Similarly, connected heating controls can be used to remotely test and diagnose faulty boilers. This not only saves landlords money before the cost of remedying escalates, it also allows them to take a proactive approach to compliance to gas safety laws, which, under the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations, must be completed once every 12 months. Data that is fed into building management systems can be used to automatically alert landlords, and trigger repairs, ultimately improving the gas safety of their properties.

Conclusion

There is very clear potential for connected technology to transform the housing sector. Smart meters and smart thermostats have already begun to change how consumers consume energy and heat their homes. However, Business to Business (B2B) solutions such as Switchee, have the potential to modernise how landlords improve property performance and improve welfare for their residents.

The provision of remote data insights, made possible by connected devices, shines a light into the dark of large housing portfolios.

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