IoT can contribute significantly in helping local authorities and housing associations satisfy their responsibilities and duty of care to tenants.
Whilst the two most widely known solutions relate to heating and utilities, this is only a small part of how IoT can be utilised.
To find out more, we spoke to notiria Director’s Vince Potter and Greg Tutt. notiria are specialists in helping organisations securely connect to their business assets through IoT.
Q) So, for those that are new to this topic, can you give us a quick insight to what digital transformation is?
VP ”Well there is a vast number of definitions out there. But in short, they all focus on digital innovation that enables an organisation to create and benefit from improved and more efficient products and services. It is widely recognised that this provides a sustainable advantage for those organisations.”
Q) You mention sustainable advantages. How does this apply to housing providers?
VP “So, if you look at the big picture, associations have duty of care and regulatory obligations. Compliance relies on effective governance and risk management arrangements being in place. When incidents occur, by which I mean breaches, regulators often find corresponding failures in the provider’s governance.
Although digital transformation cannot fulfil every compliance area currently, it can be implemented in many. And because it’s always engaged, it is remarkable at detecting and alerting providers of risk and providing automatic, accurate audit trails. And that’s only a small part of how providers can benefit from this technology. Beyond this there are plenty of other uses such as predictive maintenance which can minimise the need to visit homes.”
Q) Are there similarities in the issues faced by providers or do they vary between sectors?
GT “There are common themes, and in terms of why they exist, these aren’t unique to housing providers either.
We tend to find the underlying cause of these challenges exist in some shape or form in most verticals and sectors. At notiria, we describe these as remote, legacy and asset holes.”
Q) Can you elaborate on these themes in relation to housing providers?
GT “Of course. So, in terms of remote, this is all about remoteness of assets across large estates and/or across geographical areas that need to be monitored or managed. This relies on managing manpower and robust schedules for checks, complicated by very important administration and record keeping. This often relies on access to properties at the inconvenience to tenants.
The cost of this problems translates into a sizeable financial overhead, intensive resourcing and onerous administration.
Legacy Assets relates to assets and equipment that are not digitally enabled. This could be boilers, smoke detectors, CO2 monitors. Obviously, some of these assets are expensive to replace, particularly as they will have been costed over their lifetime. Without enablement, they cannot benefit from real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, automatic compliance auditing. Therefore, maintenance is very reactive rather than proactive.
Finally what we describe as Asset holes. This is the inability to monitor non-tangible assets where providers concerns will be occupancy, dampness, temperature, fuel poverty, legionella, pest control, etc.
The cost here is that these checks are resource intensive and require expertise. By their very nature these problems can arise at any time and may not necessarily be evident when an inspection is scheduled. Some of these can cause real health issues for tenants.”
In all 3 of these areas, these problems can be resolved by digital technology.
Q) So digital transformation eliminates costs for providers?
VP “Yes, but there is much more to it. Beyond costs there are day-to-day operational benefits, automation of compliance, not to mention the enormous value to be gained from the big data.
Safety is also another big area. Government statistics show that only about a quarter of social housing tenants in England have tested their smoke detectors. IoT enablement guarantees 100% are tested and providers are alerted to malfunctions or interference. This has the potential to save lives and safeguard homes.”
Q) Big data. What is this and why is it beneficial?
VP “Big data is a commonly used term however for me and IoT, in simple terms it refers to the data that builds up through IoT enablement. For the solutions we offer, this is stored securely in the cloud and easily accessible to providers.
As this historic data increases, providers can use analytics to review how their operations work, improve processes and workflows and much more. At a board level, it provides reliable insights which can be used in medium and long term planning. There is also some evidence that the value of property portfolios increases when made smarter.”
Q) But surely, this transformation must be difficult, particularly for those with little experience of IoT?
GT “Firstly, I believe that this transformation will become unavoidable as there are too many overwhelming reasons to embrace it. This can only be effectively driven at board level as it needs to be strategic and not used as a single tactic for a single issue.
The good news is that it has never been easier to start this journey. Historically there were too many barriers which meant that very few organisations could make the investment required. The cost of data storage, IoT devices, connectivity and security have dramatically reduced. Also, what to do with the data once you have collected it is now not such a problem with integration and off the shelf solutions and applications.
Another important change is that early adopters had to outlay large amounts of capital to start their IoT deployments. This is no longer the case; for example many of our IoT offerings closely resembles Software as a Service (SaaS) and therefore can be viewed as OPEX.
There is also a lot of research to show that most organisations benefit from IoT immediately, and the business benefits such as staff wellbeing, compliance or financial savings gain true momentum from greater adoption.”
Q) So a pilot is a good starting point?
VP “I know that this is a common perceived approached, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense anymore. The reason for a pilot is often to test the technology. But things have reached a maturity where this is unnecessary.
I would say that proof of value should be the first step. Every organisation will be able to identify areas where the outcome will provide ROI. Unless there is some serious overriding reason for a pilot my advice would be to focus on the prize by delivering in one of these areas.”
notiria are specialists in IoT deployment, the enabler for Big Data.