The ability to capture, analyse and make decisions based on ever-growing amounts of data can transform how housing providers manage their portfolios; that’s why we’ve seen such a spike in demand for ‘proptech’ in recent years.
Take a common issue such as damp and mould; according to the charity Shelter, poor housing harms the health of 20 per cent of renters in England, with damp and mould being common triggers of sickness. Data is the key to enabling a proactive approach; harnessing the power of IoT devices allows real-time data to be collected on metrics such as temperature and humidity.
Overwhelmed by data
However, the proliferation of data, devices and proptech is becoming overwhelming. Housing providers recognise the value in making faster, data-based decisions, but managing multiple data-capture points and numerous products is creating a different challenge: how can they collect and aggregate building data in a meaningful and compliant way?
One of the greatest challenges for most housing providers is remaining compliant with ever-evolving regulations. To a greater or lesser extent, all of the regulations now place a greater onus on housing providers to know the status of their properties and the tenants within them. This means collecting more data, making sense of it, actioning appropriate changes where problems arise, and maintaining accurate digital records of maintenance, repairs and interventions.
For housing providers to leverage the value of technology and data, remain compliant and keep people and buildings safe, they need to do two things. Firstly, they need to have the right digital infrastructure within their buildings to provide fast, reliable digital connectivity and, secondly, then leverage that infrastructure for both residents and asset management.
Full-fibre vs. 5G
Considering the substantial, real-time dataflows involved, this connectivity must come in the form of either full-fibre or 5G, but the actual structure of the buildings involved is a significant factor.
5G has been signalled as an important advance for IoT and data analytics, but 5G isn’t a ‘silver bullet’; coverage in many buildings can be patchy, particularly in the case of high-rise buildings or multi-dwelling units (MDUs).
The challenges to good indoor mobile coverage are structural; it is difficult for wireless signals to penetrate large buildings. In commercial spaces, mobile operators will deploy distributed antenna systems (DAS) to ensure the signal is strong enough, but DAS is expensive and won’t typically be found in a high-rise residential building.
For housing providers to embrace data connectivity, full-fibre is a more robust, reliable and cost-effective option. However, we know it also brings challenges, with regular, ad-hoc requests from telco providers, each wanting to install a full-fibre infrastructure in a housing provider’s building(s).
This requires large-scale work on the structure of buildings and can compromise safety and standards, as well as causing disruption to residents. Plus, multiple full-fibre installations increase the carbon footprint of a building, creating additional environmental concerns.
Here we see the convergence of two challenges: on the one hand, the need to have the right digital infrastructure to underpin a data-led, IoT-enabled technology strategy; and on the other hand, handling a high volume of requests from telcos to install that same digital infrastructure, which in turn triggers risks to a building, its structural integrity and safety, and the residents.
One answer is for a housing provider to install full-fibre into a building once, then allow multiple telcos to connect to that infrastructure. In doing so, they can mitigate many of the challenges regarding safety and quality at the same time as using full-fibre to support their original goals.
From our perspective, housing providers and telcos need to collaborate in order to succeed. No part of the UK, whether a region or a single MDU, should be left behind. Housing providers face enough challenges already so supporting them with world-class digital infrastructures is something telcos must strive to do.
Kevin Monaghan is the chief commercial officer of Complete Technology Group (CTG).