Ian Pritchard, IT manager at Housing Plus Group, explains the benefits of the internet of things to housing providers and their tenants and how to go about implementing an IoT programme.
Why is the internet of things important?
The internet of things (IoT) allows us to harness the mass of data we collect as individuals and businesses and use it to make informed and automated decisions via the technologies we already use. Used properly, this could, in certain circumstances, change people’s lives.
What are the benefits of IoT to housing providers?
The ability to drive forward the concept of smart homes and deliver savings and efficiencies to the business, while taking tailored customer services to the next level. Potentially, we can use the data we collect to drive better business decisions and deliver both VFM and high levels of customer satisfaction.
What are the benefits of IoT to tenants?
Through the smarter use of wearables, mobile devices and built-in sensors, we could see improved alerting of events around safety in the home, better customer service as the data that can be collected by providers can be used to pre-empt person and tenancy issues, and cost savings across the board with home utilities being used in a much smarter way.
How should housing providers go about implementing an IoT programme?
With great care and planning! This is not a technology to simply throw in and reap the rewards. You need to be able to identify the real winners in this very wide and very complex world. How many tenants will accept a home full of sensors? Can you sell the benefits to them without the ‘big brother’ accusations? Can you guarantee the cyber-security of the solutions you may be promoting and using?
Is there a distinction between using IoT-based data for monitoring specific properties vs. using it for larger-scale data-mining applications?
Very much so. Vulnerable or at-risk individuals or families can benefit hugely from wearables and inter-connected sensor-based systems. Blocks of flats could be monitored for lift/lighting outages or even unexpected amounts of human footfall after dark and trigger a relevant response.
Large-scale IoT programmes could collect and deliver information as a single business entity in order to identify hot-spots and trends and take appropriate action, especially when cross-referenced with data from local authorities, constabularies and fire services.
What about the possible plethora of IoT devices from different suppliers?
For me, the main issue here is secure and reliable interoperability. We have seen in other areas of technology the impact of multiple suppliers each doing ‘their own thing’ and the issues that can bring. A universal coding language or protocol, such as Thread, needs to be implemented before we can truly say that we can bring standardisation.
What will IoT-based properties look like in, say, five years time?
Will all standard home devices be built with IoT capabilities? As IoT develops then we will see more practical uses for it rather than forcing it to do things right now ‘because we can’. At the most basic level, a property will be standardised to be more technically pre-emptive and things such as home equipment faults will be identified by the provider before they become an issue and automatically dealt with.
However, will a home where specific actions occur based entirely on the time, temperature and who has just walked through door be something that we are ready to embrace? We shall see…
Ian Pritchard is the IT manager at Housing Plus Group. He will talking more about the internet of things during the Housing Technology 2017 conference in March (see website for details).