The pandemic has accelerated housing providers’ appetite for new technologies that can gather information more effectively to enable better decision-making, so here are five technology trends that we believe are likely to have the greatest impact in housing this year.
AI and hyper automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) has proven itself to be a useful technology to predict which tenants will fall into arrears with rent payments, enabling housing providers to step in and provide more support. In 2022, we can expect to see AI expand into other areas such as ASB and repairs.
Let’s take repairs as an example. A housing provider could receive an alert to advise, when addressing one repair, that they should also look at other associated issues in the property. This would avoid repeated visits based on failure, fault and analysis predictions, or perhaps if the temperature in a property falls below a certain threshold then they should call the tenant to check that all is well. With this type of insight, it will be much easier to keep on top of maintenance and repairs and as a result, ensure the wellbeing of tenants and assets.
Bringing asset, tenancy and health data together is vital to spotting patterns or anomalies and I think we will begin to see more innovative ways to collect data. For example, the use of smart kettles or televisions, which could offer non-intrusive ways to provide more tailored care for vulnerable tenants alongside ‘wearable tech’ for monitoring wellbeing and enriched with an individual’s health parameters for alerts. Tenants can personalise the alerts for themselves, family and carers and subscribe to data streams, opting in and out as they feel comfortable to share.
Data captured in this way could make it simple to create a profile of habits, such as the kettle usually being turned on four times a day or the television every morning and evening. Any changes in usage could provide an early warning that something might be wrong.
Smart glasses could move from being a lifestyle accessory to something that could be adapted for housing to collect useful data about a property. For example, housing officers could carry out fast and thorough tenancy inspections by using the glasses to take photos, videos and recording voice notes, all of which could be updated to their back-office systems. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that the glasses could eventually have the capability to highlight things the human eye might miss, such as early signs of damp or cracks in a wall.
To reduce unnecessary call-outs, we will see more ways to diagnose problems remotely using photos or videos, which could be shared by a tenant via a smart device installed in their home.
By linking to an app, tenants could also have the ability to let people in and out of the property remotely, perhaps if they are due to have a repair visit while they’re out of the home, helping to reduce the number of ‘no access’ visits.
As housing providers make changes to meet net-zero targets, we will see a rise in IoT devices being fitted. They will provide a great way to measure whether any implemented changes are making a difference, such as whether the installation of temperature sensors is making homes more energy efficient. IoT-enabled technology could help housing organisations understand whether the measures they put in place will have a positive effect on the environment.
Privacy–enhancing computation (PEC)
Three decades after Tim Berners-Lee gave us the world wide web, he’s now made it his priority to help put people in control of their personal data. He believes technology will be the answer to give individuals more control.
Privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) can help to keep personal data confidential and prevent data breaches. But users will also want to take back control of their own data, for example via secure personal online datastores (PODs) to store personal information such as their address, credit history, health records and passport details. They can grant and withdraw access to certain elements of this data to third parties as they see fit.
This could be a positive step for housing because they will be confident that the information provided by users is correct and up-to-date. It also makes compliance around data protection and privacy a more straightforward process because the data subject themselves (i.e. the tenant) is in charge.
As we start 2022, the future may feel a little uncertain but one thing we can be sure of is housing will be looking to the new technologies that support effective conversations with tenants, provide a clear picture of risk and offer the intelligence to know when to step in to avert a crisis.
Trevor Hampton is the director of housing solutions at NEC Software Solutions UK.