While IoT technology has been firmly established as an essential tool in commercial settings for some time, it’s only more recently that its many benefits are being realised within domestic properties (incl. social housing). From reducing energy waste and managing internal air quality (IAQ) to enhancing security, IoT technology offers a way for tenants to take control of their properties and run a safer, healthier, and more efficient home.
The numerous benefits of IoT devices for housing providers are increasingly evident. However, managing multiple devices from various vendors has previously presented an insurmountable challenge, making the widescale deployment of IoT devices in our sector prohibitively complex and expensive.
IoT in domestic settings
The scope of IoT devices in domestic properties is continually evolving, and many of the available applications could help housing providers as well as their tenants. IoT devices and sensors can continually monitor the internal conditions of a property, such as temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. These insights can then alert property teams to take action by arranging repairs or upgrading the fabric of the building. This same data can also prompt tenants to make behavioural changes to create a safer environment for themselves, such as highlighting when more ventilation is needed to prevent mould-causing condensation.
IoT technology is also capable of alerting maintenance teams and tenants to more immediate issues. For example, leak detection sensors can alert teams to the escape of water, even when it occurs in areas that aren’t visible to the tenant. This means that any repair work can be undertaken immediately to limit the damage.
Social housing and the challenges of IoT
However, one of the challenges for housing providers is the management and maintenance of multiple IoT devices across a multitude of properties.
While managing multiple devices, apps and software platforms from several different vendors may not pose a problem to individual homeowners, it’s much more difficult when it comes to maintaining hundreds or thousands of properties.
Goldeni is addressing this problem and making the many benefits of IoT accessible to housing providers via a single software platform which takes data from multiple IoT devices (irrespective of IoT supplier) and delivers insights combined from numerous properties in one place. By bringing data from disparate devices into one ecosystem, Goldeni allows housing providers’ staff to access all platforms through a single hub, streamlining how IoT systems are managed and maintained.
Multiple devices & one datastream
This single software interface combines data gathered by devices and sensors from various vendors to offer landlords a holistic view of all of their properties. This allows them to gain a deeper understanding of their overall portfolio while also allowing a granular look at individual properties, all from a single digital platform.
The second challenge is the installation of devices and the communication channels they operate on. While some require the availability of the tenant’s wifi, others require an individual SIM card for each device. Both of these pose problems because there is either a dependency on the tenant’s wifi or a substantial cost for numerous SIM contracts. This is where open, wireless communication channels such as LoRaWAN are paving the way for connected smart cities and providing a suitable, scalable and cost-effective platform for housing providers.
Long range & wide area
LoRa stands for ‘long range’ and this communication system can wirelessly send data from multiple IoT devices and sensors across large distances to a central wide area network (WAN) gateway. The gateway connects to the cloud, where the data can then be managed, analysed and interpreted before being delivered to the end-user through the hub. LoRaWAN gateways are central to streamlining the management and maintenance of multi-vendor IoT systems across large portfolios of properties.
For example, a single, centrally-located LoRaWAN gateway can collect data from IoT devices installed within several domestic properties. Depending on the number of sensors or devices in the vicinity and the data rate, a single gateway may be able to serve properties within five kilometres of the box. This means that multiple buildings can communicate with a single piece of hardware rather than each property needing its own hub. This offers a much more economical solution to gathering data and a less complicated and time-consuming installation process for housing teams managing several sites.
This integrated approach to data management and analysis also means that better insights can be achieved. When consolidating the data from around a property into a single hub, it’s possible to overlay different datasets to spot potential problems before they occur.
For example, an IoT system might detect that the boiler is using more energy than expected yet the temperature of the home is lower than normal. This information could then alert property management teams to send an engineer to carry out predictive maintenance on the boiler rather than having to arrange for an expensive repair when it fails. This scenario not only results in a cost-saving for the landlord but also ensures that the boiler remains operational for the tenant.
IoT and the future of social housing
As the scope and scale of IoT continue to advance, it seems inevitable that this cutting-edge technology has a central role in the future of social housing.
IoT devices, alongside platforms that unify the data gathered by them, offer tangible benefits for housing providers, asset management teams and tenants. In addition to enabling the remote management and monitoring of properties, the in-depth insights and analytics allow housing providers to ensure safe, healthy and compliant homes for their tenants while simultaneously reducing costs and progressing their portfolios’ journey towards the sector’s sustainability targets.
Phil Copperwheat is the IS director at Morgan Sindall Property Services (MSPS).