An internet of things (IoT) initiative in Renfrewshire is helping to tackle fuel poverty in social housing and could save local authorities millions of pounds on property management and repair bills.
Working with Renfrewshire Council, smart asset management company iOpt Assets has been detecting temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels at 50 social homes around Paisley over the course of the project. The pilot scheme, which has been running since July 2016, is monitoring a range of property types including high-rise flats, cottages and terraced housing.
Capturing this data in near real-time is allowing the local authority to identify anomalies in housing and take preventative action to protect tenants and its property assets. Consistently high humidity and low temperatures, for example, could indicate a tenant is living in fuel poverty; while high carbon-dioxide levels suggest there might be problems with ventilation and air quality.
The IoT network was deployed last year by a consortium of organisations, including the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS), Stream Technologies and Boston Networks.
So far, the project has helped the local authority to spot a number of potential issues at its properties, including homes that have impending damp, tenants who needed help with their heating system, and several occupants living in fuel poverty. All of the residents at the properties being monitored have opted into the project.
David Amos, head of policy and commissioning, Renfrewshire Council, said, “iOpt Assets’ easy-to-install technology enables us to spot problems our tenants might have with energy or any issues with their housing that might affect their health. It also helps us take preventative action to protect or even improve our homes, from damp and moisture detection, to issues with air quality.
By the end of 2018, iOpt Assets hopes to have rolled out its sensing technology to 2,000 homes in Scotland, spread across a variety of local authorities and housing providers. The Renfrewshire project has delivered an estimated 600 per cent return on investment to the council, by preventing the costs that would have arisen from damage to properties over the next two years.
iOpt Assets is also going through a funding round to secure investment for the development of low-cost, battery-powered sensors with a five-year life, supported by a robust IT and data management system that can handle all the data from hundreds of thousands of homes. iOpt Assets will be working with CENSIS, with the aim of installing the technology in up to 400,000 rented homes over the next six years.
Dane Ralston, director, iOpt Assets, said, “The results of the project have proven the business case for this service; it’s delivering significant returns by allowing Renfrewshire Council to predict issues and be proactive with maintenance, which is invariably more cost effective than having to deal with them after the fact. It also reduces the need for regular property visits and administration, while also leading to reduced premiums in large property portfolios.”
Stephen Milne, business development manager, CENSIS, said, “This is an excellent example of the IoT in action, delivering significant benefits to society and business.
“With six LoRa networks [used for the project’s data transmissions] in operation, stretching from Orkney to Paisley, there are a broad range of trials going on across the country that could have a serious impact on how we use technology in the future, from flood prevention to monitoring emissions in cities.”