For most housing providers, CCTV is used to protect people, property and assets by providing visual surveillance. However, if you connect it to the internet – the so-called internet of things (IoT) – it can do so much more. MHS Homes has been trying out the technology and has identified many applications which neither they nor we expected.
As Gary Clark, operations director at MHS Homes, points out, traditional models of property management are quite HR-intensive, which is essential but expensive. After taking part in the trial, he believes IoT-based systems can help housing providers become more proactive and allocate resources more efficiently. So what did he and his colleagues learn?
The trial began through the Connected Homes Consortium (CHC) which has been looking at how IoT can help housing providers. Jay Saggar from the consortium said, “We were excited that Cloudview had an IoT CCTV product which was ready to use, so we wanted to try it out in order to provide an honest assessment for our members.”
MHS Homes volunteered for the trial. It is the largest independent landlord in Kent, owning and managing more than 8,500 homes, and historically puts in CCTV when there has been an anti-social behaviour issue as well as in all of its sheltered housing schemes and high-rise blocks. The Cloudview system was installed at its Saxon Shore site in Gillingham.
The benefits of IoT based CCTV
The first benefit MHS Homes identified, perhaps unsurprisingly, was ease of use – enabling staff to look up CCTV footage on a mobile phone or tablet at any time and quickly check what has happened on site. If footage is needed by the police, for example, there is no need for a subcontractor to go on site, retrieve the footage and put it onto a memory stick. Providing a live feed that can be accessed anywhere means that an authorised member of staff can obtain footage from any location in a few minutes. If there is an incident, housing officers can respond immediately, saving time and money.
Secondly, using the IoT ensures that footage is always available – there is an immediate alert if a camera is down – and usable. For example, by looking at the footage online, MHS Homes quickly realised that the video from one camera was not viewable at night because a nearby light was in the wrong place. They moved the light and now have clear images at all times.
Thirdly, using the IoT can solve the problem of accessing CCTV equipment in difficult to access locations. For example, MHS Homes has four large tower blocks in which the CCTV equipment is housed in the lift equipment space in the roof. If they need any footage, they have to use a specialist contractor to visit the site, climb down a ladder, burn a DVD and deliver it to their offices. Using the IoT, CCTV is much cheaper and faster.
But beyond these obvious benefits, MHS Homes found a number of additional applications:
- Providing evidence of serious anti-social behaviour, damage, fly tipping and graffiti;
- Enabling staff to check the maintenance of communal areas;
- Briefing subcontractors on repairs; for example, cameras can be used to zoom in on a broken light fitting and footage sent to the supplier so repairs can be carried out quickly;
- As a reference for attendance by contractors whose services are required for safety compliance, such as electrical and gas checks, lift maintenance and legionella testing;
- Staff in MHS Homes’ contact centre can use the technology to check on urgent communal repairs reported by residents while those residents are on the phone, and a video grab can be sent instantly to the relevant contractor to increase the likelihood of a ‘first- time fix’.
James Wickes is CEO and co-founder of Cloudview. For more information visit www.cloudview.co