Since Housing Technology began reporting on IT developments in the social housing sector in 2008, it’s been very apparent that housing providers are catching up with or even eclipsing their contemporaries in other parts of the public and private sectors. This is clearly a good thing.
However, Housing Technology thinks that the next demarcation will be between different housing providers’ web services, and this will mark a significant turning-point for many housing providers. Some of the larger housing providers may find that they are forced to keep up with smaller, more nimble and IT-savvy housing providers, who at the same time may themselves also be on the look-out for smaller housing providers in order to boost their portfolios.
Why? Well, web 1.0 was essentially a passive process and was just about setting up a website and publishing details online of a housing provider’s services, with perhaps a few forms to report repairs and other tenant concerns, but with little or no integration with the housing provider’s core applications; a lot of housing providers are still at this stage.
Web 2.0 was about embracing social media, self-service apps and, in general, a more proactive approach to dealing with tenants via their preferred channels, with some integration direct to housing providers’ core business applications. As many housing providers are discovering, this approach improves tenant communications, boosts productivity (through process automation; see page 18) and reduces transactional costs.
The next stage for housing providers will be integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into their operations. Smart meters and sensors within their properties will provide an unprecedented volume of data that they can use to not only deal with day-to-day activities, such as broken boilers or remotely controlling electrical appliances, but also for ‘big data’ analytics to model and forecast, for example, when particular assets are likely to fail or need replacing or to predict tenants’ behaviour. This has the potential to transform housing providers’ asset management strategies, their ways of doing mobile working, and their responsive and cyclical repair schedules, to name just a few obvious areas.
As reported on page 26, the Connected Home Consortium shows how IoT pilot projects can be set up relatively easily and at a reasonable cost to very quickly start delivering useful streams of data. Just as there was a meteoric rise in the adoption by housing providers of mobile working, web services and smartphones towards the beginning of this decade, Housing Technology expects similar growth from IoT over the next few years.