The Internet of Things beckons a new era for social housing maintenance

The Government recently announced that they will be introducing tougher sanctions for landlords who let their properties knowing the living conditions are substandard for tenants to live in. This new legislation will see greater protection for tenants, placing a focus on vital health and safety regulations.

Local authorities have been able to enforce legislation detailed in the Housing Act 2004 for over a decade now. In circumstances where a property presents significant health and safety risks, the Act requires local authorities to ensure landlords either reduce the danger or get rid of the problem completely. Despite this, issues can still be difficult to quash and penalties too lenient. Since April 2017, as a part of the new bill, civil penalties of up to £30,000 have been charged against landlords guilty of such health and safety breaches. This follows an effective campaign, between 2011-2016, where £12 million was spread across local authorities with known issues of rogue landlords, leading to 70,000 properties being inspected and 5,000 landlords facing further action or prosecution for breaking the law.

Even though this only concerns a minority of landlords, this is a persistent issue for tenants in both the private and social rented sector. Collectively, this affects a lot of people and subsequently costs a lot to monitor and take action against. Courtesy of the fines collected, this is already a partly self-funding process, however, a future is being crafted whereby a far smaller budget will be required. This is a future fuelled by predictive maintenance initiatives, which will ultimately help to reduce costs for local authorities whilst returning even better results.

Since 2016, 50 homes in the town of Paisley (Renfrewshire, Scotland) have been undergoing an IoT (Internet of Things) led pilot, enabling their homes to be monitored for such factors as temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. The local authority has been able to use the data, collected by these sensors, to predict and respond to issues before they develop into serious problems, reportedly achieving a 600% return on investment so far.

This pilot in Paisley is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only is the overall process of maintenance being made more discreet and less intrusive, but the technology behind it is quickly following suit. The development of battery-powered sensors with five-year life spans is well underway and the data from the sensors, which is currently transferred to the council over Wi-Fi, will soon be moved onto Renfrewshire’s Low Power Wide Area Network, which is a network infrastructure type capable of handling data from hundreds of thousands of homes.

Based on preliminary programs across the country, the potential for future rollouts in larger towns and cities is certainly promising. As the practice becomes more widespread, and even more affordable, this presents an opportunity to prevent landlords from breaking the law in the first place. With clearly defined parameters, surrounding various assets, and access to a full audit trail of said assets, maintenance work need only be conducted when absolutely necessary, leaving no excuse for poor or even dangerous living conditions.

A comprehensive housing maintenance solution

At Oneserve, we have crafted a predictive maintenance solution that offers consistency, transparency and control. Oneserve Infinite allows you to predict when an asset is going to fail, thanks to the combination of IoT sensors, deep learning algorithms and AI (artificial intelligence). The data being collected is then fed into a customisable dashboard, giving you real time access to reports and a visual representation of the asset(s) you’re monitoring, i.e. boilers, pipes and HVAC systems to name a few.

Oneserve Infinite goes a step beyond simply identifying issues and pairs seamlessly with our wider field service management offering. Through monitoring the behaviours and activities of various assets, such as an increase in temperature or excessive vibrations, Oneserve Infinite will display an alert on your maintenance team’s dashboard. Next, which is a crucial step in ensuring maximum efficiency from job-to-job, your back office team can then schedule resource and parts to carry out the appropriate maintenance task, all before any downtime has occurred and without your team having to waste any time on tedious administrative processes. This reduces the need for reactive repairs and allows your team to fix issues faster than previously achievable.

Being able to proactively respond to issues is one area where Renfrewshire Council have saved money and observed significant efficiency gains, which forms part of a wider vision we share regarding the betterment of social housing maintenance. Working with local authorities, we have helped them to increase their overall completed job rate by 15%, all within the first four weeks of using our software. This has subsequently improved their customer relationships and reduced their need for outsourced contractors, increasing efficiency in-house whilst reducing costs.

To learn more about how Oneserve Infinite can help you to develop a safer, more efficient housing maintenance process, book a free demo today.