A new project in Renfrewshire which will use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help tackle fuel poverty in social housing could save local authorities millions of pounds through savings on repair bills and property management.
The pilot, which has been running since July 2016 captures real-time data on temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels at 50 homes, whose residents have opted into the programme, including terraced housing, high rises and cottages around Paisley.
The data allows the local authority to identify anomalies in housing and take preventative action to protect both tenants and property. Data which shows consistent high humidity and low temperatures could, for example, indicate a tenant is living in fuel poverty, while high carbon dioxide levels could show a problem with ventilation and air quality.
The project has already helped the local authority to spot a number of potential issues at properties, including homes with damp, tenants who need help with their heating system, and several occupants living in fuel poverty.
The project could also play a crucial role in the government’s recently announced new legislation to improve the safety of social housing tenants.
600% Return on Investment
The IoT network was deployed last year by a consortium of organisations, including CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems; Stream Technologies; and Boston Networks. Smart asset management company iOpt Assets is collecting and managing the data.
The project has delivered an estimated 600% return on investment to the council, by preventing costs that would have arisen from damage to properties over the next two years.
By the end of the year, iOpt Assets hopes to have rolled out the sensing technology to 2,000 homes across Scotland, working with a number of local authorities and housing associations.
iOpt Assets is now in the process of securing funding to develop a new generation of low-cost, battery-powered sensors with a five-year life with a supporting network infrastructure capable of handling data from hundreds of thousands of homes. The company is one of the winners of the CENSIS IoT Accelerator Programme and will work with the innovation centre to install the technology in up to 400,000 rented homes over the next six years.
David Amos, Head of Policy and Commissioning at Renfrewshire Council, commented: “The health of our tenants is of paramount concern. iOpt Assets’ easy to install technology gives us the ability to spot problems they have with energy or any issues with their housing that might affect their health. It will also help us take preventative action, where necessary, to protect, manage, or even improve our homes – from damp and moisture detection, to issues with air quality.
“The Council is working with partners to create an environment in Renfrewshire that supports the testing and deployment of innovative Internet of Things technology and we were delighted to have facilitated this successful test with iOpt Assets.”
Dane Ralston, Director at iOpt Assets, said: “The results of the project have proven the business case for this service – it’s delivering significant returns by allowing the 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.
“The potential market is huge – figures from the Chartered Institute of Housing suggest there are 3.9 million local authority and housing association homes let at a social rent in England alone. When you look internationally, the possibilities become even vaster – all sorts of organisations, such as Stena Line’s 24,000-strong portfolio in Sweden, own a broad range of residential property assets that could benefit from smart monitoring.”
The data from the sensors installed in the homes is currently transferred over Wi-Fi, but in the near future will move onto Renfrewshire’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN), using LoRaWAN™ technology – also known as a LoRa™ network.
Stephen Milne, Business Development Manager at CENSIS, added: “This is an excellent example of the IoT in action, delivering significant benefits to society and business. Damp in homes has been linked to the development of conditions like asthma. At the same time, iOpt’s technology could help Renfrewshire save on asset management – it shows how technology can be used to help everyone.
“With six LoRa™ networks 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. Scotland is becoming a real hub of IoT activity and we have all the potential ingredients required to be a world leader in this field.”