Connected housing

James Gray of Videx Security explores the role that the internet of things (IoT) plays in social housing access control and door entry.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has moved on from a new phenomenon to an everyday technology with the number of connected devices worldwide increasing by nearly 21 million in 2020. In the last five years alone, the IoT has contributed to over £300m to the UK economy, highlighting its worth to populations and businesses alike.

Given the wide range of benefits it provides to end users and businesses, it’s no surprise that IoT is being used across every sector, including the housing sector, where it provides specific advantages to social housing in particular.

Social housing developments are often home to the most vulnerable people – from elderly people who need 24/7 homecare support to those living with disabilities or impairments. IoT, in a nutshell, makes their homes safer. There are many various examples of applications we can reference, from devices detecting leaks on pipes before they become an issue, to smoke detectors being able to call the fire service directly.

From an entry and access control point of view, there are many advantages that IoT technology provides. On a very simple level from an end user perspective, it enables residents to open their door from a mobile device or talk to a visitor without authorising entry to ensure they know who they are. It also means they can answer calls to their door when not at home too.

Due to the growing infrastructure with regards to IP networking and smart devices, we are also experiencing a large trend in remote management and a more detailed understanding with regards to fault finding and diagnosis with access control and door entry. Social housing in particular has seen a large growth in the use of smart systems with a focus on fault finding/reporting and remote management, saving on time, money and also reducing carbon emissions. For example, if a management company has to amend the current list of residents for a certain property, in the past they may have had to arrange for an engineer to visit site, to then find they don’t have the correct key for the maintenance cupboard, whereas with an IoT smart solution, they can program a new key fob there and then within the office and have the new key fob sent out to a secure person or location where the tenant collects it. The same applies when a resident needs to be removed or their entry authorisation edited.

Another great use for IoT entry systems is if there is a fault on the system, watch dogs within the hardware can normally report issues back to a central hub. This saves time on site with fault finding and can also give a good indication on what parts, if any, are faulty. With the ability to send and receive information about live or stored events, for example who used what key fob when and on what entrance point, can be sent back to a central hub. Usually alerts or email notifications can also be sent for further information which can inform an operator if a fire door is being propped open, for instance. The operator can now see in real time who the last person to unlock the door in question was so that they can be contacted.

Another benefit results with the use of alarm inputs and IP or hardwired systems with an IP interface. All local alarms can be received and transmitted back to a central hub. So, for example, if a property has fire, intruder and flood alarms, these would all have to be received and managed via various means, whether a mobile device, text or paging system. If these are then networked, all alarm signals can be managed from one point and via one operator. This should be a top priority for emergency alarms so that a call can be placed to the resident to check if the alarm is legitimate or false inorder to prevent an unnecessary emergency callout.

IoT developments are continuing at pace which can only continue to bring even more benefits to residential living, helping to provide safe and convenient access control management to social housing properties and their residents.

James Gray is national sales manager at Videx Security