Trevor Hampton, director of housing product solutions at Northgate Public Services, explores the technologies most likely to make an impact on housing right now
There’s no shortage of game-changing technologies hitting the headlines at the moment, but with so much innovation happening all around us, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees.
To work out which technologies will make a difference to the housing sector, you need to look beyond the hype and focus on the technological advances with the greatest potential to improve lives.
Here are my five top tech trends for housing:
1. 5G data networks
It’s early days for 5G, but we should soon start to see the benefits of faster download speeds and more reliable connections. It remains to be seen whether 5G will improve connectivity and overcome network blind spots, but this would be a great step forward in helping more customers access housing services online.
Faster data networks would have a positive impact on both housing staff and customers. The maintenance team would find it quicker and easier to upload photos of a property onto the system, for instance, and residents could instantly download tenancy contracts and other documents.
5G could speed up digital transformation in the sector, helping customers, suppliers and agencies to share information in a fraction of the time.
2. Wearable technology
Many of us already use wearable technology, whether it’s to monitor our fitness, make payments or track our sleeping patterns.
Wearables could be adapted to help vulnerable residents too. For example, a wristband could measure the temperature or activity levels of an elderly resident who lives alone, so their health and wellbeing are monitored remotely.
There is also scope for customers to log repairs, pay rent or access services through a smart watch with built in security and authentication.
It’s a positive example of how consumer technology can be used to make lives easier.
3. Data protection systems
Never before have we been able to share so much information so quickly and easily, and the benefits are plain to see. However, the information age has its drawbacks, and organisations are finding they need better technology to protect themselves and their customers from data breaches.
Security threats can come from within an organisation too, for example when a member of staff hacks into the company’s system in order to access sensitive data about customers or workmates.
To mitigate these threats, organisations need systems that provide a clear audit trail of how data is stored, accessed and shared.
Customers and stakeholders will place more trust in a company which actively protects them from fraud and data breaches.
4. Intelligent edge computing
With the rise of IoT, we are seeing the benefits of building sensors into the fabric of buildings and household appliances. However, as the technology becomes more widespread, there’s also a risk these sensors will produce too much data.
Data overload can clutter the network and useful insight gets lost as a result.
Edge computing addresses this problem by providing IoT devices with a level of intelligence. This means the information processing can take place where the actual device is – in the property, rather than back at a data centre.
Organisations can focus on useful data from IoT, because an intelligent edge device works out which data is relevant and only sends you that. For example an IoT enabled boiler will produce vast swathes of temperature data, but edge technology spots if the temperature is a cause for concern and sends you a message to say the boiler is starting to overheat and needs a service.
Edge computing reduces excessive data and keeps information flowing, helping housing providers manage their assets more effectively.
5. Democratisation of data
With a wide range of tools, channels and devices at our fingertips, we have a world of choice when it comes to accessing and communicating information.
This can be challenging for organisations with customers who want to interact in different ways. One customer may prefer email, another follows you on Twitter and a third only responds to texts.
There’s a growing need for housing providers to adopt machine learning which looks at user experience and helps to identify which communications methods work best for which type of customer.
These are the technologies that are likely to make an impact on housing in the short term. Looking further into the future, other innovations such as virtual and augmented reality, autonomous technology and blockchain will start to make waves in the sector too.
One thing’s for sure, the winning technologies will be those that help housing businesses to work more efficiently, deliver innovative services and support their customers.
Trevor Hampton is housing director at Northgate Public Services