Wireless Things the hardware behind 365agile are no more. The first UK housing-focused IoT business has ceased operations with a short statement on LinkedIn on August 26th.

It’s a sad day for the team at 365agile and shows that – despite having a technology and business offer that showed lots of potential and many housing providers lined up to trial the system – bringing emerging technologies to market is a high risk endeavour.  For those at 365agile who had contributed so much to the early development of the UK IoT market through its predecessor business Ciseco, it will be a particularly disappointing failure.

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The 365agile product promised to be the first smart thermostat hub for the housing sector which could send data from a range of sensors back to the landlord, with direct integration into their housing management systems.   Early demonstrations were positive, and their offer to provide 50 free devices to the first 100 housing providers to sign up to pilot the devices was a sector first and proved highly popular.  However issues with production – which may have in part led to Wireless Things’ demise – prevented the devices ever reaching UK social homes.

So from the aftermath of UK housing’s first IoT closure what are the lessons for the housing sector when engaging with new connected technology?

First: most connected home technologies are still at an early stage.  There will be success stories and failures, and – at this stage – it would be unwise to make assumptions about which solutions will make it to the mainstream.  Had any devices actually reached households, any housing provider that was using them might now be coping with a bunch of suddenly non-smart boxes.

Second, even where they are being supplied by larger and more mature providers, most connected devices and nascent ecosystems are not yet at a price point or to a quality that would enable landlords to implement them as solutions across all of their stock.  This can add to challenges for manufacturers, as the level of investment needed to bring even early stage products to market can be high, and the likelihood of a return in the short to medium term remains almost non-existent.

The reality is that the connected technology space is moving fast and many of the devices available today may be obsolete in 1-2 years. This does not mean that housing providers should not invest in connected technologies, but rather that they should be clear about where the return is coming from. Long term trends in business transformation require advanced planning, experience and capacity building so as it’s important that you’re learning outcomes are clear and experiments and trial accompany a future orientated strategy.

There remains a good case for housing providers starting to experiment with connected home technologies.  But – at the present time – any investment should be made on basis of:

(a) understanding that you are spending to help map out/understand the long term implications for your business of this new class of technologies, your return coming from acquired knowledge and capacity building; and/or

(b) where you are investing more significantly in new connected technologies, the device you are buying being capable of generating an immediate business return (within 9-15months) – this might include technologies like Blue Maestro’s sensor discs or Quietyme – both low overhead, low cost devices with the potential to deliver short term benefits, rather than long term business infrastructure investments.

This approach will put you in a good position to understand a new and complex marketplace when it comes to making the big decisions on large scale investment in connected technology once the connected home technologies reach maturity – perhaps in 2-3 years’ time.

Finally, whilst 365agile wasn’t a start-up, it shared many of the characteristics of a start-up business, not least around the risk profile of the product area it heavily invested in.  Start-ups are risky businesses, and technology start-ups have an even more challenging risk profile. However, many great innovations come from this space and housing providers can learn a lot from interacting with organisations that are operating at the cutting edge of the technologies that will define our future as a sector, and which function very differently to their own. HACT’s Innovation Launch Pad features a range of start-ups who have great products and ideas that need to be tested in real life housing contexts, including some that are ready to roll out into housing businesses.   To find out more check out launch pad technologies here innovationlaunchpad.org/