In the second event in the Technology for Social Housing series we invited UK housing providers to meet the technologies that have the potential to transform housing.

In recognition that housing has now been talking about digital and technology led change for some time but really innovative transformation is still fairly rare. Part 2 aimed to explore not only the potential of new technologies available to housing but also the use cases that will drive the business case for new tech and a realistic look at the barriers that housing providers experience day to day when trying to make digital change.

Setting the context for the event Frances Hipple, the new Director of HACT Digital provided the opening address -outlining some of the challenges facing the sector. Frances identified that digital change in housing has too often meant digitalising old processes rather than disrupting and transforming the way housing is delivered. To move away from technology as an overhead changes to governance and how organisation handle data and innovation are key in bringing the whole business into technology centred change.

The afternoon was structured around a set of workshops covering 4 key areas – ‘Resident Engagement Technologies’, ‘Energy Tech’, ‘Social Care and Assisted Living’ and the ‘New Business Models to Accelerate Adoption’. Each session was led by two technology providers and sought to bring the experiences, challenges and questions housing providers had to the fore.

In the resident engagement workshop discussions focused on how on how new technologies in this space need to offer increased insights into resident preference and behaviour but with less staff time committed. The goal, for systems like Pilon and Tenantia (both workshop leads), will be to deliver high levels of insight through engaging portals/platforms while freeing up staff time to deal with those likely to be digitally excluded.

BT and SPICA led the discussion in the ‘new business models for accelerating technology adoption’ workshop outlining how an end to end approach is an emerging business model that could enable housing providers to quickly bring IoT into their organisations. BTs digital inclusion offer for low income residents was another way IoT could be brought to properties functioning as the connectivity backbone required for these types of systems. Discussions highlighted the risk associated with bringing in new technologies not currently proven in housing and the group pondered if financial mechanisms could be available that would enable risk to be shared between housing providers, technology providers and investors.

The energy tech workshop covered some of the far reaching benefits sensors can bring to existing cyclical works plans providing data to inform a new predictive regime. Participants touched on the difficulty in bringing in this type of system and the challenge of business transformation of this magnitude. The discussion returned to new business models as the group raised the prospect of selling anonymised data on heating system performance back to boiler manufacturers and spoke about the prospect of encouraging contractors to take the lead in using sensors, perhaps incentivised through the procurement process.

Integration, privacy and user design were all big topics in the Assisted Living workshop. Housing providers wanted to know how multiple systems could link up and how cross institutional incentives could be managed to help achieve holistic health outcomes. Participants raised the important point that solutions should be designed and tested with the end users in order to produce systems that truly benefit all stakeholders.

Alongside the workshop programme our demo areas showcased tech from across the spectrum from Rent Profile a new site and set of APIs intended to help deal with illegal subletting to PurrMetrix – clever little cat shaped sensors that measure temperature and humidity and guide housing providers as to where they might need to take action to deal with mould damp or under heating and fuel poverty.

Steve Vallis and his team from KnowledgeKube embarked on a heroic live demo to show that a set of multi channel applications could be built in just a day. Getting simple but bespoke interfaces for collecting and actioning request from residents is often a painful, long and expensive process for housing providers but KnowledgeKube demonstrated that using a low code approach this doesn’t have to be the case. You can check out a video of how the team pulled it off here.

One of key themes that came out of the afternoon was that, there are many organisational barriers that housing providers must face before they can get stuck into the implementation of new technology. As the housing sectors innovation agency and an organisation dedicated to practical problem solving, HACT has a set of initiatives that aim to get to the heart of this issue. A programme to bring professionals with a technology background onto the boards of housing providers, a project to create a share data standard for the sector to combat bad data and lower barriers to innovation and digital maturity review to help housing providers map the next steps they need to take in order to embrace digital changes. To find out more about these initiatives visit HACT Digital.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the event, shared great ideas and innovative solutions. We will be back soon with more events, projects and programmes that aim to help the UK housing sector benefit from the opportunities new technology offer.

Slides and Presentations:

Head over to techUK for all the slides, presentations and event briefings from the day