UK councils deploy IoT in housing to boost safety and wellbeing

ITU

Councils in Leeds, Sutton and Richmond are advancing their use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in homes to better support residents and make services more efficient.

In Leeds, HomeLINK and AwareTag have been awarded a 12-month project with Leeds City Council to install environmental sensors to measure temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide (CO2) in over 400 council homes. Some of those properties will also get technology for the remote monitoring and management of fire and carbon monoxide alarm systems.

This second phase of the project, which is funded through a £1 million (US$1.36million) GovTech Catalyst investment, follows an initial pilot where sensors were installed in a small number of properties.

Stephen Blackburn, Data and Innovation Manager, Leeds City Council, told Cities Today: “The main focus of the project is to look at how technology can help us better manage our 56,000-strong housing stock and potentially lead to improved health outcomes for our tenants.”

Co-creation

The first phase included five suppliers, which have now been narrowed down to two.

Blackburn said: “Phase one was more focused on research and development and enabling the suppliers to get a better understanding of the challenge. This involved extensive work interviewing of housing staff and tenants, as well as attending various community groups. Phase two is about the suppliers refining their solutions and working on a scalable product that we would ultimately want to procure. We will work closely with the suppliers and to some extent help co-design their solutions. By the end of the project they will need to present their commercially viable solutions to us and prove the business case.”

COVID-19 has raised the new challenge of how suppliers can install the technology while maintaining social distancing and adhering to national restrictions.

“Both suppliers are looking at self-install solutions, which will be interesting to monitor to see how successful it is,” Blackburn said.The development of a resident app is also a focus for this phase.The programme is in partnership with the University of Leeds and the University of York.

COVID demands

In a separate initiative, Sutton and Richmond councils announced this week that they are deploying in-home sensors to improve the safety of vulnerable residents living in social housing. The technology monitors residents and provides carers with early alerts on issues such as potential accidents or declining health.

The councils, as part of the InnOvaTe project together with IoT Solutions Group, are piloting 200 in-home sensors across Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) and Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) properties.

They note that during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, demand for social care support has increased.

“As people continue to contract the virus, need to self-isolate or shield and as more people suffer adverse mental health impacts as a result of illness and isolation, this demand is expected to grow further,” a statement said.

The IoT technology delivers automated, real-time insight about how active an individual is in their own home.

If there is a drop in activity levels, automated alerts notify carers or Independent Living Officers, allowing them to respond urgently, rather than waiting for the next visit or relying on the resident to make contact.

In addition to these warnings of potential illness or accident, the sensors can help identify fuel poverty risk, providing the opportunity to prevent further issues before they arise.

No visual or audio recording takes place and no personal data is collected, the project partners said.

This article first appeared on Cities Today and has been reposted with the publisher’s kind permission. The original article can be found here.

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