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Wolverhampton Homes engage HomeLINK for IoT integration

29 January 2021

Wolverhampton Homes look after more than 22,000 homes on behalf of The City of Wolverhampton Council. Like many social landlords, their objectives include reducing their impact on the environment, improving the quality of their housing stock and ultimately enhancing the lives of their residents through reducing fuel poverty, improving living conditions and optimising services.

 

Wolverhampton Homes engaged HomeLINK and Northgate Public Services (NPS) with the objective of exploring how new Internet of Things technologies could help them in achieving a number of these objectives. Ultimately, the aim of this project was to understand whether Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices could help Wolverhampton Homes deliver social value whilst generating a return on investment. This would be achieved by providing a more holistic view of property conditions to enable a more proactive approach to property maintenance and the ability to make more data-driven investment decisions. With an ambition to push the frontiers of innovation in social housing technology, they also wanted to explore data integration into their in-house I.T. systems and the impact of providing residents with IoT health and maintenance data.

 

The following objectives were agreed at the outset:

  • Install a range of cutting-edge IoT sensors across 6 properties:

– Environment sensors to measure temperature, humidity and CO2

– Aico SmartLINK Gateways, Multi-Sensor Fire and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms

– Electricity smart meters

  • Empower residents with the data via monthly reports and workshops
  • Quantify health and maintenance outcomes
  • Integrate data, insights and alerts to NPS

 

“Some of the stock in our portfolio is quite old and we wanted to find out how IoT could give us a ‘big picture view’ of the condition of our properties. For example, we knew that damp and mould were a problem in some properties, but we suspected that in around 50 percent of cases, the problems could be reduced by people doing things differently in their homes. We wanted to use IoT to help us see how a change in tenants’ behaviour might not only reduce their household costs but also have a positive impact on the condition of our stock.”

Linda Riding, Systems Development & Support Manager, Wolverhampton Homes

 

A Collaborative Approach

A major theme in this project was collaboration between Wolverhampton Homes, their residents and technology providers such as HomeLINK, Aico and NPS.

HomeLINK worked closely with NPS and Wolverhampton Homes to understand the end user requirements of integration into their property management system. The end result was the integration of alerts and insights generated by the HomeLINK platform being integrated to NPS Task Manager using a series of Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs). This enabled Wolverhampton Homes users to see the following alerts in their Northgate property management system:

  • Smoke and CO alerts and maintenance events.
  • Fuel poverty risk.
  • Condensation, damp and mould risk.

 

HomeLINK also worked closely with resident pilot participants and held a series of workshops over the 5-month period as well as providing detailed breakdowns of their data and insights via monthly reports customised for each individual. During the group workshops, residents were presented with information on the current health of their home alongside recommendations and actions they could carry out to make improvements. For example, the data identified a property with a high mould risk and suggested that this was due to both sustained high humidity and low indoor temperatures, therefore advice was given around ventilation and indoor temperatures to subsequently lower the risk.

 

A Substantial Outcome

The results of this project were striking. The following are some highlighted results from the 6 properties over a 5-month period:

  • 8% average reduction in electricity usage despite one third of participants being very energy saving conscious from the outset. This translated to:
    • £23 total savings in electricity usage per resident
    • Reduction of 70kg CO2 per resident
  • 19% improvement in ventilation leading to better respiratory health and maintenance outcomes.
  • Reduced behavioural mould risk across all homes including one previously reported “high risk” home reducing to a “low risk” by the end of the project. All homes were considered low risk by the end of the project.
  • Homes were evaluated by how energy efficient they were, and optimal homes were identified to target energy efficiency investment. For example, one property lost heat much more rapidly than the others and was prioritised as a potential target for investment.
  • A high priority maintenance alert for a smoke alarm in one property was triggered in NPS Task Manager as the resident had disconnected the alarm.
  • The mould risk and air quality data helped identify a structural cause of mould. One resident, who had healthy indoor conditions, reported a sudden case of black mould. As the data suggested it was not behavioural, further investigation was carried out and highlighted leaking guttering causing water ingress.

 

Sensor Infographic

 

By installing the devices, integrating alerts into Northgate Task Manager, and providing residents with insights and recommendations we were able to meet the goals of this project. The most encouraging finding of the project, and a testament to Wolverhampton Homes wanting to push the boundaries of innovation, was how empowering residents with their IoT data can have a significant impact on health and maintenance outcomes and ultimately return on investment. This result led HomeLINK to develop  a ‘Resident App’ with the objective of scaling the results from monthly reports and workshops as seen in this pilot study. The Resident App is currently in the beta testing phase with Wolverhampton Homes residents.

Resident App

“It’s a brilliant idea – highlights where a little change can make a big difference. Data collected has come as a nice surprise – particularly as it shows I am efficiently managing my property with regard to energy consumption and humidity”.

 Donna, Wolverhampton Homes Resident and Pilot Participant

 

“It can be a challenge to encourage tenants to ventilate their homes, especially when cooking or after a shower, to avoid humidity levels rising. Heating is expensive and when residents are on a tight budget, it does not always come naturally to open up a window because they’re worried about wasting heat. Sharing the temperature data from the IoT devices with our residents helped to show that it’s okay to open a window, reduce humidity and not suffer significant heat losses.”

Linda Riding, Systems Development & Support Manager, Wolverhampton Homes