Accelerating change in housing: what does the future look like?
Jon Marshall, digital transformation lead at Appello, looks at current social and community housing, what baby boomer generations will need as they approach retirement age in 20-30 years, and how housing associations and providers can start to build the homes of the future, today.
Smart cars to smarter housing
McKinsey predicts that by 2030, up to 15 per cent of new vehicles sold could be fully autonomous or, as the manufacturers term it, 'driverless'. Next year, not only will some new cars receive software updates over the air (OTA) in order to improve fuel efficiency, your car could also share information about user patterns and driving.
Furthermore, if you delve into the area of predictive maintenance, a soon-to-occur capability of smart automotive software includes the ability for users to be offered preventive measures that they should undertake for maintaining their vehicle’s health. And with all of this data going back to the cloud, car manufacturers and app makers have a realm of information to help drivers experience a superior driving and owning experience. Welcome to the real world of the Internet of Things.
So, what has this got to do with social housing? It’s all about changing customer expectations. If you are used to a car that tells you when its own service is due, and updates its own fuel technology, it’s logical that you would expect your home to incorporate similar technologies. One of the recommendations from the recent 'Housing our ageing population: positive ideas' (HAPPI3) report states that as innovative providers, housing associations could move forward in introducing 'care-ready' features and use new connected home technologies to provide greater autonomy and control.
You can’t change what you don’t know
As an industry we can be guilty of overlooking our customer base and its changing needs – especially when it comes to social housing for older people. Car and home ownership are big decisions with a range of emotional investments and personal considerations. It makes sense for us to look at how automotive technology can be applied to the housing sector, particularly in terms of providing greater insight through data on residents and on the systems that support them.
One area that has not changed dramatically over the last 30 years or so is the telecare systems which offer remote care of elderly and physically less able people, providing the care and reassurance needed to allow them to remain living in their own homes. These systems are still analogue-based in the main and not suitable to take advantage of the Internet of Things. In a recent survey co-sponsored with the Housing LIN, creating a better understanding of customers through data and insight was one of the top three priorities housing providers site as their key organisational goals for 2017.
With improved connectivity and increased security supported by digital care systems, residents report more confidence and reassurance in the services provided. Progressive providers such as Housing & Care 21 have already embarked on this digital journey - Tony Tench, the organisation's chief operating officer, believes traditional analogue call systems do not provide modern two-way conversations. Plus, they can take a long time to connect, so it makes little sense to offer this when he can now take advantage of digital and internet protocol (IP) technologies.
Also as the devices are IP in nature, the health of the systems can be remotely monitored, and like in the automotive example earlier, remote diagnostics can take place which means problems can be pro-actively identified, analysed and fixed before the housing provider is aware. This allows for improved operational efficiency and service. Also, with new digital technologies, we are now able to get much greater visibility of care needs. For instance, we are now able to collect data that can be shared with healthcare professionals and families which can directly influence assessment of residents’ care needs.
The future of housing today
As an industry we must start looking at what the housing sector will look like in the next 10-20 years. And the technology is here now.
It’s a fact of life that we all need to do more with less in the public sector. Recent funding pressures such as potential changes to the local housing allowance are unlikely to cease and our society will age. New innovations, ideas and joined up digital technologies can accelerate the home of tomorrow, today.