According to ministers this week, England's housing market is "broken." They've unveiled plans to build 250,000 more affordable homes. These homes will likely be 'smart homes' using the same smart technology our phones use to remotely control 'things.'
As people, places and things are becoming connected all around us, pretty much anything that can be assigned an Internet address and transmit data over a network is part of what is called the Internet of Things (IoT). With so many ways to connect the home, affordable housing is being transformed in a number of ways:
Vandalism, burglary, or anti-social behaviour can all be concerns. Smart devices are particularly useful when a property is unoccupied, and are becoming smaller and less intrusive. These systems can do everything from arming and disarming remotely, to capturing CCTV footage and communicating directly with law-enforcement.
2. Locking Systems
Smart locks are a great solution to the age-old problem of lost keys or broken locks. They only require a smart phone with the matching signals to unlock the door. They can use a centralised online system to authorise entry or revoke access.
Gartner claims that smart lighting could reduce household energy consumption by 90%. Being able to remotely manage lighting in communal spaces should improve living conditions and security. Having smart bulbs, which essentially learn when occupants are usually in or out, allowing them to switch on even if there's a change in the pattern, may also deter potential thieves.
4. Heating Systems
Smart thermostats, controlled with ease from remote locations through a web-enabled system, can constantly monitor tenant energy usage and cut down on power consumption. The Energy Saving Trust claim that using a thermostat in this way can save between £70 and £150 per, household per year.
Smart thermostats can be remotely controlled to switch on the heating when a property is unoccupied, reducing the risk of pipes freezing and bursting. They can also highlight households that may be struggling with, for example, fuel poverty.
There are further advantages for maintenance. A good example of this is British Gas' smart boiler: 'BoilerIQ.' The connected boiler carries out preventative maintenance, checking itself for faults and sending data directly to British Gas who can then solve the problem remotely.
5. Water Leakage and Damp Protection
Problems with damp, especially in older building stock, create costly issues. It can be made worse because it's not always clear that there's a problem until it's too late. It can start as a leak and escalate into flooding, causing extensive damage. With smart sensors, the problem can be addressed early.
Smart sensors monitor and send real time data about property conditions. If the property is becoming damp (which the sensor can detect by measuring humidity and moisture levels), property managers can tackle the problem early. Couple this with heat sensors to ensure that the property is being kept warm enough, and you shouldn't have to worry about any major damp problems. This could have a profound impact on reducing poor health among affordable housing occupants.
6. Carbon Monoxide, Smoke and Fire Alarms
Smart technology has vastly improved the quality and reliability of household alarm systems. Being able to provide real time data and connectivity to emergency services is obviously an advantage. Connected household smoke and fire alarms also help to reduce the cost of replacing and maintaining systems that can be remotely monitored and serviced.
7. Smart Appliances
With smart appliances, you can get constant diagnostics and operational data. They can transmit to service centres where they can instantly diagnose problems and, if need be, order the parts required. For example, LG has developed internet-connected smart appliances that save energy by operating more efficiently. Their "Smart Diagnosis" feature troubleshoots issues quickly before they become bigger problems.
8. Garden Irrigation Systems
In communal areas, often there is green space that needs upkeep. A property with outdoor space can be difficult to maintain all year round. Once again, smart technology now exists which can remotely manage garden irrigation from afar. Sprinklers that are connected to a network can be managed easily online.
The NHS deals with one million patients every thirty-six hours, and much of this effort is spent on health monitoring. Connected technology could provide additional healthcare benefits for vulnerable tenants through remote monitoring and communication.
10. Smart Meters
With 4.2 million connected utility meters currently in homes and businesses across the UK, the appeal of smart meter installations is evident. Knowing heating, electric and water usage in real time has a tremendous benefit. Property managers no longer need to rely on estimated bills and tenants can be assured that they only pay for exactly what they use.
Simply put, having connected property will make managing housing easier, cheaper and more efficient --so, more affordable, all round.