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Prevention is better than cure – how IoT devices can help deliver healthier housing

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Recent reports from Public Health Scotland, the Centre for Better Ageing and the UK Government’s Social Housing White Paper released in November 2020 all highlight the importance of quality home provision in ensuring better health and wellbeing outcomes for residents. These reports all make recommendations for more preventative approaches, greater transparency and effective communication with residents on repairs issues.

IoT devices will have a key role to play in shaping the future of housing management for social landlords. Creating smart and connected homes using housing tech provides social landlords with a low cost method of detecting and reporting on the condition of their housing stock. This information can help pave the way to open the dialogue with residents on maintenance issues. Ultimately, improving repairs performance and increasing overall resident satisfaction levels.

Alertacall has developed a range of devices to help meet some of the recommendations of these reports. The Housing Proactive touchscreen has in-built connectivity and comes with a free repairs reporting app to make it easy for residents to report maintenance issues. Equally, the Envosense environmental sensor enables housing providers to better report on the condition of their housing, in a way which is non-intrusive to the resident.

Reports pinpoint link between health and housing – and taking a collaborative approach with residents to tackle these issues

In March 2020, the Centre for Better Ageing reported that over 4.3 million homes in England don’t meet basic standards of decency and that over two million over-55s are living in a home that endangers their health or wellbeing. This and subsequent reports issued by them, including its Good Home Inquiry which runs until Autumn 2021, make multiple recommendations, however, one overriding theme focuses on how housing providers need to take a ‘more proactive approach to identifying poor conditions’.

In the Social Housing White Paper (November 2020), the UK Government set out a Charter for Social Housing Residents on quality housing provision. At the heart of the report is that all homes should provide ‘safety, security and dignity’, and the charter outlines seven commitments that residents should expect from their landlord. Furthermore, the white paper provides a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) that landlords are required to report against, with proposed satisfaction measures on repairs, safety, complaints, engagement and neighbourhood management.

Finally and most recently, Public Health Scotland published its ‘Healthy Housing for Scotland’ (June 2020) briefing paper which sets out the evidence for how housing can influence health and wellbeing, including monitoring for risk factors such as ‘Damp, mould, cold and humidity’.

In this way, IoT devices can help to create substantial cost savings through early detection of some of these risk factors, improving overall repairs performance while also ensuring rented accommodation meets the decent homes standards. Furthermore, this helps tenants to feel safer at home and provides the data to enable providers to create better engagement on repairs issues.

IoT devices in practice – Housing Proactive and Envosense

Alertacall’s environmental sensor, Envosense, is one such IoT device which is having a positive impact. The sensor is a small (no bigger than a pack of cards) and easy to install device which takes hourly temperature and humidity readings. There is no hardwiring and no base unit – the devices are simply stuck to the wall and have a battery life of 5 years. The data from the sensors is updated using mobile connectivity to an online reporting portal. The reports flag where the level of humidity or temperature is regularly falling outside of a ‘safe zone’ in a property. Once in place, it means that housing teams can access all data remotely without the need for any manual checks.

The readings help housing providers to identify the signs of damp and mould, poor ventilation or heating issues. From the data, housing teams can undertake further investigations with the residents, progressing to property visits where it is felt necessary. By detecting issues earlier, it can prevent repairs costs from escalating. The data, and how housing providers respond to it, can feed into KPI reports and communicated to residents. All of which helps improve the quality of accommodation and as a result resident satisfaction levels.

When used in conjunction with Housing Proactive, Alertacall’s housing management service, housing providers have a comprehensive tool to increase resident engagement on repairs issues. Housing Proactive makes it easy for providers to disseminate news and information to residents through an easy to use touchscreen with built in connectivity. It is also provided with a free repairs reporting app as standard to increase self-service reporting. Housing Proactive promotes frequent contact with residents, either through an OKEachDay button on the touchscreen or by speaking to a highly trained and knowledgeable team.

And the view from residents on environmental sensors and touchscreen…

Envosense environmental sensors and the Housing Proactive touchscreen were recently issued as part of Alertacall’s Housing Proactive service at hundreds of properties in Hull with Winner, a supported housing provider for women.

Feedback from tenants was extremely positive. Tenants viewed the installation of environmental sensors as their housing provider going above and beyond – “You actually want to find out what may need fixing”.

Given the dispersed and varied nature of the accommodation at Winner, having the sensors in place also means that the housing team can monitor issues remotely which saves time by reducing the amount of maintenance visits and inspections (which is also less intrusive for tenants). Overall, Housing Proactive and Envosense helps Winner to take a more proactive approach to delivering a safer home environment for their tenants.

For more information or a demo on the Envosense sensor as part of the Housing Proactive service, contact Rameena Farooq, Client Development Manager, on 0808 208 1234 or email