The University of Exeter unveils the impact of IoT in social housing

The University of Exeter unveils the impact of IoT in social housing

The University of Exeter has partnered with Aico|HomeLINK and housing industry partners, UK Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) and Coastline Housing, for a first-of-its-kind guide and toolkit to realise the social value of the Internet of Things (IoT) connected sensors.

In recent years, there has been a marked shift in environmental sensor system adoption to create ‘smart social homes’ among the registered social housing providers looking to implement a proactive strategy in the early identification of identified housing issues rather than waiting until regulation forces action. Until now, no project has developed a guide and toolkit to evaluate the societal benefits that stem from homes equipped with sensor systems.

The research entitled ‘Sensor systems for healthier social housing – A guide or understanding and evaluating the social value or indoor environment sensor systems’, provides a guide and toolkit aimed to support informed decision-making, including establishing connections between housing and health, understanding societal value from using sensor systems, a social return on investment (SROI) forecast, templates, and case studies.

The toolkits have been developed collaboratively by Housing Associations with experience in sensor systems. Poplar HARCA is an East London Housing Association recognising the practical benefits of smart connected home IoT sensors. Its use of Aico|HomeLINK sensors provides residents and Poplar HARCA with data which helps them identify issues in their homes, including damp and mould monitoring, ventilation, fuel poverty and indoor air quality.

It is designed to gather data on indoor environmental conditions, the IoT smart home-connected devices are installed in the homes of residents to measure temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity and other factors. By doing so, mitigating issues arising from problems such as dampness, mould, and poor ventilation.

Launched in May 2023, during the first five months of this 12-month research project, the University of Exeter developed a working logic model. This was informed by Aico|HomeLINK expertise to map out inputs, such as humidity levels, and HACT’s Social Value Insight tool, specifically designed for social housing, to map out the outcomes, such as reduced condensation. The logic model identifies the early changes needed to improve an indoor environment, such as opening windows or improving the use of heating to reduce condensation and potential hazards from mould.

The team has found that sensor systems are valued by housing associations for being able to pinpoint the specific changes in housing conditions more clearly. One example of sensors in use is identifying and proactively fixing a leak in a tenant’s roof, preventing the risks associated with dampness and mould, such as respiratory illnesses. This would reduce the unaccounted public health issues and poor conditions that may be associated with social housing conditions, particularly for underprivileged and vulnerable groups.

Emma Bland, Associate Professor in Environment, Health, and Wellbeing at the University of Exeter Medical School, concludes, “This technology has the potential to deliver organisational benefits in social housing. However, there is a lack of understanding about the broader social value gained from such systems, and the best practice for adoption. This project builds on many years of research including the groundbreaking Smartline project which focused on more than 200 social households across six years and will strengthen existing and foster new partnerships between the University of Exeter, the social housing sector, and the sensor industry.”

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