Is smart mapping taking the housing sector in a new direction?

Housing Associations, big data, Social Housing

Most experts argue that the UK’s housing crisis is not just about providing new homes; it’s about making them more efficient and sustainable.

To do this, housing associations are being encouraged to invest in new technologies to eradicate inefficiencies, reduce operational costs and improve the customer experience.

Some housing providers such as Salix Homes are already exploring how the use of IoT can keep elderly residents safe in their homes. They recently partnered with Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, The University of Manchester, and The University of Salford on their ground-breaking research project, MiiHome, which uses IoT sensors around the home, and AI technology to help elderly people who are frail and may have problems with their memory to maintain their independence by constantly monitoring their wellbeing.

Over recent years, smart home technology has been widely discussed, but one area less explored is smart mapping.

Traditional GIS mapping has been used in housing for a number of years with the purpose of informing staff of the location of assets, establish land ownership rights or see where property boundaries lie. But since then, things have moved on. Today, new technologies are enabling housing providers to use smart mapping to reduce under-occupancy rates, find new development opportunities and reduce the risk of damage to assets.

Smart mapping works by using data to automatically generate maps that will enable housing providers to explore, understand and find meaning in their data allowing them to easily find new patterns and discover new insights.

Better use of Assets

Smart mapping can help housing providers to make more strategic, value-for-money-led decisions and the key to unlocking these insights lies in big data.

Data is at the very heart of what housing associations do. They collect vast amounts of important information on both properties and customers. Making better use of this information can power decisions across many areas – from home design and investment to the allocation of care services, maintenance and repairs. Effective use of data will also be increasingly important as the sector embraces the ‘Internet of things’ to remotely monitor utilities and security. But that isn’t the only thing this data can power.

Using big data insights to collate information about location, condition, repair costs and rent value of properties, smart maps can help housing associations to identify patterns and trends to enable them to make strategic decisions on how best to utilise properties, improve facilities for residents and even create new revenue opportunities.

Reducing under-occupancy 

Under-occupation often arises when older tenants or couples remain in their family home after their children have grown up and left. Instances of family breakdown can also result in under-occupation.

Social landlords have long had an interest in tackling under-occupation in order to achieve the best use of their housing stock. Some have developed incentive schemes to encourage tenants to relocate to smaller properties; however, as a general rule, they do not have the power to force social tenants to move against their will, so tenants have to agree.

Encouraging tenants to move to a smaller property can be a challenge, but that’s where technology comes in. Housing providers are now seeing the potential in chatbot technology to build and sustain stronger relationships with tenants. Using the responses from customers, housing providers are able to feed this data into a smart mapping system to help staff understand who might be under-occupying assets and gauge their willingness to move and quickly examine any void properties when they become available, to see if there are customers nearby who match the criteria. 

Streamlined customer service 

Another area many housing associations are looking to improve is their customer service. We’ve already seen many other sectors such as retail and hospitality exploring how best to engage customers with great success, so now it’s time for housing associations to follow suit.

Some housing associations have already found new ways to streamline services, reduce response times and improve the efficiency of internal processes through mobile GIS technology. Using a combination of public cloud, mobile GIS technology and smart mapping – housing associations can create a single version of truth speeding up the time needed to resolve issues.

Traditionally, if a customer spotted an issue such as graffiti or fly-tipping, they would either email the housing association or visit the office to make staff aware. The issue would then sit in a queue waiting to be assigned to an appropriate member of staff. But this is now beginning to change.

Customers can now draw the housing association’s attention to an issue through an app or chatbot. Once the information has been received, the area concerned is automatically pinpointed on a map with the corresponding details. The nearest member of appropriate staff is then dispatched to the address and using their handheld device, they are able to confirm tasks are complete, attach photos and update the status of the incident, automatically informing both staff members and the customer who logged the issue.

The future for housing associations is promising. For a sector that often houses the more vulnerable members of society, smart mapping, IoT and other innovative technologies can help tenants to save on energy costs, increase security and spot maintenance issues to prevent them from turning into inconvenient or dangerous incidents.

If you’re ready to transform the future of housing and change lives with innovation, join ANS and Microsoft for an action-packed day at our National Housing Hackathon on the 13th June. Spaces are limited so be sure to secure a place for you and your team today.

To find out more and to register, click here.

Posted by Helen Thomas