The problem? The barriers are quite big.
The adoption and installation of technology are not without its barriers to adoption with two that seem to resonate with most of us.
The problem of tech-speak:
As noted by Olivia Harris of Dolphin Living, many of us are “blinded by ‘tech speak’”.
Indeed, the issue of tech jargon, and in fact jargon, in general, is something that almost all industries suffer from. If we take the marketing industry as an example, there are a whole host of buzzwords and acronyms. ‘Big Data’, ‘Content is King’, ‘Optimisation’ are all particularly reputable. Fortunately, these words are relatively straightforward and explicit in their meaning. ‘WYSIWYG’, however, is less transparent – it stands for ‘what you see is what you get’ by the way.
Granted, the motivations behind using jargon and with a specific vernacular is understandable – it creates a sense of community and builds internal relationships by aligning people’s interests using familiar words. However, it is important to speak the language of your audience. The issue with jargon is that it can alienate the consumer. This is extremely detrimental within the context of tech use by housing associations as it limits comfort levels with technological developments, consequentially impeding its level of adoption. In order to really incentivise the use of technologies on behalf of housing associations, tech and/or digital organisations need to consciously address the language they use, making the way technological changes are communicated more understandable.
GDPR, data, consent, Oh My!’
Whilst there are relevant discussions about how energy companies can sell you smart meters, and the GDPR implications of those activities, what about the collection of data from ‘smart’ boxes once they are installed?
GDPR is a legal process that plays a significant role in the collection of a consumer’s private data, transferring more rights to the consumer themselves. Whilst research conducted by Phoenix Software (2017) found that 75% of housing associations did not believe that their company is storing data effectively, BDO’s study concluded that 89% of respondents have invested in GDPR compliance processes, showing a clear commitment to the importance of their consumer [tenant] rights.
Best practice around GDPR and smart meters are relatively straightforward, with Article 20 stipulating seven principles to be applied when rolling out smart meters. Essentially, it seems to dictate that the collection of this data is sound, and more importantly legal, but only so long as providers ensure that their consumers are informed – with clarity – at the time of installation about the sharing and processing of their personal data. Now that is all well and good, but what about when these smart meters become more intricate and begin to involve artificial intelligence (AI)…
The Big Brother Conundrum.
So, what does the future look like when it comes to smart technology and housing associations?
As technology and housing associations become more intertwined, we are likely to see a rush of new, efficacious solutions that continue to improve the experiences of both tenants and housing providers alike. And like most digital tools, things are only going to get ‘smarter’.
You guessed it, AI.
In fact, these advancements have already become the subject of various studies and academic discussions. One such study was the focus of Roland Berger in their work ‘Artificial Intelligence: A Smart Move For Utilities’ which highlights an expected >20% efficiency gains within the next 1-5 years, as a result of merging AI with utilities. They provide a host of examples including benefits to: business support and customer service (page 10), sales (page 10), rooftop solar cells (page 11), and wirelessly controlled washing machines and heaters that learn – through AI – to optimise energy usage against user habits and real-time electricity prices, with the idea to buy power in bulk when electricity prices are at a low.
We like the idea of AI controlled humidity and temperature sensors:
They could address problems around mould, by measuring the humidity against temperature, learning to modify the temperature to limit the development of mould – which for one property cost an estimated £2,500 to rectify. Even better, smart sensors could gauge the environmental conditions preemptively and provide solutions before it becomes a severe and costly issue.
- These sensors may also track whether the heating is being turned on at all. This ‘activity’ – or lack of – could trigger an intervention, to query the tenant about whether they can afford to use the heating at all, highlighting if some tenants may be living below the poverty line, encouraging deeper levels of help, and thus providing richer levels of social impact.
A social value reporting tool such as Impact has the capability to tap into the APIs of the sensors embedded within the software. The data can be exported in real time, providing insight into the social value created by adopting such tech solutions and translate this into meaningful social impact reports. For any more details on how we could help you measure your social impact, click here.