Digitalisation and the art of the possible

Jon Thomson

By Jon Thomson, IM&T Director, Places for People Group

As ever, I'm really looking forward to meeting up with our peers at this year's CIH Housing 2016 conference and exhibition in Manchester. It's always an extremely well attended event, and a great opportunity to find out what innovations are being developed in the sector.

Technology is playing an ever larger role in the conference: from the steady rise of social media use over the years, to some creative methods being used to draw delegates onto stands.

Two years ago, Places for People won an award for its use of technology at the conference, employing a large video wall to broadcast social media posts and tailored, conference-specific messaging.

This year, our Procurement Hub colleagues will be demonstrating more leading-edge technology from our base on stand D34, which is shared this year by Places for People Energy. They'll be demonstrating an engaging and entertaining application of Virtual Reality, which will hopefully spark discussions about the technology's potential.

We're already seeing the professional applications of Virtual Reality within the housing sector. For example, it's already demonstrating great potential in support of the sales process for new homes, by offering immersive, 3D tours of properties that are still being built.

As an organisation that is driven by innovation, we are excited by any new technology that will improve the way we work, and help deliver a better service to our customers.

That's why we're in discussion with some of the world's largest suppliers - including Hitachi, Fujitsu and BT - to discuss how the Internet of Things (IOT) could give us a better understanding of both our customers and assets. IOT has the potential to generate a vast amount of useful data (both structured & unstructured). We are therefore looking at Big Data capture and the use of predictive analytics to enable our companies to make informed business decisions, based around agreed definitions and rules.

We're currently planning a pilot scheme of Smart Homes that will enable us to predict and proactively address a variety of tenant issues, before they have chance to develop. For example, we're exploring how moisture sensors could help predict and prevent mould issues, and even provide evidence of occupancy fluctuations.

Technology has an increasingly important role to play in Places for People's placemaking approach.

The standard of 'digital plumbing' in a home or neighbourhood has a huge impact on the opportunities available to our customers, so we go to great lengths to offer the very best in connectivity. This includes identifying the optimum materials for building insulation, which minimise interference for Wi-Fi signals.

Beyond the design of successful places, technology will play a key role in streamlining a number of other Group services. We're investigating how a fleet of 'connected vans' could help our maintenance division communicate and collaborate in the field, sharing resources and intelligence automatically across wireless hubs.

There seems to be no end of productive applications for the next generation of technology, and we're excited to find out what's in store for the future.

If you're attending CIH Housing 2016 then I hope you'll drop in to experience Virtual Reality on stand D34. We'd love to hear how you're applying technology and embracing the Art of the Possible.

This blog was originally published on the Inside Housing website on 28 June.

28 June 2016