Switchee

6 startups tackling housing issues

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Nicola Byrne

Following on from our Big Idea article on how housing associations are adapting to tech, we found out more about the startups trying to find their place in the housing market.

All these receive help from the innovation LaunchPad established by HACT, the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust. Jay Saggar, HACT’s LaunchPad digital lead, explains the reason why it was created: “What we found was that a lot of people had seen technologies like IoT and voice-activated software in a consumer space and they were interested in it, but there was a gap between the tech out there and what you might do with it in housing. We wanted to create a space where we could 1) present interesting technologies to the housing sector and 2) help technologies understand how they could tailor their tech to the housing needs.”

Here are 6 companies that are market, or at least pilot, ready.

Switchee

Switchee is the first smart thermostat built specifically for the social housing sector. It was designed with large landlords in mind and helps deliver energy savings to residents whilst also providing data insights to help cut maintenance costs.

The product uses a wide range of sensors to measure temperature, light, motion, air pressure and humidity to provide an understanding into occupancy and to optimise heat settings, with the potential of saving residents up to 15% on their energy bills.

The data gathered by the sensors is used to produce a dashboard for the landlords to display a range of welfare and maintenance performance indicators and alerts.

Switchee has conducted extensive piloting with a number of social landlords and is now ready for market.

Ally Chatbot

Chatbots, the speech bubbles that appear on screen asking if you need assistance, are an emerging trend within the housing industry. Ally Chatbot was built specifically to help housing associations, councils and charities to provide 24-hour support to residents.

Chatbot software uses Artificial Intelligence to replicate real-life conversation, delivering information to users in an engaging and accessible way. Ally Chatbot was first built to support YMCA services but the technology now has a wide variety of applications across housing.

Allychatbot

For example, by using Ally, housing associations can help prevent the risk of their tenants falling into arrears by supporting residents through benefit and employment advice and debt write-off. The software also helps save both the customers and the customer hotline employees time, by being able to answer simple questions and preventing the need to make a call. This helps save money and allows staff to spend more time on complex issues.

Ally Chatbot is currently working with housing providers to build bots to meet their specific needs, and is open for pilots.

RentProfile

Illegal subletting is a serious issue that is becoming more prevalent across the housing market. RentProfile is a tenancy fraud prevention service for social housing and the private rented sector to help combat this and other landlord scams. The main aim of the service is to enable prospective tenants to verify their landlord, as well as alerting them if a property is owned by a housing association and being offered illegally. Housing providers also receive alerts when their properties are queried.

RentProfile uses Land Registry data to verify home ownership to detect fraud, with future plans to build further automation to detect and prevent properties owned by housing providers appearing across listing sites.

The startup is currently accepting pilots.

Skenario Labs

Skenario Labs is a Finnish startup that combines real-time Internet of Things sensor data with historical analytics to digitise property portfolios and provide insight. The software visualises optimal maintenance cycles and displays return on investment for each maintenance and repair.

Jay Saggar, HACT’s LaunchPad coordinator, explains how this is beneficial to the housing industry: “The software can do really interesting things around taking existing legacy data and improving those data sets by using algorithms based on the digital asset management data they already hold. They’re able to cleanse that data and deliver insights, even on a dataset that might not be brilliant – lots of data housing providers have already is fairly patchy. There’s a big project across the sector at the moment to improve data quality but in terms of practicality of doing something now, it’s an interesting tool that allows you to actually drive some insights.”

Skenario Labs is currently serving companies in Finland and the UK and is open for pilots.

Skenario Labs

Cube9Design

Cube9Design‘s Spacial4D allows housing providers to generate a ‘single version of the truth’ record of their physical assets in a 3D interface. The software builds an asset management system based on high-resolution scans that capture a property’s condition and dimensions.

Cube9design

The startup hopes to revolutionise quantity surveying tasks by using the 3D scans to cut down the need for site visits. The software also acts as a tool for sharing information with contractors and helps control costs.

Cube9Design is currently in live pilots with Notting Hill Housing and is looking for organisations to take part in early stage, proof of concept pilots.

Howz

With an ever-aging population, the pressure to provide quality assisted living is high for housing providers. As people get older, health problems can lead to a change of routine and providers need a way of noticing these signals.

Howz uses sensors to measure the use of appliances, doors and motion to do so. The software learns the elderly person’s routine and notices if something doesn’t correspond with it. For instance, if the sensors notice a lack of movement, it will send an alert.

Howz Diagram

The platform helps provide organisations with information that they wouldn’t have previously received so that they’re able to better assist those that are vulnerable.

Howz is market-ready and the sensors are available to buy online.

If you’re interested and would like to find out more about these companies contact them directly using the links above or speak to the HACT:LaunchPad team on 020 7250 8500. You can also email the digital lead, Jay Saggar, at jay.saggar@hact.org.uk.

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