Beware the IoT data deluge: turning insights into action for better social care and housing

Social care has been historically underfunded and that only looks set to get worse, as more people are living longer, prompting an urgent need for greater levels of care

In fact, research from UNISON revealed that local authorities responsible for delivering social care and housing are facing a massive £2.1bn shortfall, which is expected to lead to huge service and staff cuts.  

Whilst health and social care providers are striving for better integration with local authorities – including housing associations – via the development of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), interoperability and budget cuts mean there is still a long way to go to make this a reality.  

So, what is the solution?  

Aside from additional funding, the only other option for the sector is to drive greater efficiencies – leaning on technology to be able to work smart and optimise the time and resource they have available.  

Housing associations can now integrate a range of smart devices and sensors within buildings to improve the day-to-day lives of residents and give peace of mind to their relatives – from remote sensors, detecting issues such as dampness to motion sensors, to detect if a vulnerable person has fallen or is in danger.  

With great power, comes great responsibility 

Whilst the data being collected from IoT devices can provide housing associations with real-time visibility, the muddle of tracking torrents of data from multiple IoT devices and recording changes in status can be overwhelming – and the more IoT devices you have, the more complex it gets. Data is only meaningful, when it can be interpreted and acted upon, and this can feel impossible when there is just too much to manage. 

Bringing back-office processes up to speed with IoT  

To tackle the data being generated by the IoT devices in residents’ homes, housing associations should urgently review their existing processes, and create new systems to keep up with this influx of data.  

A traffic light signaling system is a great way to do this with red highlighting an urgent problem, amber a problem that needs fixing soon but is not urgent, or green indicating that there are no issues currently. One element to consider is the classification of IoT data and defining a hierarchy of importance, and the necessary response that needs to be triggered, such as an SMS message or email to the residents of the property, next of kin, or an independent living officer. For example, data from a sensor indicating that a resident has fallen out of bed will require an immediate response.   

To put such a system in place, requires data from IoT devices to pass through a series of workflows to get to the right response. Low-code technology means that housing associations can create these processes and systems internally, with minimal intervention or time investment from IT. Low-code technology operates via a drag and drop functionality, meaning business users can easily create, and continually update processes to suit current and future requirements.  

Bringing data together into one unified view 

In addition to classifying data and linking it to a response, it is equally important to ensure that the data is interpretable and accessible across the organisation. Technologies such as low-code can be used to build an easy-to-use interface that brings together this information into one unified view.  

Data from each IoT device  tells an ongoing story, so visual reports can help to provide a quick status update, that can then be relayed to the resident, or their family or carer. Social housing providers face huge pressures when ensuring their properties meet the adequate needs of their tenants, so ensuring employees from the contact centre can check in on the status of an issue, and escalate, if necessary, is essential. 

The future for IoT in social care and housing 

IoT sensor technology in housing can ensure better care for residents, but it can also help in other areas too. For example, using smart sensors – underpinned by IoT – housing associations can diagnose issues (such as the prevalence of black mould) and regulate the resident’s environment (for example, temperature control). By allowing housing providers to monitor the condition of a property, situations can be resolved before lasting damage occurs – both to the property and the occupant’s health.  

Whilst the initial outlay of investing in such technologies may be significant, in the long-term these tools can be extremely cost-effective due to the increased efficiency that can be achieved. Through IoT, organisations can also gather a plethora of data that drives improved decision-making. And, when integrated using low-code – which can be easily updated – it provides a foundation for new services to be added in an affordable way as needs arise and technology evolves.   

About the Author

Lynley Meyers Product Marketing Manager at Netcall. Netcall helps organisations radically improve customer experience through collaborative CX. A leading provider of low-code and customer engagement solutions, we enable customer-facing and IT talent to collaborate. By taking the pain out of big change projects, we help businesses to dramatically improve customer experience, while lowering costs.

 Featured image: ©Bagotaj

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