The world of tomorrow…today - how emerging technology could revolutionise our sector

One of the key themes that was discussed at this year’s annual conference was how new technology and innovation are driving service improvements

It can be said that this isn’t a new topic, the maintenance sector has always been looking at technology and the benefits they can bring. The key difference now is in the pace of technological advancement.

I led a workshop session at this year’s NHMF Maintenance Conference entitled, ‘Safety through Technology’, where I initially took the audience through Gas Tag’s solution for enhancing, improving and driving fundamental change in how gas safety and maintenance is managed.

The key message to delegates was that, simply put Gas Tag is about protection:

The audience were taken through the Gas Tag solution and given a better understanding of how it fits into existing technology infrastructures and how it delivers value to social landlords.

The audience saw how combinations of existing technologies can still drive transformational change. Some interesting questions were raised by audience members over how Gas Tag differs from existing mobile and cloud solutions; the answer being that whilst other systems have focused on the works management aspect of gas, and generally have been designed to work equally for a gas engineer as for a painter and decorator, Gas Tag was built from the ground up to provide full visibility and accountability on what the gas engineer ‘actually does’ whilst on site, whilst validating qualifications and competencies through its unique integration to the Gas Safe Register and providing a real time view of all gas activities and up to date compliance information to the organisation.

The second part of the workshop was devoted to emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In this part I was ably supported by Alan Core of Housing Plus Group and Malkit Sagoo of Platform Housing Group as a small panel of industry experts.

Initially the audience were taken through some examples of these technologies, initially IoT and how the addition of sensors into properties could potentially revolutionise the repairs sector. Both Alan and Malkit discussed their thoughts on IoT, with Alan most notably, talking about how the technology could drastically reduce the number of no access visits, which costs our sector approximately half a billion pounds, every ten years. He went on to put to the audience how the current models of reactive maintenance could move to a more proactive maintenance service.

HPG have already begun trialling this approach, with a ‘hit squad’ of operatives who are available to respond to tenants' repairs issues immediately. The addition of smart boilers and sensors in their properties could further enhance this service by giving the operatives real time information on repairs issues and if the tenant is in, before they arrive at the door.

The discussion moved on to ML and AI with Malkit talking about how Platform are exploring chat bots in customer services, where a bot, rather than a human, will interact, signpost and guide customers to the right services, freeing up the humans at Platform to focus on the more difficult contacts. He went on to describe how ML can greatly enhance the analysis of the wealth of data that we collect in the sector, and how ML can begin to provide answers to those questions we didn’t even know we needed to ask!

The interaction between the audience and the panel was great, with a number of insightful questions from delegates exploring some of the issues, such as privacy. All too soon time was up and the number of delegates that wished to engage further with myself and the panel was gratifying and showed what an engaged and active set of delegates we had at this year’s conference.

 

[1] https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/news/news-2016/more-than-a-million-households-put-at-risk-by-illegal-gas-fitters/

[2] https://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/09/which-boiler-servicing-investigation-reveals-shocking-findings-452715/

[3] https://www.installeronline.co.uk/34817-2/

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