If I were to generate one of those word clouds that you can usually find in a blog's sidebar, then I'm fairly sure that looming over everything would be one word: innovation. I have a (hopefully healthy) obsession with looking at innovation and new ways of doing things. In part this is because the change in the housing industry means we are forced to find new ways of achieving our objectives. Another element though is simply that I am a fan of new technologies and software, as the various gadgets I carry with me at all times will demonstrate.
Recently I've been looking at some of the emerging technologies to try and imagine how they might shape the housing world in years to come - some amateur futurology if you like. I thought I'd share some of my thinking so far in a countdown post this week and next, as ever it would be interesting to hear your own ideas.
It's worth pointing out that a) predicting the future isn't easy and I make no guarantees! b) a lot of these technologies are available to us for free or at very low cost. This isn't a future where you have to spend half your budget on a killer piece of technology, which if it fails to deliver takes your margins with it. This is a future where experimentation and innovation should be a natural part of our work. In this way we can mimic the lean start-up's mantra of build, measure, learn, pivot and potentially that new approach will become the norm...
10) Sense repairs before they are required
One of the many exciting developments is the so-called internet of things, this is the point when it's not just people that are wired up over the internet but appliances and "things" are also allowed to communicate as well. This could be achieved by any number of simple RFID devices, they don't need to be complicated. What would be the point of that? Well, how about a smart plumbing system that ran regular diagnostic tests on itself and emailed a technician when it felt that its performance was beginning to slip? You could equally apply this to central heating, green energy solutions, you name it.
9) Protect the vulnerable
Some of our tenants are vulnerable, which means that services like TrustCall are a vital add on to what we do. Add the internet of things to homes and we could have a number of factors which provided early warning for anything amiss. How about a fridge that alerted a warden if it wasn't opened for a few days - or a front door which told a nominated person if a tenant was displaying an aversion to going outdoors? This could feed vital information to healthcare providers which could be part of a tailored long-term care solution.
8) Think of the possibilities of If This Then That
https://ifttt.com/ is a site which claims to allows you to "put the internet to work for you". It works by monitoring dozens of different sites and allowing you to set conditional rules for when specified things happen. The site is built around the rule IF x happens THEN make y happen. The site is integrated with many major social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but also more mainstream information sites such as weather and news providers. It offers an unlimited number of applications. A full rundown of the recipes (the name the site gives to the rule sets) created by other users can be found here - https://ifttt.com/recipes
Off the top of my head you could very easily create an early weather-warning system for elderly tenants where they were texted, emailed or called if the weather forecast in their area showed ice (equally the same rule recipe could ensure that maintenance were warned about clearing ice). Other applications could be a community-curated online website where every time someone uploaded a photo to Instagram or Facebook and tagged the location then it automatically posted to a Trafford-centric WordPress blog. How about every time your organisation is mentioned on any of the social networks, an email is sent to a customer care team who respond in kind to see if they can help?
Add in that IFTTT also connects to WeMo and you have the possibilities of a truly smart home - a home that starts heating up and putting the lights on when your GPS enabled phone tells your WeMo devices that you're entering your postcode? It sounds impossibly futuristic, but you could have it set up within 10 minutes.
7) 3D print new building components on site
3D printing is an outrageously exciting technology. This video gives a basic introduction if you've not yet seen how good it could be. There are no end of applications for this technology in housing but one that immediately springs to mind is if our maintenance teams had access to a 3D printer. In this way they could simply print any parts that they needed, rather than returning to base and ordering the part. This would represent a huge saving in time, energy and money.
6) 3D Printing buildings
It sounds ridiculous but it's already being done. After all, if you can print the individual components needed to repair a building, why not just print the building itself?