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IoT tackles fuel poverty in Scotland

A pilot scheme, running since 2016, has been monitoring properties such as high-rises cottages and terraced housing

Capturing the data in near real-time helps councils to identify anomalies in housing
Capturing the data in near real-time helps councils to identify anomalies in housing

An internet of things (IoT) initiative underway in Renfrewshire, Scotland, could help detect whether residents are living in fuel poverty.


The pilot scheme led by smart asset management company, iOpt Assets, also aims to save local authorities millions of pounds on property management and repair bills.


Working in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, iOpt Assets has been detecting temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels at 50 social homes around Paisley over the course of the project.


Capturing this data in near real-time is reportedly allowing the local authority to identify anomalies in housing and take preventative action to protect tenants and its property assets.


Consistently high humidity and low temperatures, for example, could indicate a tenant is living in fuel poverty; while high carbon dioxide levels suggest there might be a problem with ventilation and air quality.


A range of property types including high rises, cottages, and terraced housing are being monitored.


The data from the sensors installed in the homes is currently transferred over Wi-Fi, but will move onto Renfrewshire’s low power wide area network (LPWAN), using LoRaWAN technology – also known as a LoRa network.


The IoT network was deployed last year by a consortium of organisations, including CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems; Stream Technologies; and Boston Networks.


So far, the project has helped the local authority to spot a number of potential issues at its properties, including homes that have impending damp, tenants who needed help with their heating system, and several occupants living in fuel poverty. All of the residents at the properties being monitored have opted into the project.


“The health of our tenants is of paramount concern. iOpt Assets’ easy to install technology gives us the ability to spot problems they have with energy or any issues with their housing that might affect their health,” said David Amos, head of policy and commissioning at Renfrewshire Council.


“It will also help us take preventative action, where necessary, to protect, manage, or even improve our homes – from damp and moisture detection, to issues with air quality.”


By the end of the year, iOpt Assets hopes to have rolled out the sensing technology to 2,000 homes in Scotland, spread across a variety of local authorities and housing associations. The Renfrewshire project has delivered an estimated 600 per cent return on investment to the council, by preventing costs that would have arisen from damage to properties over the next two years.


“The results of the project have proven the business case for this service – it’s delivering significant returns by allowing the council to predict issues and be proactive with maintenance, which is invariably more cost effective than having to deal with them after the fact,” added Dane Ralston, director at iOpt Assets.


“It also reduces the need for regular property visits and administration, while also leading to reduced premiums in large property portfolios.”


iOpt Assets is also going through a funding round to secure investment for the development of low-cost, battery-powered sensors with a five-year life, supported by a robust IT and data management system that can handle all the data from hundreds of thousands of homes.


The company will work with CENSIS, as one of the winners of the CENSIS through its IoT Explorer accelerator programme, aiming to install the technology in up to 400,000 rented homes over the next six years.


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