Can technology make social housing safer?

  • The safety and security of tenants is a top priority for Registered Providers of social housing
  • Technology can offer new ways to improve the safety of your tenants and properties
  • We discuss some key technological advances that could have an impact on social housing, from smart alarms to remote medical monitoring

Technological advances affect every area of life, and for Registered Providers (RPs) of social housing, could offer new ways of ensuring the safety and security of your tenants.

We have previously discussed how security and surveillance features such as locks, CCTV cameras and alarms, can improve the safety and security of the community.

Smart locks, for instance, are electronic locks that do not require a physical key. Some smart locks have keypads, where different access codes can be assigned to different users, such as employees or tradespeople.

Some smart locks are fitted with built-in alarms that can sound when somebody tries to force them open.

Smart alarms and security cameras

But, alarms can do more than just detect intruders. Modern fire and carbon monoxide alarm systems can connect to each other, so that if there is a fire in a communal stairwell, as well as the fire alarms going off, carbon monoxide alarms in tenants’ rooms could also sound.

This will reduce the time it takes for tenants to become aware of a potential emergency.

Smart security cameras could offer advantages over traditional CCTV systems. They can learn the normal movements of their users and detect unusual behaviour, such as an intruder climbing over a wall or attempting to open a window from the outside.

And while CCTV cameras can only be monitored in real time within a control room, smart cameras can alert their users to any potential intrusion remotely, for example via a smartphone or tablet.

A member of your security or estates team working on one site could therefore be notified via their smartphone of an on-going incident at another site.

Drones offer further possibilities

Cameras do not have to be fixed to a building to serve a security purpose.

Walsall Housing Group (WHG) recently became the first RP in the country to receive permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate aerial drones.

WHG intends to use cameras mounted on the drones to inspect roofs without scaffolding. It claims the move could save it around £20,000 a year.

Real-time medical monitoring

Technological advances could also help you to respond to demographic changes. Ageing will increase the total amount of ill-health and disability in the population.

Systems are being developed that could allow real-time medical monitoring of vulnerable tenants, including blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and sleeping patterns. Such systems could be used to alert a GP or even call an ambulance if a tenant’s health was in grave danger.

Real-time medical monitoring was identified as one of the most important potential developments in smart home technology in the NHBC Foundation’s Connected Home report.

What RPs should do next

You should consider carefully what options are available to improve the safety and security of your properties and tenants, and monitor future developments closely.

Our Security Guide offers a quick checklist of some of the key security considerations for RPs. And our previous article, How refurbishment schemes can cut crime, gives examples of housing associations that have achieved significant reductions in crime by following some fairly simple design principles.