21 December 2016

Flagship, in partnership with a number of local companies, has launched a new pilot project which could transform the way housing providers operate in the future.

The exciting venture involves free Wi-Fi and technology upgrades installed in a block of Flagship Group-owned flats in Ipswich.

The project in its entirety is a first for the region and the housing sector, and is aimed at improving communication with customers, while reducing costs for them and Flagship.

Led by the Customer Services and Asset Management Teams, and supported by IT, the innovative and pioneering trial aims to understand how smart technology and the Internet of Things (the connection of everyday objects to the internet, allowing them to send and receive data) can help improve:

  • The management of Flagship’s homes
  • Everyday life for customers
  • Staff access to a reliable, secure internet connection whilst working remotely

The following technology upgrades have been fitted to the 12 flats:

  • Wi-Fi access for all flats that customers and staff can use – encouraging more digital usage from our tenants
  • Smart-locks on communal and hallway doors – customers and Flagship staff can use their mobile phone to access the building
  • Switchee smart thermostat – this is the first thermostat designed specifically for social housing. It collects environmental information to understand occupancy and automatically regulate customers’ heating settings with the aim of reducing their energy bills and combatting fuel poverty
  • CCTV cameras in communal areas – customers will be able to see who is coming and going and will also increase security

Marie-Claire Delbrouque, Director of Housing and Customer Insight at Flagship said: “This is a unique step forward in creating an improved service for our customers. The use of iPads and smart phones allows them to communicate more efficiently as they can pay their rent and log a repair online immediately, which also reduces the number of calls made to our contact centre.

“The tenants we are using for the trial have been very receptive and are looking forward to seeing how the new technology will make their lives easier. We hope the next few months will be a success with the prospect of rolling it out across the company in the near future.”

 

Matt Brazier, Head of IT at Flagship said: “This is an exciting pilot as the changes would make a huge difference to us as a business, our customers, as well as the housing sector as a whole.

“There are lots of benefits including the use of a smart thermostat which can learn habits automatically, optimising heating settings while providing alerts for potential issues, so in the long run saving both residents and our maintenance teams money.

“We are always considering smarter ways of working and striving for different ways to communicate with our customers, so having the opportunity to work with innovative local companies to achieve this is fantastic.”

Norwich-based WiSpire is enabling connectivity for the project by providing Wi-Fi for the properties. Their Operations Director Steve Batson said: “We are very pleased to support Flagship with this innovative and exciting pilot project. Connectivity is the key to releasing and enabling the important benefits that this project offers and with its expertise in this area, WiSpire is very pleased to be supporting the delivery of this project.”

Ian Napier is Commercial Director at Switchee, which helps families reduce their energy bills with their Smart Thermostat for social housing. Ian said: “We are very pleased to be part of Flagship’s innovative Ipswich pilot.  Our smart thermostat is designed specifically to target fuel poverty in social housing whilst providing actionable, data-driven insights for landlords.  We are delighted to support Flagship in their efforts to reduce fuel poverty whilst leveraging IoT data insights to provide enhanced repair and maintenance outcomes for less money.”

David Burton from Dereham-based DoorsPlus who are providing the Smart Lock and CCTV in the block of flats. David said: “We are proud to be associated with the project. We have a long term and positive relationship with Flagship. We’re always looking at new technology ourselves and it’s nice to find another company which is also embracing new technology and finding ways to utilise this to improve their customers’ home environment. We look forward to working with Flagship on this as well as future projects.”