Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Wearable Tech for Social Housing Tenants

Part 2 in the series of "Headlines we would like to see".

Homeless people and social housing tenants will soon be able to open doors to public housing in Kingsland Australia with NFC rings, saving the State Government there millions of dollars a year in lock replacements, repairs and locksmith call-out fees.

The Kingsland Government plans to offer this NFC unlocking feature in 20 properties before the end of the quarter. Social Housing tenants will receive a NFC ring pre-programmed with a digital key to their house for the duration of their lease, which will unlock the door with a tap on the front door.

The Government hopes to save hundreds of thousands a year in call-out fees from when social housing tenants lock themselves out, and in having to change the locks at the end of every tenancy.

“We believe that this not only save us money, and make our tenants lives more convenient, but it will also address some of the social housing management issues”, says Acting Housing Minister Simon Smith. “It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will also set a precedent in social housing management in Australia, and perhaps even across the world”.

Governments have never been known for being in the forefront of technology, especially in social housing management. Governments are often a laggard, in part because of red tape, but mostly because of the efforts involved in changing the status quo.

Nevertheless, many researchers at the Kingsland Government have been searching for ways to eliminate the bottlenecks on the public housing wait list. Wearable tech interfacing with automated cloud based property management systems may be the answer Governments are looking for.

A recent report found that almost 70,000 Kingslanders are languishing on public housing lists while hundreds of homes sit empty. More than 7100 of the state’s 54,468 social housing properties are not fully utilized. About 680 houses are vacant, there are 6517 properties with three bedrooms or more tenanted by singles, and a further 816 residences are occupied by households earning more than $80,000 threshold.

“Social Rental Housing is like any rental housing, people come and go, and it has to be managed”, said Acting Housing Minister Smith, “the problem is we’re still managing these properties in the same way we did 100 years ago”.

Government officers say they recognize that some tenants are not tech savy and prefer a metal key. But the problem with metal keys is that often tenants lock themselves out, and they need to call a locksmith out to let them in again (locksmith callout and replacement fees are around $150).

“Sometimes the tenants will even smash windows, or break tiles on the roof to let themselves in, which ends up costing us more in repairs”, said Minister Smith.

The budget line of ‘lock replacements’ set at $2 million annually to pay for locksmiths to change the locks at the end of every tenancy in the Kingsland Governments 54,468 properties, will be better spent in other much needed areas.

The Kingsland Government are also betting that a digital key linked with an online automated cloud-based property management system will also win over tenants who wish to move around more often. Once tenants become registered on the system, they’ll set up a direct debit payment system with their welfare payments (or bank accounts) and then they can view other available accommodation listed online (some are fully or partly furnished). Tenants can then book available accommodation on 6 month leases, and automatically receive the digital key emailed or texted to any NFC enabled smartphone. The tenant then simply holds their NFC ring under the smartphone to receive their digital key for the period of the lease.

By the end of next year, the Kingsland Government is hoping to roll out the Digital Key Cloud Based Property Management System in all of its 54, 468 properties.

Minister Smith says that the response from Government MP’s, administration staff and tax payers, who will have to pay for upgrades to door locks to run the new system, has been "very enthusiastic." He declined to specify the costs to taxpayer for the upgrades, saying that the "investment would not be substantial". An earlier report indicated that the costs would probably be even cheaper than one locksmith call-out fee (around $150).

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