Augmented Reality (AR) use within Social Housing

UI/UX Design

App Development

A hand holding an iphone showing an AR application, scanning a boiler in the background
A hand holding an iphone showing an AR application, scanning a boiler in the background
A hand holding an iphone showing an AR application, scanning a boiler in the background

An analysis of how Augmented Reality can be used within Social Housing to improve Repairs and Maintenance.

The social housing sector is undergoing rapid digitisation, transforming how services are delivered to residents and the idea of a ‘digital tenant’ is quickly becoming a reality. Although a challenging endeavour, the sector is already seeing a lot of innovative opportunities.

“The Government is driving digital adoption – 80% of applications for Universal Credit must be made online by 2017, and it aims to cut the number of citizens who are still offline by 25% every two years until the population is connected. Similarly, housing associations themselves are setting up schemes where they provide the internet to communities in order to increase digital adoption.” —

According to Mondaq, reports are demonstrating that on average 69% of digital access is now carried out via smartphone and this is continuously growing. There are numerous avenues that could help benefit a ‘digital tenant’, but how could AR or Augmented Reality help, specifically with repairs and maintenance within Social Housing?

In a list of the most frequent tenant’s requests, provided to Geomant by a housing association, repair related enquiries represented by far the highest percentage. The report also forecasts that the housing environment will be very different and highly competitive by 2025, and “organisations will need to provide responsive services that customers want while operating more efficiently”. Technology will be at the forefront of this transformation, requiring innovation, new thinking and skills.

The Visualisation of Information

There is a real push to develop and adopt new ideas in order to create a more streamlined user experience for housing associations and their tenants. The ‘Vision of Housing in 2025’ series of reports, published by 3C Consultants, highlights some of the key comments provided by the participants. A number of points include the inclusion of smart tech devices and repairs and self-service by customers:

“The majority of routine transactions with residents will be carried out via smart tech devices. Hopefully, we will be fully digitised by then so everything will be different from the care of older residents to repairing homes to self-service by customers.”

Augmented reality can benefit a large sector that has a keen eye on affordability and efficiency and the technology is quickly becoming more accessible to the average consumer compared to other disruptive technologies.

“Despite the buzz around virtual reality (VR), augmented reality is where the money is. Why? It’s all about numbers rather than demand – the number of VR units in the world currently sits around 82 million, but with augmented reality tech found in most smartphones, AR units in the world peak at over three billion.

With that many devices already in people’s hands, you have a nice recipe for innovation and disruption in several sectors.” — Evening Standard

But what is Augmented reality and how can it help benefit Social Housing? Augmented Reality often abbreviated as ‘AR’ is a technology that overlays 3D digital content seamlessly onto the real world, using various wearables, specialised hardware and software. However, augmented reality can be accessed through the power of a smartphone or device.

“The future of AR is open now that the big guns have unveiled their platforms – Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore, and Snapchat Lens Studio – allowing developers to create their own augmented reality apps and features.” — Evening Standard

There are a number of companies already taking an innovative approach and working on ways in which AR can help benefit their customers. Ikea created ‘Ikea Place’—an AR app, which allows you to virtually place Ikea products in your own room in order to see how the furniture would fit or compliment a space. Specsavers allow you to scan your face and virtually try on their array of glasses before purchasing—helping to see what suits without having to visit a store.

However, it’s not just retail that is reaping the benefits of AR. Gaia Dempsey, a creative strategist and pioneer in the field of augmented reality, at DAQRI, explains that three decades of research in areas such as manufacturing, aerospace, and surgery have shown that AR training and task guidance significantly reduces errors, speeds up learning, and accelerates task completion time – literally making mental and physical tasks easier.

“Research shows that AR helps to accelerate mental processes like spatial transformations and information retrieval. Those capabilities translate to the job site, where AR makes coordination and communication between mechanical, electrical and plumbing vendors easier. AR provides a visual tool that simplifies de-conflicting and improves quality control. With a visual tool that ensures everyone is on the same page, it’s more likely that projects can get completed on time and on budget.” — UK construction media

Social Housing is a sector that relies enormously on affordability and efficiency. Especially when it comes to Repairs and Maintenance within tenants home. Augmented reality technology is quickly becoming the current innovation in maintenance. It is a valuable solution for many of the challenges which surround industrial maintenance, repair, and operations, allowing users to enhance their field of view—helping to reduce human errors, execution time and cost while increasing operation speed, productivity and profit.

This is already the case in a number of other sectors, such as Boeing; cutting its wiring production time by 25% and reduced error rates effectively to zero by using AR. GE Healthcare warehouse workers had a 46% increase in productivity using AR and GE Renewable Energy wiring technicians are yielding a 34% increase in productivity from AR wearables. — information provided by Wikitude

Using Augmented Reality to simplify repairs and maintenance in Social Housing

Through continuous research and development, we are working on a proof of concept that would allow social housing tenants to book repairs and also troubleshoot repairs by visualising information through instructional AR tutorials using an AR app. Maintenance workers could also use the AR app, or a wearable device version of it, to aid in repairs or even carry out maintenance through remote assistance. Which is already a reality in other sectors.

“Commonly referred to as the see-what-I-see remote collaboration, this solution is the new preferred way to have specialised expertise on-site anytime, anywhere. Whenever a new or complex problem arises, field service technicians can now connect with experts to get a faster diagnose and solution, decreasing repair downtime, saving time and money.” — Wikitude

Users of the application could scan some form of sticker/code, this would bring up a variety of options in which they could use to troubleshoot any issues. Another benefit of this is that the history of the object would be saved, so another maintenance worker would be able to see work that had been carried out in the past, the history of the internal parts and how to carry out repair tasks. All without having to refer to any logbook or consult another maintenance team.

Collaboration among workers is a key driver for including AR technology into enterprises’ systems and processes. The display of real-time (or saved) 3D annotations on environments and objects help teams solve problems efficiently and with no extra relocation costs. — Wikitude

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