Switchee Limited designs and develops thermostats that help affordable housing residents to fight fuel poverty. Their smart home thermostat detects occupancy and learns in the background, creating an optimum heating profile without any user interaction; lowers energy bills by turning the heating off when nobody is at home; and provides social landlords with tools and information to make better asset management decisions.
Switchee found that many people in the affordable housing sector were more likely to not have wi-fi than have it due to affordability and as it is very much the responsibility of the landlord to ensure the living conditions of their tenants meet a certain standard, being able to monitor and maintain heating and boiler usage was not always straight forward.
Within high rise buildings or housing spread across a town, to maintain this manually took up landlord’s time, used up resources – which could lead to costly inspections, and in some cases, landlords would be faced with the challenges of gaining access to a home. A solution was needed that would provide a reliable source of real time data on how each residence was being ran.
Switchee needed to negate the need for available Wi-Fi connectivity so that each resident would always have their thermostat connected via a 2G/3G network. This immediately makes the thermostat more reliable with a ‘fit and forget’ approach where residents who don’t choose to interact with the technology have zero effect on the thermostat’s function and purpose.
During the early stage testing, Switchee’s development team utilised consumer-based Pay-A-You-Go (PAYG) SIMs. But for roll-out, a more considered and focused approach was necessary – based upon several criteria including signal strength, secure connectivity, flexibility in network usage and cost. Working closely with Wireless Logic Group, Europe’s leading IoT/M2M Managed Services Provider for multi-bearer connectivity, a solution that met all of Switchee’s objectives was proposed, tested and ultimately commissioned. Instead of selecting one or more national Mobile Network Operators, Wireless Logic’s approach was to utilise a single non-steered roaming SIM. Working with Dutch based network, KPN, a programme was implemented to enable each installed thermostat to switch to the strongest network based upon location. Whilst roaming can suggest high data costs, Switchee’s operational objective has been to reduce data usage on a per SIM basis, with evolving tweaks that are bringing monthly data levels to low Mb per asset. And with the use of SMS AT Commands, this further reduces data used.
This has been implemented across thousands of homes across the UK.
Additionally, to connectivity needs, security of data was also of importance.
Wireless Logic’ NetPro solution, a private APN and VPN infrastructure, provides an overlay to the mobile network eco-system. This solution, delivered to Switchee on an OPEX model, minimalises expenditure to the landlords as Switchee can monitor full usage and performance, all in real time, giving a complete window of SIM activity over the Wireless Logic control platform, SIMPro.
By doing this, tailored tariffs are now designed to aggregate usage across the entire SIM estate therefore mitigating any possible ‘’bill shock’’ and alert on any SIMs that may have reached agreed thresholds or have any unusual usage pattern.
To date fuel savings are typically up to 15%, but Switchee takes the data learning further. For vulnerable residents, the thermostat can report on potential fuel poverty or overheating through abnormally low or elevated temperature. Humidity readings can help determine risk of mould growth, helping the landlord intervene before the issue becomes problematic. By analysing each of the sensor-reported data, landlords can work with all residents to create a healthier environment, with a reduction of mould, fungal infections and a better approach to cost-effective heating schedules without the need for costly inspections.
Data is reported via Switchee’s intuitive dashboard, and models the real-time condition of each property, enabling landlords to have full visibility of heating performance across all of their housing stock.
For asset managers, this unrivalled provision of data creates a unique insight from which damage and potential void due to a building’s condition can be prevented.
The successful deployment and ongoing performance of the Switchee is totally dependent upon our ability to communicate securely, with resilience and in a cost-effective way. The connectivity journey with counsel from Wireless Logic has taken us on a big learning curve to achieve the best solution. The roaming solution gives us the optimal provisioning strategy with a ‘one SIM fits all’ that reduces our commissioning time and provides stability in our connectivity. We are pleased with the end-to-end solution that Wireless Logic have developed – Integrating secure infrastructure as part of the total package together with a competitive roaming solution enables us to focus on other key areas of our service delivery, firm in the knowledge that safe and resilient connectivity is in place, regardless of location. As our growth gathers pace, we look forward to developing further solutions with the Wireless Logic team.