Sensors and sensibility

Hello, my name is Neil and I’m an enterprise architect at Digital First. Part of my role is to come up with new ways for the council to meet its business and technology objectives.

I’m currently working with the Housing department to see how Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology can benefit some of our social housing tenants.

Over 60s who live in colder temperatures during winter months, or in homes with black mould caused by high humidity, are more vulnerable to infection, respiratory illnesses and chronic fatigue.

To help them, we are running an exciting pilot scheme in one of our sheltered housing developments.

Firstly, we plan to put environmental sensors inside and outside our residents’ homes before, during and after building work so that we can measure the results of the work and improve our approach to future building work. The sensors will measure humidity and temperature, and connect to a private, secure low-power radio (LoRaWAN) network via a gateway.

The Digital First development team will create a mobile app for residents to monitor current and past temperatures and humidity outside and inside their homes.

Data captured by the gateway could send an alert to council staff – for example, unusually low temperatures over a long period could be an early sign of fuel poverty.

Recently we also started working with Everynet, a local community group set up to create a free, public IoT network. The group has some very innovative ideas, which I will write more about in this blog very soon.

We’re sprinting!

We’re coming up to six months since the Digital First team moved to Jubilee Library and started transforming the council’s services.

We’ve taken on a lot of projects since then, are learning more about the city’s residents and businesses, and are going faster than ever before.

Digital First is also sprinting now – as in we’re running the Scrum framework. This video about Scrum explains more.

We got to a point where there were many projects running at any one time and it was becoming difficult to keep track. Now we’re using Scrum, it’s really clear to see what we’re working on now, what’s next and the role everyone should play.

We’ll be sprinting all summer

Like everything else we do, the way we manage our projects is a work in progress. No doubt we’ll learn from this and improve.

Garden waste gets a spring clean

Brighton & Hove City Council’s garden waste collection service is a digitally-enabled success.

We put the whole process for getting garden waste collections online because you expect to do everything via the web nowadays – why should council services be any different?

When I started working here in January, I assumed council staff would be reluctant to embrace digital transformation. But the entrepreneurial spirit of the people at Cityclean, the council’s department for rubbish and recycling, has given me a new perspective.

Cityclean have created a new service from scratch and together with us, the council’s Digital First team, we have made it simpler for customers to pay for their subscriptions via the council’s website.

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You may have seen Cityclean’s garden waste collection bins around the city

In its first year the garden waste collection service generated £239,000 in new revenue – which covers the cost of delivering the service. One month into the second year, 85% of customers due to renew have done so. The vast majority have renewed via the website, responding to our automatically generated renewal email – which has saved a lot of admin time.

We are also aiming to add 1,000 new customers in the second year. So far we’ve got 850.

This means that Cityclean’s garden waste collection service is on course to deliver £1.7m in revenue over a five year period. This money pays for the service without any call on council funding.

Not bad, but you may say there is nothing particularly innovative about using technology in this way. And you might be right – the technology is not what I want to draw attention to.

The interesting thing, I think, is the evidence of a changing mindset at the council – not many public sector services can boast that they have developed a digitally-enabled, self-funded business model.