VRM Technology wanted to broaden the application of its building management solution to provide local authorities with a cost-effective way to monitor properties vulnerable to mould and heat loss because external wall cladding needed to be removed as a fire-safety precaution. Participating in Digital Catapult’s Things Connected programme gave it access to expertise and a network to prototype and test a solution.
Can IoT technology help protect residents from damp and fuel poverty?
The tragic fire at Grenfell in London alerted building managers and local authorities to the fire risk of certain external wall cladding materials. To mitigate the risk, cladding was removed from many high rise buildings in the weeks that followed whilst alternatives are sought. This presents a new set of challenges as the properties have been made more vulnerable to damp, mould and heat loss as a result.
In order to maintain their duty of care to residents, building managers were looking for ways to protect them from the health risks of damp and mould and fuel poverty.
VRM Technology was developing and building a monitoring solution that could be integrated into a building’s existing management system to collect additional measurements (e.g. humidity). The aim was to bring together all the data in a powerful dashboard which would enable a building’s environmental conditions to be optimised for inhabitants. It wanted to use internet enabled sensors that would require minimal infrastructure and maintenance and could be monitored remotely.
VRM Technology wanted to explore the use of low power wide area networks (LPWAN) to connect the sensors to the internet. However, due to the cutting-edge nature of the technology involved, interoperability of all the elements was proving to be a challenge. VRM Technology needed access to expertise and knowledge about future network technologies.
Digital Catapult provides technical expertise and free access to a LPWAN for prototyping and testing
Existing client, Camden Council, suggested that VRM Technology got in touch with Digital Catapult and its Things Connected Programme for help.
Things Connected is an initiative by Digital Catapult to support UK businesses using LPWAN technologies. It is a free-to-use network for the experimenting and prototyping of new IoT products and services that can benefit from the unique features of LoRaWAN and SigFox.
Participating in the Things Connected programme gave VRM Technology access to a network of experts and peers all working on IoT solutions. It also gave them access to the LPWAN test network so it could experiment and test its solution and demonstrate to Camden Council that the concept would work.
“Through its participation in Things Connected, VRM has seen the huge potential that LPWAN can bring to enhance its product portfolio. Our unique, vendor-neutral position combined with our deep knowledge of the IoT landscape enabled us to advise VRM Technology on the most effective technology to use for its solution” Peter Karney, Digital Catapult, Head of Product Innovation.
Digital Catapult was even able to lend VRM Technology some hardware, enabling it to test the system before having to invest.
The knowledge that VRM Technology has gained through its participation in the Things Connected Programme has helped it to make important decisions about its products. It has decided, for example, to focus on LoRaWan as the primary LPWAN technology to use. It has also gained useful insights into the market for IoT solutions, the potential applications of the technology and connected to the emerging ecosystem of experts.
Digital Catapult’s extensive network helps to bring the right organisations together to solve real-world challenges
VRM Technology successfully pitched its solution to Camden Council. It won a pilot project to develop a solution that will help the council monitor residential flats which, having had external wall cladding removed are at higher risk of developing damp and losing heat. This pilot contracts VRM Technology for 200 sensors spread over five tower blocks that can extend to 2000 on a full rollout within the same buildings.
Involvement with Digital Catapult has also generated other new business leads. VRM Technology has been invited to tender for similar projects for other councils. It has already be shortlisted for some contracts and at time of writing has successfully won a contract worth £14k to roll out sensors in properties for Croydon Council.
Got access to tender for similar projects with other councils
Gained the opportunity to increase market exposure by demonstrating the system at Digital Catapult’s stand at the Farnborough International Airshow
Decided to focus on LoRa technology as a result of learnings gathered through work with Digital Catapult
Insights into what IoT sensors can and can't do
Gained a deeper understanding of the IoT market
Opened eyes to different applications of the technology
Won pilot project for initial roll-out of 200 sensors with Camden Council which could be extended to 2000
Generated to lead with Croydon council which has already converted £14k new business with anticipation for more
Pilot experience with LPWAN sensors allowed VRM tech to win two H2020 innovation projects worth 850k Euro funding to further grow its ioT offering and investigate new use cases