Camden CIO: IoT can help councils to tackle big social care issues

Camden CIO: IoT can help councils to tackle big social care issues

Omid Shiraji explains how putting IoT sensors in social housing could lead to the council intervening earlier in domestic violence cases.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can help councils to tackle complex social care situations, according to Camden Council interim CIO Omid Shiraji.

Speaking to Internet of Business, Shiraji said that the council currently invests a big sum of money on its estates, repairs and capital investments, but the data that it uses to make decisions on investments tends to be “people heavy”.

“We have residents phoning up to say that something is broken, or caretakers noting that something is broken, but the actual fabric – and by that I mean buildings, roads, walls, the boiler at the house, is not giving us the information we need in order to make better investment decisions and point our resources in the right place,” he explained.

IoT data used to track families

Shiraji said that the council invests a lot of money and time in people to intervene in social care situations, and that the investment could be reduced with the help of IoT data.

Camden Council did some research into how IoT data could play a part, by mapping out a decade-long journey of a very complex family, to see what their interactions were with the council. It started with a single mother of two who was in a domestically violent environment, and it ended with a single mother who had three additional partners and five children, and along the journey they had been through challenging issues ranging from drug abuse to relocating.

Shiraji said that by looking at the bigger picture, the council could have in retrospect, spotted some triggers that all was not right, and in turn could have intervened at some stage to change the journey of the family.

“As an example, we had gone to replace the door a number of times in this property, and that’s an indicator for domestic violence. That was a repair as far as we were concerned, but if you had intelligent sensors, then the technology could give you the data you need to inform complex social care issues,” he suggested.

Shiraji said that sensors could be put into a door in the same way that BP puts sensors into its oil drilling equipment to know when a pipe is going to fail.

“If a sensor said the door is getting kicked at this kind of power frequency you start to understand the patterns of activity that could be an indicator for some serious domestic violence,” he said.

Sensors to help check for repairs

Sean Owen, director of data science at Hadoop distributor Cloudera, suggested that in this particular example, sensors may not even be needed, and rather the council could use analytics to help it to understand the number of times a door has been replaced.

However, he believes that councils could benefit from sensors, although there could create a number of privacy issues.

“Why stop at putting sensors on the door, why not monitor the hallways, the CCTV cameras and mic up the place for shouting, all of that is quite possible and I don’t think it’s difficult or expensive, but the roadblock is more of a privacy issue – to what extent do we want to monitor [citizens] for their own good?”.

Owen gave an example of a hospital in Atlanta that has worked with Cloudera to measure outcomes for premature babies, in order to find out which factors improved outcomes. He suggested that this kind of technique could be used in social care situations too; measuring the environment that citizens are in, with factors such as how many people there are and how bad the traffic is, to see how they affect outcomes.

Shiraji acknowledged the need to consider privacy, but added that “for really vulnerable situations, IoT is a massive opportunity to do things differently for local authorities”.

Related: New UK initiative looks to drive Internet of Things and telehealth in healthcare