Following the success of a long-term monitoring contract between the technology enabled care services provider, Appello, and housing group, Orbit, the two organisations partnered in 2020 to introduce digital warden call and telecare equipment into Orbit’s Independent Living sheltered housing properties. Recognising the safety and wellbeing benefits of moving to digital, Orbit selected the market leading digital suite, Smart Living Solutions (SLS).
In this short interview, Graham Holliday, Service Development Officer at Orbit, discusses the first six months of the installation project and the feedback received.
Once you decided upon installing Smart Living Solutions, how did you find the initial preparation?
Following the awarding of the contract, Appello took a proactive and organised approach towards mobilising Smart Living Solutions, assigning and deploying dedicated personnel with the autonomy to manage the mobilisation of the service.
For each site that was installing Smart Living Solutions, a joint survey was conducted by Appello and our Property Improvement Team from which a site-specific quotation was produced.
How did you develop the installation programme and prioritise upgrades?
We worked with Appello to develop the installation programme, with regular meetings to ensure all stakeholders were comfortable with the plan. We undertook an asset review of the current systems in place to identify which needed prioritisation for upgrades, taking into consideration the extent to which the current system was working/functioning; the age of the system; the number and nature of faults occurring with the current system and lastly, whether the current system was readily serviceable.
When you were ready to commence the project, can you explain the process for each upgrade?
For each individual project, Appello assigned an Installations Supervisor & Contracts Manager. We then arranged a prestart meeting/site induction at each site with attendance from the Orbit regional delivery (Property Improvement Team) team to finalise cabling routes and all matters relating to the install itself, including access arrangements into dwellings.
Appello worked in close collaboration with our site teams, ensuring residents were well communicated with throughout the installation, and we received complimentary feedback about the considerate manner the works were delivered in customers’ homes. Moreover, weekly programme updates were also provided to Property Improvement Team.
Given that we started the project during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional measures were put in place to ensure safe working. These were well-planned and managed, which enabled the program to continue with confidence and in a safe manner.
A delivery team of Appello and Orbit representatives manages the overall project, with monthly operational meetings regionally to discuss program delivery, site prioritisation, delivery, invoicing, stakeholder engagement, health and safety, and training for staff and residents.
You are now over 6 months into the project with 15 sites complete, what has been the feedback?
We have received excellent feedback from residents about the new Appello system, Smart Living Solutions, especially about its ease to use. The added security and peace of mind provided through the video door entry system has been very important to our customers and their families.
We have also internally undertaken an independent survey on the use of the system to understand how the project was progressing and gain customer feedback. We have received positive comments on how video calling between properties is a great way to share updates and information. Some customers have also said it has helped them with feelings of isolation by being able to speak to friends and family virtually, giving a boost to their wellbeing, which is a real positive.
The benefits of digital can go beyond the equipment used by customers, how have your employees found Smart Living Solutions?
Our colleagues on site are benefitting from access to AppelloHQ, which provides system management information on a dashboard. It is valuable in their roles to see the performance of the system and utilisation of the features. The ‘I’m okay’ feature has provided an enhanced function for scheme officers in monitoring residents health and improved communication levels, which has helped to highlight any issues or concerns at an earlier stage.
Furthermore, we have already found that pendants are programmed easily, and automated fault reporting reduces the onus on our employees to identify and report any faults which can easily be overlooked.
Moving to digital provides lots of opportunities, what is next for Orbit?
The overall project has been a real success and it has delivered benefits for our customers and colleagues. It has been complimentary to our wider strategy of enhancing services to customers using the most up to date, easy to use digital technology.
Now that we have the digital infrastructure and systems in place, we are keen to explore the possibilities of adding additional customer services through Smart Living Solutions. For example, providing access to our own website directly from the touch screen hub, which we understand a number of other organisations working with Appello have utilised.
The LivingHub can be used as WIFI hotspots and we are exploring how we can best make use of that feature as part of a wider strategy of encouraging residents to ‘go digital’. The hubs also have Bluetooth connectivity which provides opportunities to expand the range of technology enabled care services and third-party open protocol devices, such as remote speakers. With all these potential opportunities to enhance our customer services digitally, we aim to continue delivering an excellent customer experience and thriving communities where people are proud to live.