About Digital Door Entry
As a specialist housing and care provider, Blackwood has a track record of investing in innovation when looking at service redesign solutions, with digital inclusion a core approach. A recent opportunity to put this into action occurred when the imminent transition from analogue to digital telecare necessitated a rethink of the provision of warden alarm systems in three of Blackwood’s housing developments. In common with other social housing providers, Blackwood has had to consider replacing the current technology. They decided to use the opportunity to install a multi-functional system that should provide future proof the service for the next 20 years or so.
Blackwood chose the Akuvox digital door entry system for trialling, initially in a new build housing development in Glasgow. Akuvox is a concierge system used in high-end residential properties. It comprises a wall-mounted door entry HD 10-inch android monitor screen fitted inside customers’ homes and a corresponding panel fitted externally to the building. Blackwood has installed Akuvox over three housing developments in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, totalling 74 households.
Panel fitted inside customer homes
Taking A Person-Centred Approach
The system uses cloud-based technology which offers multiple access control options such as fob, PIN code and facial recognition and, using a video connection, gives residents the ability to see who is at the door. The system is voice-activated, allowing residents to open or close the door with verbal instructions, especially useful for people who may have a visual impairment or issues with mobility or dexterity.
The feedback from customers has been positive, especially once the digital door entry functionality has been explained. Blackwood’s Digital Skills Team has provided training for residents (and their families, if required). They offer training online or face to face and are available to support those who are less sure about the new technology.
The advantages of the technology for customers include:
- the panel is always switched on, meaning that there is always a connection to the responder service (which Blackwood has now been able to take in-house)
- residents can set up facial recognition to facilitate entry for themselves and regular visitors
- residents can tailor their home screen on the monitor, personalising it as they wish
- the system is operates on android platform so other apps can be sideloaded onto it, such as Blackwood’s CleverCogs™, thereby avoiding duplication of technology.
Other advantages include:
- staff can send alerts to select or all residents via the panel and the app
- staff can tailor what is on the screen, for example, adding any new apps needed on to the monitor
- staff can control access to the front door of the main building from a central location
- temporary access passes can be given to tradespeople through QR codes, saving time to meet workers on-site or provide keys
- service entry times can also be set up
- staff can be set up on facial recognition to get them into the building
- additional features of the system include the ability to take the temperature of staff and visitors before they enter the building (helpful in a pandemic)
- the system offers mask detection so the door can be set to refuse entry to anyone not wearing a mask
- any data captured by the digital door entry is held on Blackwood’s cloud system and covered by their data protection measures.
As an organisation, Blackwood recognises that staff and customers need to be supported to embrace technology and have the digital skills required for new ways of working. Blackwood’s Digital Skills Trainer has been delivering training to housing, repairs and other staff that need to understand how the digital door entry technology works. All staff have basic training in TEC, but additional training is still required for new systems. There is an appreciation that staff may learn at different speeds, and the support is there for those who need it. The in house team of Digital Skills Coaches work with customers and relatives to familiarise them with CleverCogs ™, and any additional equipment, with a focus on developing digital skills.
Blackwood already has an established connectivity programme where WiFi has been installed across their housing and care home stock. Akuvox is cloud-based and requires an internet connection. Where digital cabling was not already in place (as was the case for the Edinburgh development), the older analogue lines had to be removed and digital cabling installed; this was the main cost. For residents, the cost of the digital door entry is covered as part of their rental charge.
The move to digital door entry has many positives for Blackwood and its customers, including increased functionality and future-proofing of the system. Customers have been enthusiastic from the outset and appreciative of the security provided by the video elements. Although it takes more time initially, communicating directly with customers and their families has been the best way to introduce the idea of digital door entry. Leaflets can give the basic information but cannot convey the extent to which the system can be customised for each person using it. Blackwood has also held off from installing all the attributes of the digital door entry at one time, allowing customers to learn how to use the system gradually. Akuvox offers an app that residents can download to their personal phone or tablet, which allows them to operate the door entry system while they are away from home, in much the same way as Ring Doorbell works. This is currently being tested by some customers.
Concerning staff, Blackwood would spend more time getting staff involved from the beginning, as this will help in their buy-in and learning process.
A technical challenge has been ensuring that systems align, and that staff and residents are involved and informed about progress. For example, a process must be in place to switch off the old system and transfer it to the new one as seamlessly as possible.
With over 1,500 properties throughout Scotland, Blackwood offers a range of accessible, modern, attractive and bespoke housing aimed at providing great value to people with a range of disabilities and housing needs.
Blackwood has embraced the challenges of taking housing and care into innovative areas at a time when funding is increasingly limited, by being at the forefront of investing in digital solutions to help people manage their own lives at home.
For further information, please contact:
Anne Jenkins, Innovation Manager, Blackwood Housing and Care