Business

Finding innovative solutions to make business more efficient

Modular housing constructed in a factory using cross laminated timber (CLT)

THERE is some fantastic innovation going on all around us. In England, for example, they are about to start custom-building homes in a factory before delivering them for final assembly. Customers can choose, online, the layout and specifications they want - conservatory, playroom, or a downstairs bathroom, for instance - before the house is created in a 75,000 sq ft facility and shipped.

It's part of an initiative involving a Novosco client called Swan Housing. Swan is a large housing association headquartered in Billericay in Essex which recently announced that it is working on the custom-build option for selected developments.

Initially, they will produce high-quality modular housing for a development called Beechwood in Basildon, as part of Swan's £100m regeneration of the former 1960s Craylands Estate.

Built using cross laminated timber (CLT), a sustainable material for construction, the high-quality, new homes will be delivered under Swan's newly created 'NU build' brand in its new purpose-built facility. They expect construction of the modular housing to launch this summer, with the first homes delivered the autumn.

Technology plays an important part in enabling this project to happen. And the initiative demonstrates the scope that exists for innovation in very traditional sectors. After-all, what could be more traditional than a housing association?

We're also seeing some rather stunning innovation in other areas too.

The world's first personal air pollution smart sensor has recently been launched. The CleanSpace Tag tracks air pollution indoors and out, enabling you to see the air you breathe, and make small changes to avoid unnecessary exposure to pollution hotspots, planning cleaner routes and travel clean. It could have some useful applications.

But the even more interesting part of the product is a component that it carries, called Freevolt. A patent-pending, pioneering technology, it harvests radio frequency (RF) energy from wireless and broadcast networks such as 2G, 3G, 4G, wifi and digital TV. It never needs to be plugged in to charge, and is powered from free, unused energy that is in the air around us. Imagine the potential of that?

In another area, Novosco is privileged to be involved in some innovative projects with NHS Trusts. Over the last two years, we have been involved in a project in one Trust where we have been working to improve the flow of patients coming in on an unscheduled capacity.

Our system is now used by hundreds of Trust users on a daily basis, and it reduces errors and removes the need for manual note-taking. It gives a comprehensive view and dashboard of all patient activities and movements throughout the various wards.

We've also been test-using Alexa - the intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, which can be found in Amazon Echo - to interact with the new system at the Trust. We have been able to use it to answer queries in the application without the hassle of logging into a computer – questions such as where a patient currently is, or where a clinical file that is RFID tagged is located.

In all sector we need to finder smarter, better-value ways to improve the service we deliver. Whether that's Alexa or production-line homes, we need to keep finding solutions that make us more efficient and improve the experiences of our clients and customers.

:: Patrick McAliskey is managing director Novosco, an indigenous managed cloud company with offices in Belfast, Dublin, Cheshire and Cork. It employs 140 people and works for leading organisations across the UK and Ireland, including many of Northern Ireland's top companies, UK health trusts, councils and other organisations

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