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UK set to introduce ‘smart sensors’ to build efficiency in the National Health Service

A Scottish property technology startup is set to deploy non-intrusive 'smart sensors' in an effort to help the NHS build efficiency within its system. The new sensing technology developed by Scottish startup Beringar is set to drastically overhaul how the UK's National Health Service manages its physical assets in a much more effective manner.

The tech firm is working closely with the Scotland's Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems (CENSIS). Its new cutting-edge revolutionary technology claims that it will significantly help the NHS understand how its moveable assets such as buildings, hospital beds and trolleys are utilized.

It aims to do this, by sending data wirelessly using a long range, low power, wide-area network, otherwise known as LoRaWAN or LoRa. The sensor will ultimately replace the existing ways used to measure and assess the utilization of buildings.

In addition to this, it has been disclosed that the technology can accurately count the number of people in the room, check for occupancy levels and identify trends in the ways that patients and staff use buildings. The sensors can also measure temperature and air quality, and monitor CO2 levels. As the technology undergoes further development, it has been claimed that it would potentially be used to sense which beds are vacant in a hospital in real-time.

It has been reported that the NHS spends an estimated £30bn every year managing its estates and facilities, although consultants have claimed that many of the NHS's building are only used to a fraction of their capacity. A recent trial of Beringar's technology at a Health Centre in Essex confirmed this analysis.

During the one-month trial, more than 160,000 data points were collected, and the smart sensors reportedly detected empty space which staff believed was in regular use. The sensor counted the number of occupants every 10 seconds, and then transferred data back to a specially-designed dashboard, which allowed estate managers to identify how they could boost the building's productivity.

Estates Director for the NHS, Carolyn Botfield said it was critical that the NHS was able to establish where it can improve its services and adapt to the requirements of its patients and local community. She claimed the smart sensors would empower them to be able to make 'smarter decision'.

She said, "It's important for us to identify where the NHS is adding value, and adapt our services to the requirements of the local community - over time, its needs change. Clinics are often block-booked, but we have no way of finding out if just a few people, or twenty patients, are attending every week. The sensor will allow us to achieve real-time feedback on how our buildings are being used, enabling us to make smarter decisions."

The NHS spends around a quarter of its budget every year on the provision and management of its buildings, but many rooms and equipment aren't used to their full potential.

When NHS health planners want to commission a new service, but can't see available space in their existing facilities, they might consider leasing or building a new property," according to Mark Sorsa-Leslie, co-founder of Beringar. He said, "The statistics show that there is a lot of free space in the NHS. Having the right data could reveal suitable space they already own in that location, saving a significant amount of money, which could be used to improve direct patient care."