About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Smart Compliance

What is the inspiration for your product, and how do you think it will help people across the UK?

Around 40 people per year die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK, and thousands more are injured. Necessity is the mother of invention, and nothing is more important than saving lives. When we found out about what, we believe, is a massive failing in housing safety legislation, we soon realised that our technology, a smart detector, could save countless lives.

We were running a building services business and a client told us about an ongoing problem: Landlords are legally obliged to check tenants’ gas boilers in homes every year to guard against the risks of gas and carbon monoxide poisoning, but this client was typically only able to access around a quarter of their 32,000 homes within the 12-month period. That left an awful lot of unchecked boilers, tenants potentially at risk, and our client in breach of the law.

When they cannot gain access, the landlord needs to revert to “forced entry”, involving a drawn-out admin process and possibly sheriff officers. This situation not only presents a very high risk to the health, safety, and welfare of the tenant but involves enormous cost to the landlord.

Manufacturers of carbon monoxide detectors recommend weekly testing, but many landlords either don't do it or attempt to defer the responsibility to the tenant. This is unwise, as it leaves the landlord unable to prove that the checks are being carried out. Our solution is not about how carbon monoxide is detected, but how information on detection and safety checks is collected, communicated outside the property, and stored.

Why did you apply for the Inventor Prize?

Because our smart detectors are unique in the patented method of communication, but we are still exploring whether this is a new product being introduced to an existing market or a new product in a new market. We’re hopeful that our journey with Nesta will help us to unlock the answer.

The legislation on carbon monoxide detectors is weak. You'd be surprised at how many people in the UK do not install them, and even more surprised at how little the UK public is aware of the dangers of The Silent Killer.

One of our biggest challenges as a technology start-up is relaying our message - and the benefits that our technology can bring - to the widest possible audience across different sectors. This is particularly the case in Local Government and Housing Associations, which we see as a key route to market.

We are hopeful that our innovative system will eventually be recognised in Government, specifically for its potential to save lives (which it has done in live trials), to save money, and to support efficiencies across fire and rescue services, the gas distribution industry, the NHS, and Local Government. These organisations spend millions of pounds each year (often within their own silos) on fatalities, injuries, and false alarms associated with carbon monoxide.

What are you most looking forward to about the Inventor Prize?

During our Inventor Prize journey we’ll have developed and tested our prototype, market-tested it, and will have a good idea of how our smart detector will be received by our initial target marketplace.

This will also allow us to start developing our vision for a sustainable business; potentially introducing other types of smart detectors, such as smoke, heat and methane. In all of these areas, there is the potential to save lives, support landlords with legal compliance, and foster efficiencies across the private and public sectors.

We are also really excited about the prospect of collaboration with the other nine fantastic finalists, some of whom have really inspired us already.

Billy Mitchell and Scott Wallace, Directors of Smart Compliance Ltd

Twitter: @Smart_CO1