Facility management and the Internet of Things: connecting data for smart buildings

How much time do you spend inside buildings? Think about your home, hotels, the places where you work, go to have fun or do business and more. Indeed: a lot!

Smart buildings rank among the main use cases in fast rising cross-industry IoT use cases until 2020

Even if you exclude the place where you live and call home, you spend ample time in buildings and other facilities. While making your home a safe and agreeable place for you and your loved ones is primarily a matter of your personal preferences, choices and improvements, possibly with the help of experts such as architects or interior designers, one of the many tasks of facility management is to do the same for all the other types of buildings out there.

Facility management in digital transformation: the key role of the Internet of Things and data analytics in smart buildings.

Smart facility management in the people, place, process and connected technology perspective of smart buildings

We often don’t realize it, unless of course we’re facility managers, but there are many tasks, processes and efforts going into making the buildings you work in, visit or stay in while traveling, safe, agreeable, efficient (in the sense of ecology, costs and so forth) and, increasingly, ‘smart’.

While there is a lot of focus on the smart home, which is poised to become a key driver in the Internet of Things (IoT) market and specifically of the consumer IoT segment (with an expected $63 billion smart home investments by consumers by 2020, according to IDC data), the smart building space is one of those typical cross-industry markets with tremendous opportunities and evolutions.

With smart buildings, an increasingly important topic in facility management, we are in a far more complex environment than that of the home. At the same time it’s also a far more important one, at least from a broader societal perspective and depending on the function of the building.

While your home is probably much more important to you than, let’s say, an office building or a hotel, the impact of all the buildings out there from an energy and ecology perspective alone is huge. This is even more the case if we know that the population in cities is poised to significantly grow, which means more pressure on cities, public buildings and of course a rise of new housing complexes and infrastructural needs. The latter are just some of the many aspects of smart city initiatives and smart cities in evolution overall.

Facility management is by definition an information-intensive and connected data reality

Just as, in the end, smart cities, are about people, processes, technologies (connected data as enabled by, among others the IoT) and mobility (moving from place to place), facility management is traditionally defined from a more or less similar perspective.

As the international association for facility management professionals, IFMA, puts it, facility management is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.

If you are familiar with the Internet of Everything and with information management, you’ll find those terms back in their definitions – and objectives – too. And that is of course not a coincidence so it won’t come as a surprise that the Internet of Things, leveraging actionable intelligence which are derived from data (what information management and data analysis are about) and newer technologies are having a major impact in facility management.

It’s important to note that facility management, green buildings and the usage of technologies in buildings obviously aren’t obviously new. To become a facility manager you need a degree for a reason as there are so many aspects and also many components.

Just think how elevators, building security systems, Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), maintenance, asset management and so forth are all technology-intensive.

The difference of the IoT in smart buildings: bridging silos in the integration of IT and OT for smart facility management use cases

What is changing with the Internet of Things, or let’s say Internet of Everything, however, is that thanks to the possibilities that arise from a smart integration of IT and OT (Operational Technology) myriad new opportunities arise.

According to 60% of facility managers IoT will impact building and maintenance policies within the next year

That IT and OT integration is also one of several reasons why the (industrial) Internet of Things has been rising fast, certainly in areas such as manufacturing, the largest IoT sector from a spending perspective.

Whereas various systems to optimize and maintain buildings, facilities and their various assets used to – and still often do – live in perfect isolation, the trend is clearly one of integration with IoT as a key factor.

The benefits of smart buildings for facility management and customers – correlations with the scope of the facility

The IoT use cases in smart buildings and facility management as said differ, depending on the scope of the building/facility. This also defines the many benefits of smart buildings.

6 smart building benefits and objectives for facility management according to MCS Solutions - source and larger image
6 smart building benefits and objectives for facility management according to MCS Solutions – source and larger image

As an example: among the goals in the scope an office building we need to make sure that workers feel well, are safe and can do their jobs in an agreeable setting, while not breaking the bank – and reducing costs – from an energy consumption perspective.

In hotels you might find more use cases that focus even stronger on the ‘customer’ (guest) experience and, for example, make sure that during the night, when external noises are often heard more, you want your guests to sleep in a noise-free environment. Sure, workers don’t want too much external noise either but during the day that’s a different story – and an office building is not really designed for people to fall asleep.

Now, if you think about the needs of a hospital building or a data center, to name two more examples, you can image that facility management is again another priority ballgame.

The people of integrated real estate, facility and workplace management summarized some benefits of smart buildings for facility managers in an infographic, depicted above, citing the following six benefits:

  • The possibility to create an activity-based and need-based workplace.
  • The potential to enhance health, comfort (and let’s say general conditions) at work.
  • An ability to improve the quality of facility services overall.
  • Getting the right SQFT/M² at the least costs.
  • In the same cost (but also ecology and green building) perspective: the ability to optimize space and reduce consumption of energy and water.
  • Having means for a more efficient planning and use of resources.

Keeping in mind what we wrote about some examples of facilities with different purposes (data centers, hotels, hospitals etc.) you can certainly add more smart building benefits, both for facility management pros and for workers, patients, guests, customers, you name it.

Digital transformation in facility management: a major role for smart buildings and big data analytics

Just like in virtually all professional activities and industries, there is a digital transformation sweeping through facility management and the Internet of Things, plays an important role in it from a technology and purpose (people, place, safety, process, automation, insights and action, efficiency,…..) perspective.

Smart buildings: a growing IoT use case (research)

When 451 Research announced its first Voice of the Enterprise: Internet of Things (IoT) quarterly study end June, 2016 (PDF opens), the company found that ‘buildings and other structures’ (such as HVAC) ranked fifth in the list of equipment, devices or other connected endpoints where most data or information gets gathered from.

Put in perspective: that’s more than environmental sensors, factory equipment, automobiles and fleet equipment and even retail, medical devices and devices in the supply chain.

In its forecasts regarding IoT spending 2017-2020, IDC mentioned smart buildings, along with connected vehicles, as one of the use cases which are poised to grow in the fast rising cross-industry IoT applications.

Organizations collect more data from buildings and other structures than from environmental sensors, automobiles and devices in supply chain according to the first Voice of the Enterprise: Internet of Things survey from 451 Research source (PDF opens)
Organizations collect more data from buildings and other structures than from environmental sensors, automobiles and devices in supply chain according to the first Voice of the Enterprise: Internet of Things survey from 451 Research source (PDF opens)

Facilities management and the rise of IoT (research)

It’s clear that the Internet of Things and (big data) analytics profoundly impact facilities management.

That’s also what Schneider Electric, one of the large players in the (building) automation and energy management and overall automation space, found in its Facilities Management Survey, released in May 2016. The infographic below (larger version in PDF) shows how the rise of IoT is prompting facility management professionals to invest in analytics.

Research by Schneider Electric shows how the Internet of Things prompts facility management professionals to invest in analytics - click for larger image (PDF opens)
Research by Schneider Electric shows how the Internet of Things prompts facility management professionals to invest in analytics – click for larger image (PDF opens)

Among the highlights of the facility management survey:

  • According to 60 percent of participating facility managers IoT will impact building and maintenance policies within the next year.
  • Remote analytics (43 percent of facility management pros) is among the key areas of investment.
  • More than a third (33 percent) today already has a proactive preventive maintenance on equipment.

More data in the slideshare presentation below.

Smart facility management in action: a case

Dutch property development and building firm Heijmans worked several years on the development of a smart facility management solution in a model of co-creation with various partners.

After pilot projects the solution was launched in 2017. The building company now offers it to its existing customer base and to new customers (of the company and others who are interested in implementing the solution), mainly in a context of office buildings.

To do so, the Internet of Things and ‘right data’ solution comes with an app and online platform that is targeted towards facility managers, cleaners, management and workers.

It’s a perfect example of how you can use technologies, in combination with the right partners and vision, to offer smart facility services to customers, thus broadening your offering and revenue model.

More about the case

 

Top image: Shutterstock – Copyright: BABAROGAV – All other images are the property of their respective mentioned owners.