In recent years, the rapid digitalization of buildings and facilities management has enabled the collection of large volumes of digital data for physical assets and processes. The expansion of internet-connected devices makes it possible to access, collect, and analyze this data remotely, i.e., without being present on site.
The rise of IoT has led to an increasing number of deployments in buildings that center around remote monitoring. This opens a rich set of opportunities for improving the quality, efficiency, safety, and timeliness of business processes. It also helps buildings and facilities managers in making effective, educated, and data-driven decisions.
Since many more opportunities lay ahead, managers must understand the potential benefits of remote monitoring and develop a proper strategy to take advantage of them. This article lays out the main reasons you should consider IoT-enabled remote monitoring and some tools and techniques for implementing them right now.
9 Reasons You Should Implement Remote Monitoring
The remote monitoring of assets enables buildings and facilities managers to instantly assess the status of assets and processes without a need to perform field inspections with human workers in the loop. Remote monitoring also provides the means for collecting data frequently and in an automated manner.
Here’s what that means for your building:
Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
Remote monitoring of spaces is key to optimizing energy consumption in real estate. Remote data collection can be used to fine-tune the operation of HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Condition) systems towards avoiding BTU (British Thermal Unit) losses.
This results in worn-out equipment and, in some cases, a sudden need for replacement, as well as higher energy bills. Remote monitoring boosts the environmental performance of the building and enables facilities managers to implement effective sustainability programs.
Space Allocation Management
Facilities managers can take advantage of remote occupancy monitoring to allocate shared spaces (e.g., meeting rooms) in the best possible way. You can also leverage space occupancy data to tailor your services to the needs of tenants (e.g., proper lighting and heating conditions for occupied spaces). For example, insights into how often meeting rooms are used can lead to downsizing. Or, you can visualize space occupancy data in an occupancy heatmap.
Increased Occupant Health and Well-being
Facilities managers can access information about the conditions of rooms and spaces in their buildings remotely. This information helps you create ideal conditions in each rented space, to maximize the comfort of your clients. Moreover, real-time insights on temperature, humidity, and other conditions of rooms and spaces enable you to boost the health and wellbeing of your clients.
Sensitive Products Monitoring and Cold Storage Intelligence
Several commercial and residential tenants own or manage products sensitive to environmental conditions. Prominent examples including temperature-sensitive products (e.g., food and beverage) and humidity-sensitive products (e.g., paintings and other artworks). You can offer remote monitoring services for the condition of these products to ensure their quality and safety. This also makes you stand out from competitors.
Cost-Effective Condition-Based Monitoring
The remote monitoring of assets is a key prerequisite for implementing novel maintenance models such as condition-based maintenance and maintenance as a service. Through remote monitoring, you can analyze asset information and get maintenance recommendations without stepping foot in the building.
In addition, the data obtained by remotely monitoring building equipment sets the foundation for effective predictive maintenance approaches. This leads to optimizing equipment utilization and minimizing equipment downtime.
Speed and Responsiveness
With remote monitoring, you have real-time visibility on the status of your assets and services. You can detect and respond to situations that require attention faster and apply mitigation plans promptly. Faster responses lead to cost savings as they prevent the problems from escalating.
Reduction of Manual Labor
Remote monitoring enables remote inspections. Remote inspections reduce the need for hands-on work. In many cases, data that would be otherwise gathered manually can be monitored and analyzed off-site, which employees can use to pursue more creative work.
Filling the Skills Gap
Many organizations face a significant skills gap in qualified personnel for inspections, maintenance, and field service. Remote monitoring reduces the number of personnel that must be deployed in physical locations. It also provides more flexibility in planning hands-on processes.
Improved Performance Management
Remote monitoring enables organizations to integrate information about many assets and processes, regardless of time and the location of the assets. In this way, you can gain a 360-degree view of your operations and optimize their management Thanks to remote management; you are no longer bound to a local view of your assets and processes. Rather, you can instantly consolidate information about the performance of the organization while calculating relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) like Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) and total carbon (CO2) emissions.
Overall, this pool of remote monitoring services empowers facilities managers to cut costs, improve environmental performance, and offer innovative services to their customers, which sets them apart from competitors.
Which IoT Tools and Techniques Can You Use For Remote Monitoring?
As already outlined, automated remote monitoring of assets and processes is empowered by IoT devices and technologies. Specifically, most remote monitoring infrastructures comprise the following elements:
A variety of internet-connected devices are deployed to enable remote monitoring of assets. Typical examples include various internet-connected sensors, such as temperature sensors, vibration sensors, and high-definition cameras. Vendors and integrators of remote monitoring solutions select the best possible sensors for the asset and process at hand. For instance, temperature sensors can be deployed to monitor the occupancy of a room in a smart building. At the same time, thermal imaging can help monitor the condition of assets like pumps and valves.
Cloud Computing Infrastructure
Internet-connected devices (e.g., temperature sensors) do not possess the computational capacity needed to analyze data from many sensors and other internet-connected devices. Sensor data are usually transferred to a cloud computing infrastructure, which provides scalable storage and data processing from multiple IoT devices. Cloud infrastructures make it possible to develop and deliver remote monitoring applications easily accessible through the internet.
Edge and Fog Computing Infrastructures
There is a need for processing sensor data close to the field in several cases because real-time detection of problems is required. Edge and fog computing devices (e.g., IoT gateways; a solution for enabling IoT communication) can be employed to enable data analysis close to the field, i.e., before transferring these data to the cloud.
Most remote monitoring infrastructures extract insights on the condition of the various assets and processes. This is based on the analysis of large volumes of data using IoT analytics algorithms. These algorithms include machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, which facilitate the extraction of knowledge about the status of the assets based on statistical processing of historical datasets.
Data Visualization Dashboards
Remote monitoring infrastructures include visualization of elements that present insights to end-users. Various dashboards are deployed and used to visualize information.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR)
Remotely collected data are sometimes used to build ergonomic cyber-representation of assets and processes based on AR and MR technologies. MR enables the implementation of remote support tools.
COVID-19 and The Texas Power Outage: Unveiling the Potential of Remote Monitoring
Automated remote monitoring of assets and processes is also a powerful tool for the resilience of industrial enterprises. Recent incidents have manifested the importance of flexibility and resilience. Since the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has caused major disruptions in the occupancy of buildings and asset use. This is due to COVID-19 restrictions, which include site lockdowns and massive teleworking policies.
Facilities managers are now challenged to provide optimal yet cost-effective services to their customers. Remote monitoring comes to the rescue of real-estate owners and facilities managers: it provides remote, real-time visibility on the usage of assets and spaces. This enables the provision of optimal services despite disruptions in the flow and behavior of tenants.
A few weeks ago, East Texas witnessed the largest electrical blackout in the history of the USA. This was mainly due to unprecedented cold temperatures caused by winter storm Uri, which caused disruptions in approximately a third of Texas’s electricity generating capacity. Such incidents raise the question of whether things could have been done better to avoid severe disruptions.
Even though large-scale incidents are due to multiple factors, we can safely assume that more information can always boost preparedness. In this context, remote monitoring of key assets like energy meters enables energy companies to become more proactive.
Overall, IoT-based remote monitoring of assets and processes enables companies to reduce the time needed for detecting, analyzing, and mitigating issues with critical assets and processes. Moreover, they enable you to optimize human resources, increase the safety of your operations, and reduce operational costs.
Early remote monitoring deployments are already delivering positive ROI (Return on Investment). Nevertheless, they are just scratching the surface of remote monitoring’s potential. In the coming years, businesses will be increasingly unlocking the innovation potential of remote monitoring towards improving the financial and environmental bottom line and providing value-added services to customers.