In 2021, most people have access to more technology than ever before. From solutions that make jobs more fulfilling to innovations that improve personal life, people rely on technology for an increased standard of living.
The modern tenant is drawn to digital solutions that provide comfort and convenience. Combined with the constant demand for cost and energy efficiency in facilities management, new trends can offer insights and ideas to help you reach your goals. This article takes a closer look at some of the important facilities management trends right now.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been a buzzword for over a decade now. As a telltale sign for its widespread adoption, the term itself is hardly used in facilities management. Today, service providers in real estate and facilities managers have swapped buzzwords for practical deployment of sensor technologies to deliver measurable operational benefits.
Sensor technology is IoT put in action. It allows a building’s assets to communicate their operational and health status without human intervention. Advances in sensor and battery technology have introduced wireless devices with little or no configuration and maintenance effort to be deployed in minutes.
Size does matter. Sensors should not be overly noticeable to tenants and occupiers. While it may be simple to fit any size of the sensor in a newly built property, smaller sensors are better for retrofitting existing assets, furniture, pipes, and plant room equipment.
In 2021, sensor technology is used to gather data for many aspects of any given commercial building. New technical data points include granular ambient temperature, humidity, and the technical building status for its HVAC, electrical, and water treatment systems. Discreet or invisible sensors deliver live insight into desk and space occupancy, washroom usage, and cleaning status. Tenants are even able to express satisfaction and ask for support using wireless click and feedback panels.
Even without sensors, facilities managers have access to vast amounts of data. This data can be harvested for various purposes and by different systems. However, making decisions that lead to operational savings based on this data alone can be challenging and time-consuming.
Many facilities managers are deploying or implementing building and facilities management systems to solve this challenge, where data is translated into work orders or automated actions. As an example, consider the monitoring of space occupancy in a building. Using new sensor-based occupancy data points, building management systems will adjust lights, ventilation, and temperature according to how many people are present at any given time, which will dramatically reduce energy spend. Sensor-driven building optimization will typically achieve savings of 15% to 40% of the total energy spent.
Increasingly, building management systems are augmented by separate data analytics platforms. These platforms constantly analyze building data to extract usage and consumption patterns. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to understand anomalies and generate predictions. This provides a deep understanding of what is happening in your buildings and why. This insight helps owners and occupiers identify warning signs in need of proactivity and enables them to prevent operational and safety issues such as power outages or water hygiene problems.
If you are managing a portfolio of buildings, you will be able to use data from one building to make decisions in others. Data analytics and AI will help you identify why one building’s energy use is more efficient than another’s and streamline efficiency efforts.
Cloud-Based Data Collection
In 2021, we expect to access data and information 24/7 and from any corner of the world. This also holds in the commercial built environment.
Using cloud-based services greatly simplifies data collection, as facilities managers and service providers do not need to find ways to gather and store the data. The expectation is to plug in the equipment and have the data available for productive use. Only cloud-based services can deliver this experience.
Cloud-based solutions will offer granular and tailored access to data. A site manager may not require the same visibility on building data as the estate manager. Multi-tenant platforms with project-based access control to individual building assets are key features expected of any modern cloud-based solution.
Data loss risk mitigation is another area that cloud-based services address with new elegance and simplicity—no need to worry about failures or backups, as data is collected and stored for you.
Security is paramount – look for solutions that encrypt all sensor and analytics data in transit and at rest, and ask for a third-party security and penetration test by a well-known security consultancy firm.
If there is anything that 2021 has taught us so far, it’s important to work remotely. Similarly, remote property and asset monitoring have quickly become one of the biggest drivers in facilities management. The three trends discussed in the previous sections create the backdrop for the remote monitoring of your building estate.
With smart sensors, cloud technology, and data analytics, you can get a full overview of key assets and environmental parameters within all your buildings, regardless of where you are. Service providers can reduce the dispatch of on-site engineers greatly through sensor-based condition monitoring.
Furthermore, insights generated from vacant buildings due to virus outbreaks or tenant churn can drive energy savings far beyond the 15% that can be expected when a building is fully occupied.
Environmental and safety monitoring parameters for vacant buildings include water ingress and flooding detection, temperature, dampness and humidity, the protection of assets and goods, and door and window openings.
Digital Workplace Services
Digital workplace services have been turning into a hallmark of a modern company’s office environment.
Until recently, digital workplace services have been mostly centered around employee and tenant comfort and experience. In a global labor market competing for talent, companies want to be sure to deliver an exceptional workplace experience.
Typical services are powered by sensors, analytics, digital signage and apps and include:
- Desk availability and way-finding
- Meeting room availability and booking/release
- Canteen occupancy
- Office temperature and climate
- Feedback panels
- Service request buttons around printers, coffee machines, communal equipment
- Meeting room assistance buttons and panels
- Washroom cleaning status and improved cleaning regimes
Given the recent pandemic, digital workplace services turn from being experience-driven to being essential for health and safety. As employees return to the office, sensors and data analytics enable informed choices around distancing measures as well as high standards around hygiene and transmission safety:
- Reduced and controlled desk occupancy levels
- Washroom occupancy and distancing
- Event-driven cleaning regimes
- Tracking temperature and relative humidity (40-60% rule) for minimal viral spread
- Reduce necessary face-to-face interactions through smart assets and panels
While mature sensor technology already exists for all of these new applications, the analytics and software to power them are being developed at breakneck speed. New apps, signage screens, and analytics platforms are powered to achieve the new goal of keeping our workplaces attractive, safe and interactive.