Technology Innovation Set To Transform Facilities Management

Ben Howden /

When you think of technology innovation, companies like Amazon, Uber, Tesla, and Google usually come to mind. But a growing number of startups are using technology to transform the delivery of facilities services. Comfy is a mobile app that connects employees to building systems to create their optimal environment. Serraview offers cloud-based space planning software for the workplace. Augury is a predictive maintenance platform that listens to machines to tell if they are working properly. Lighthouse.io (disclaimer: that's us) provides mobile workforce management software to locate and optimize service workers like cleaners and security guards.

Leading facilities services companies are putting innovation high on the agenda. But what does innovation mean? According to author Scott Berkun, innovation is best defined as significant positive change. In facilities management, this translates to cost reductions, increased efficiency, and increased quality.

The modern facilities services provider must adopt an innovation agenda to remain competitive. They must understand the technologies that are disrupting their industry. But most of all they must adopt an agile mindset that embraces positive change. Introducing new ideas and methods into a low margin, labor-driven industry is hard. Yet, we've seen what happens when companies refuse to change their business models in the face of strong external forces. Hard is better than gone. What's more, introducing significant positive change is rewarding for those involved.

Which technologies are driving innovation?

1. Mobility

Recent research suggests that mobile is going to have the greatest impact of any technology on the future of service management. However, for leading service providers mobile is already transforming the delivery of services. The chart below shows that facility management executives believe mobile computing is having the greatest impact on service management.

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Arming service workers with mobile applications can drive significant productivity gains. It unlocks the ability to understand a worker's location and automate workflows. It allows them to capture issues as they happen. It allows them to better communicate with managers. What's more, it eliminates inefficient and inaccurate paper-based processes.

But the benefits don't end there. The data captured by a mobile workforce allows managers to optimize service delivery over time. Mobility is the clearest path to improve service quality and reducing costs.

Related reading: Mobile Forms Reduce Costs in Facilities Management

2. Smart Buildings

Smart building technology integrates building systems and sensors to improve efficiency, comfort, and productivity. Here's how a smart building's integration works:

  1. The building systems, such as HVAC, lighting or sensor systems, collect data.

  2. The data is relayed back to the building management system, which serves as the central control center.

  3. The building management system and software identify trends in the data.

  4. Facilities professionals use these trends to determine what action to take.

It's early days for smart buildings, but we expect integrated building management systems to play a key role in improving efficiency, comfort, and productivity.

The video below shows how the University of British Columbia is utilizing data to make their campus smarter and more efficient:

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet. Devices can include appliances, wearables, building systems, vehicles, and machinery. In essence, IoT is a huge network of connected things. Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be over 20 billion connected devices.

In facilities management, IoT applications usually involve using sensors to trigger workflows or update building systems. For example, smart bins that let cleaners know when they need attention. Or a security guard patrol app that uses beacons to alert supervisors when a security patrol is missed. Or IoT software that uses sensors to control lighting and temperature. IoT allows for endless opportunities and connections to take place. The recommendation for facilities management professionals - "watch this space!"

The video below shows how ISS and IBM are using sensors to improve facilities management:

4. Automation

Automated systems and robots are already having an impact in facilities management. Robots are being used to clean floors and provide waste management and catering services. Drones are being used to map buildings, identify damage and complete security patrols.

But don't expect human labor to be replaced completely anytime soon. Rather, expect to see technology enable automated processes and workflows that improve efficiency. For example, tasks and work orders that are triggered based on a worker's location. Or environmental settings that are automatically adjusted based on a user's preferences.

5. Integration

Integration is already making big waves in the enterprise environment. Slack, a messaging app for teams, is the fastest growing enterprise app of all time, and a large part of their success can be attributed to the huge number of integrations available that make Slack even more powerful.

Integration is critical to allow systems to talk to one another, reducing manual and time-consuming processes. For example, mobile time-sheeting that integrates with the payroll system. Or mobile issues that integrate with a work order (CMMS) system. Or real-time alerts for significant changes in system data. Expect integration to become a key focus for facilities management professionals as they look to drive operational efficiencies and reduce costs.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that technology innovation is already having a significant impact on the delivery of facilities services. Not only that, but commercial property owners are demanding from service providers technology that improves service quality and reduces costs.

The key challenge for facilities providers is how to best embed a culture of innovation within their organization. At the very least they should be willing to experiment with new technologies or risk being left behind as their competitors innovate their way to success.