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Top tech trends for 2017 in facilities management

The tech revolution across all industries continues at a rapid pace and 2017 will see more innovation than ever before.

The FM industry is modernising and technology will drive the change. There will be more connection, more automation, and more significant impact in business and investment than ever before, and the revolution has just begun.  Service Works Group takes a look at what technology developments facilities managers can expect to plan for in 2017 and beyond.

1) The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is just at the beginning of its lifecycle, connecting data, objects, processes and people.  As we embrace the consumer market of smart devices linked together on a single network, it will soon become the new normal in the workplace as our buildings and work environments become smarter, constantly adapting to employees needs.

We are seeing major developments with LiFi, providing super-fast wireless network connectivity through LED lighting. LiFi, or Light Fidelity, provides the opportunity to incorporate devices with LiFi capability into a large number of LED environments and applications in commercial, industrial and government facilities.  LiFi can be incorporated into existing lighting systems, expanding network coverage, complimenting WiFi access (or in some cases making WiFi access points redundant), minimising infrastructure commitment, lowering the associated capital expense and ongoing operating costs, also reducing emissions and waste.

2) Mobility on the increase

You could argue this trend is not new, but it won’t be mobile as we know it. CEOs have often talked about running their entire business from a smartphone, and facilities managers will soon be able to work with a level of mobility that means a more effective and efficient way of managing work on the move. Whatever your device of choice, managing assets, collaboration with co-workers or customers and managing workforce allocation becomes accessible anywhere, any time.

3) The rise of ruggedized devices

There will be greater adoption of new mobile hardware technology, the ‘ruggedized device’, where we see the utilisation of new mobile device attachments such as thermal imaging cameras and tracking devices. It is no longer acceptable to operate without connectivity, even managing facilities in remote places such as on an oil rig or underground – for example the UK’s Crossrail project.

Developments in battery power also continue to move quickly, enabling more reliable on the go access to all the services that an FM can use at their desk.

4) Standardised operational data

2017 will yield even more integration of CAFM and other systems within a building.  Effective management of the facilities life cycle is often cited as an enterprise’s second largest expense, and system integration will allow better access to information, with intelligent workflows automating processes for high efficiency.  We expect data across all applications to be standardised, driving the market forward in areas such as Automated Guided Vehicles, increasing productivity and work place safety.

5) Powering up to BIM Level 3

While BIM Level 2 is far from maturity and foundations are still being put in place, the results are promising and we look ahead to what BIM Level 3 will bring. Understanding, evaluating and contributing to the next digital standard for the construction sector will be key. Level 3, or ‘Open BIM’ is a fully collaborative model, allowing more complex and extensive data to be used and shared. In addition, the data could also be used in a wider sense to provide asset information for ‘Smart Cities’ or ‘Smart Grids.’

6) Wearable technology for tomorrow

Wearable technology has entered our consciousness mainly through the fitness industry but will soon play a part within FM. Wearables hold full potential to improve workplace safety, security access, collaboration but also support data collection in different physical work environments. A challenge for the FM with the wearable environment will be to ensure it doesn’t cross any personal boundaries but makes the most of the overall work experience and helps drive efficiencies.

7) Location, location, location

Location-based services (LBS) is part of the mobile evolution. In retail it has changed customer services beyond all recognition; in Facilities Management, its set to do the same. For example, for the FM that manages multiple sites, an app could be used that delivers up-to-date inventory of supplies at multiple sites.  When a mobile phone enters the site boundaries, the app would pull up a list of available materials, flag supplies that are not sufficient to meet immediate needs for the users of that building and facilitate ordering.

8) Big data gets bigger

Big data will soon become a necessary asset for companies in the FM sector, as it turns data into insight. Big data is used on a daily basis to make predictions about customers, who may not even be aware this is happening. Two big users of this are Amazon, who predict item purchase based on shopping habits, and Netflix who make suggestions of what to watch next. These principles can be applied to FM – imagine a future where energy consumption in a hospital or business premises is predicted and managed according to the weather or a day of the week or time of day. Individual employee daily facilities usage profiles could also be created to help model and employ your most effective workspace.

9) Civic FM

2017 will see increased access to end user map based services such as ‘Fix my street’, a community-led extension of self-service FM. Applications developed by groups such as MySociety will grow to include logging issues, notifying relevant parties to enable scheduling of remedial services and will become part of a daily occurrence for the general public. Users can track the progress of reported incidents, driving a community empowerment explosion.

10) Conversational systems

Just as we are becoming more familiar with robotic receptionists, we’re seeing the technology develop where the user and the machine interact using spoken or written natural language. As with consumer conversational technology from major providers for example Apple (Siri) and Google (Google Now), the world of FM could one day in the future deliver an increasingly intelligent contextual experience.

The interaction may be a simple request or question such as “Stop!” or “can you open the door please?” with a simple result or answer. However, the interaction can also become complex such as collecting workplace data from a large number of employees, resulting in highly detailed set of results for the creation of new and improved workplace plans or a printed 3D structure driving facilities decisions.


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