SWG’s Marketing Director, Hazel Bedson, discusses the steps that FMs should consider when using tech to create a smart building. This article was also featured in the October edition of FMUK.
As smart buildings grow in popularity, the next hurdle for users to overcome is understanding what data is necessary to capture, how to utilise it, and how to integrate it with existing software.
Strategic Data Capture
Capturing data for smart buildings might typically begin with installing sensors across areas of a building that need to be monitored. It is easy to assume you should immediately install sensors everywhere to access the right data, but this isn’t always the case.
Beginning with a testing phase is the most effective way to determine how you wish to use sensors and what data is needed for your operations. It’s also critical to determine your goal – why are you collecting data, and to what end will it help your strategy?
Then, your business needs to know how to utilise the data being collected from your sensors. Sensors can range from tracking large spaces to give real-time space utilisation reporting, to smaller aspects of building management such as reporting when a soap dispenser is running low. Whilst both examples seem different in terms of their significance, they can both be extremely useful data sets to have – and both rely on effective integration.
Integrating Smart Tech with CAFM
Sensor data is great to have, but it must be integrated with computer aided facilities management (CAFM) software for users to reap the benefits. Broadly speaking, a smart building can improve business efficiency, reduce costs and enhance sustainability. money.
Take the occupancy sensors, for example. Businesses can analyse occupancy data to get a better understanding of when and how their workplace is used and make adjustments as needed.
This could range from creating more meeting rooms if the data shows those are the spaces that people want to use, to adapting cleaning schedules so high touchpoint areas are cleaned more frequently during busy times.
Another great use of sensor data is to limit utility costs, which has never been more timely considering the soaring energy prices in the UK. Sensors can detect when a room is in use so that lights and heating are only switched on when required. Across a whole estate, this quickly adds up to a big reduction in energy use. As well as cost savings, this is also a great step towards a more sustainable building.
Integration is Essential
We recently carried out a survey in the FM sector and found that 47 per cent of respondents are either planning to change their tool or software or are undecided as yet. Our survey also found that 32 per cent of respondents integrate their FM software with at least one other system, compared with 11 per cent from our previous survey in 2020.
Of those planning to change, lack of integration with other organisational systems was the most common reason. A lack of required functionality and out-dated systems were also popular responses which further point to issues with integration.
Integration is extremely important; what use is all the new data if it cannot assimilate with existing systems? Integration allows the different systems that you use to communicate with each other and securely share data, promoting accuracy because the information only needs to be keyed in once. This data sharing will reduce the work of the FM team. Teams will then have more time to focus on important jobs that require a human touch.
It’s clear that software is on the rise, so seamless integration is more important than ever.
No Time Like the Present
With rising energy prices and a push towards better ESG strategies, there has arguably never been a better time to make use of CAFM and smart technology.
Those looking to reap the benefits of a smart building have plenty of options to choose from. My advice is: have a clear goal in mind; start with a small test area; and make sure whatever software you purchase will integrate with existing systems.