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The Future Workplace – Sensors and IoT in facilities management

Last month we predicted that IoT (Internet of Things) technology would make a big impact on the facilities management industry in 2017. IoT applications like sensors, for example, are already established in the consumer and retail sectors and are starting to be adopted in FM in order to provide a more efficient customer service, generating cost savings and creating a more employee-focussed workplace.

Connected lighting

The Edge in Amsterdam is hailed as the greenest, most intelligent building in the world. Packed with 28,000 sensors within its connected lighting system developed by Philips, the building can monitor motion, light, temperature, humidity and infrared. Using Power-Other-Ethernet (PoE) cables, each luminaire is directly connected to the building’s IT network and becomes a point of intelligence which can share data on occupancy and activity patterns as well as environmental data.  Lighting and heating can therefore be reduced in empty areas, and resources (like cleaning) can be allocated according to occupancy.  The connected lighting can even provide information on the availability of nearby facilities such as meeting rooms or hot desks, accessible via an app, which can also be used to customise the location’s temperature or brightness according to the user’s preference.

Technology for productivity

At the Edge, some 2,500 employees share just 1,000 hot desks, and many other businesses are following this flexible strategy. Smart buildings and location-based technology were high on the agenda at last week’s Work Tech 2016 conference, with much discussion around the evolution of office space in response to rapid developments in technology. Innovative and collaborative rather than static workplaces using IoT, not only reduce cost through more efficient space usage and employee productivity, but also serve to attract and retain talent – keeping a business competitive. According to one workplace study, 70% of employees’ waste 15 minutes per day trying to find a work area, but location-based technology (through connected lighting or sensors) mean that users can find free space easily, and occupancy is updated on the booking system automatically to ensure accuracy. Users will also be able to find resources, like printers and coffee machines, and even their colleagues at other hot desks. By placing information and control back into the hands of employees, potentially disruptive systems like hot desking can be highly successful and lead to a more collaborative workforce.

Sensors for maintenance

The fluidity expected of this modern workplace means that the emphasis on maintenance must be proactive rather than reactive in order to provide a seamless service, and this can also be aided through IoT. Such technology is already established in retail, through developments such as smart shelves that detect when products are running low, and sensors that monitor the quality of perishable items. In the FM industry, sensors can be used next to assets like boilers or air conditioning units in order to collect performance data and create an alert when a potential problem is identified. By integrating this data with a CAFM system such as Service Works’ QFM, the most suitable engineer will be automatically called out (identified through integrated resourcing functionality) and the necessary parts and asset location listed on the system, accessible via a mobile app. In this way, problems could be rectified before breakage and the data captured across all assets provides a mine of information on which to base future decision making.

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