How is smart technology changing the role of the FM manager?

From the Internet of Things to smarter buildings and innovative ways of using light, 2018 is going to be a year of constant technological change for facilities management. Let’s look at some of the main change drivers that are going to affect the FM manager this year.

Buildings that manage themselves

Previously, control over their environment was important to building users when they were working or at leisure. They wanted to be able to control the temperature, the humidity, the lighting and the amount of air being delivered.

Now, building users expect this to be done for them, by an intelligent system that monitors and maintains the environment without their involvement. At the same time as expecting the system to anticipate their needs and wishes, they also want it to save energy and choose the most economical way of managing their surroundings. The Facilities Manager is expected to deliver this system, and ensure that it works flawlessly all the time, no matter what changes occur in the external environment – be it snow or a heatwave.

Smart buildings keep people safer and even manage hot desks

There are also moves to fully integrate security and people management into smart building systems. If every member of staff or visitor is issued with a smart tag, and the system knows where they are meant to be, it’s a relatively simple matter to issue an alert if they move to an area they shouldn’t be in.

The Facilities Manager is the person who will need to ensure that the system is working appropriately and that its data is correct and up to date. Already, security systems can track movements, and this technology has the potential to increase staff safety. In a fire or other emergency, you’d be able to locate anyone trapped in the building because their tag would pinpoint their location on the floor plan.

However, can intelligent buildings sort out the really important problems, such as the squabbles over who gets the hot desks?

They can certainly simplify this kind of facilities management problem, by identifying the location of available hot desks and allowing remote booking via the internet or a mobile app. So an organisation with several buildings can feed information about vacant hot desks to a central point, display it to staff and ensure that everyone isn’t looking for space at the same time in the same building.

For Wi-Fi, think Li-Fi

LED light systems can send data at the speed of light – orders of magnitude faster than our current WiFi systems that transmit using radio waves. Surprisingly,, data transmission via Li-Fi can be incorporated into existing LED systems – the frequencies used mean that the human eye can’t pick up the light changes. When used as semiconductors, the LEDs can switch on or off up to – wait for it – a million times a second. What’s more, Li-Fi is more secure – the signal can’t be picked up by someone outside the building. So this is a technology that FM managers are going to be expected to know about in the future.

We expect to see many more developments in these technologies during the next year, and 2018 is going to be an exciting time to be a Facilities Manager.