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.


Blog - Catch 22

Key 2018 facilities management trends that every FM professional should know

What are the key developments that will set the agenda for facilities management in 2018? Let's take a look at some of the emerging trends.

Wellness is going to be huge

You may well say fine - but what's that got to do with facilities management? The wellness trend is part of a growing realisation that the internal environment of buildings is as important as external environmental factors such as air quality. In fact, because employees spend so much time inside their workplace, it may be a more important contributor to their wellness or lack of it, than the outside space.

Facilities managers are being urged to employ a holistic approach to the entire way that a user experiences a building. So, for example, new approaches to lighting take individuals’ needs into account and the previous “one-size-fits-all” approach is no longer considered acceptable. Similarly, it's now recognised that excessive noise in the working environment is stressful and affects productivity.

Facilities managers will help to deliver happier employees

The prediction here is that the facilities manager will have responsibility not only for running the building, but also for the welfare of the staff inside it. This won't just be limited to the traditional health and safety parameters. It will be about making the environment a desirable one for people to work and live in.

Recent research from Scandinavia has confirmed that open plan offices are not good for helping staff to feel well. The open layout affects concentration and causes feelings of alienation. So facilities managers may find that future working spaces are more targeted to the individual physical and psychological needs of employees, rather than the linear desking, or ‘battery chicken’ approach that has been popular with many employers in the last few years

FM business relationships will be recast

The collapse of Carillion has brought the whole outsourcing issue into sharp focus. Many mid-sized FM providers are hoping that some of the large infrastructure players will be fully tied up covering the gaps caused by Carillion’s collapse and optimistic that this will provide some new opportunities for slightly smaller companies to take on larger contracts.

Some public sector procurement professionals may also realise that the tiny margins that they previously thought viable are actually a threat to the stability of their suppliers. This could be good news for the outsourced FM business which has been forced into providing lower and lower quotes, some of them simply uneconomic.

Robotics and wearable technology will become part of FM

This is the point at which the Internet of Things, the rapid advance of robotic technology and the willingness of users to have their data harvested by wearable technology may all come together. Facilities management companies will find themselves gathering data from users and employing it as feedback that they will then use to adjust the immediate environment and indeed, the entire FM offer. Certain areas, such as security, may see the early use of robotic “gatekeepers”, especially when staff are wearing smart passes and buildings are geared up to track them around the premises.

It’s an exciting but challenging time for the facilities management industry, and the managers in it are going to find themselves learning many new skills to stay on top of developments.