The Role of IoT in Facility Management

Oct 23, 2019

Digiteum Team

iot facility management

IoT

The Role of IoT in Facility Management

Running a facility is a task that encompasses a wide range of day-to-day responsibilities, be it hospitality, healthcare, or a different industry. Keeping track of documentation, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction and safety, all while generating profit, is challenging.

To stay competitive, facility managers embrace technology as a way to delegate tasks, increase the productivity of the workforce, and improve customer satisfaction. The Internet of Things, among other technologies, helps build an all-in-one environment for tracking all aspects of facility management — finance, paperwork, customer service, etc.

In this post, you’ll find out how IoT in facility management increases the efficiency of facility management, the challenges of incorporating it, and what the most affordable applications of the technology are.

Facilities Management (FM) Definition

IoT facility management

To understand a facilities management definition we consider a range of tasks geared towards ensuring the efficiency, safety, and customer attractiveness of any environment.

A manager’s main tasks are to ensure high productivity of anyone working at the facility, keep regulatory compliance, reduce the operating cost, and use incoming investments efficiently.

Facilities managers have a broad range of responsibilities that may vary for different domains. As a rule of thumb, FM implies:

  • Maintenance. Monitor and plan energy usage, plan the capacity of the facility, and forecast possible fluctuations. A facility manager needs to ensure that the working team has all the resources needed to work efficiently.
  • Communication. Facility management implies two-way communication: on the one hand, it means addressing the concerns of the team working in the environment. On the other, a manager has to build a connection with end customers to find out if they are satisfied with the services provided by the facility.
  • Managing labor resources. Tracking employee productivity, allocating tasks between team members, looking for new talent when needed.
  • Project management. Long-term planning, conceptualizing new projects, and gathering a team capable of bringing a manager’s vision to life. An FM specialist should be able to estimate the duration of the entire project and forecast the budget.
  • Emergency management. Eliminating safety and other threats as soon as they appear.
IoT facility management

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Trends in Facility Management Software

Considering the wide range of tasks a facility manager has to complete or oversee on a daily basis, most companies use technology to provide customers or guests with impeccable service.

As innovations and devices emerge, FM software becomes more complex and multi-functional. To stay among the frontrunners in digital transformation, make sure the system you use for facility management falls in line with these trends:

1. Third-party integrations

Companies no longer feel comfortable using various tools for facility management — instead, most are looking for integrated systems that can be connected to all the tools the staff uses in a few clicks. Integrations are highly convenient since a facility manager doesn’t have to move all the company’s data to a new system.

Thanks to integrations, there’s no learning curve for employees — hence, the efficiency of the company is not affected by the digital transformation.

2. AI and predictive analytics tools

IoT big data

Technology will help facility managers make most executive decisions. Thanks to predictive analytics, companies can plan in the long term, replace dysfunctional equipment without creating bottlenecks and downtime at the facility, and eliminate human error from the decision-making process.

Thanks to the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, supply chain managers will be able to capture employee performance, resource usage, customer satisfaction, and other important metrics. As a result, the decision-making process will no longer be trial-and-error but a calculated process.

3. Cloud computing

Cloud computing offers facility managers more freedom, allowing them to access work-related data and turn in reports outside of the office. Using cloud tools will also reduce the costs related to datum loss and system failures since all the data is stored on a remote server that can be accessed from any device.

It’s predicted that cloud computing will reduce the operating costs of facilities by 40%. It will increase the scalability of small businesses and cut architecture-related inspections by huge numbers.

4. Improved security

Considering the tightening grip on data protection and security, failing to comply with regulations can put companies at the risk of huge fines. To ensure bulletproof protection from data leaks, companies deploy advanced security protocols.

A functional smart facility software should include:

  • Authentication layers that help determine the identity of people who log into the system;
  • Customizable data access permissions — a manager can grant selective permission to view data entries;
  • A system for flagging and detecting security threats — blocking unauthorized users, noticing suspicious behavior patterns, etc.

5. Mobile accessibility

Creating custom mobile apps that help access facility-related data is essential for flexibility and response speed. Being able to track the status of all important operations at the facility anytime increases workplace flexibility and productivity, and aids managers in decision-making.

This way, managers can control the communication process better, multi-task, and manage complex workloads efficiently.

Challenges in Facility Management

To streamline and handle operations efficiently, facility managers have to be aware of the challenges they are going to face in the working environment. And here are the most pressing issues in FM services.

1. Real-time collaboration

Outdated facility management systems don’t allow multiple team members to update data simultaneously and discuss their decisions as they are being taken. The lack of collaboration at facilities results in miscommunications and increases resource waste.

Real-time tracking facility management software helps facility managers get instant notifications about what’s happening in different areas of the facility. Thanks to cloud computing, multiple team members can edit spreadsheets and databases simultaneously, from any device, anywhere in the world.

2. The maintenance of aging hardware

Facility managers have to keep track of the equipment, notice when it starts wearing out, and replace it with newer machinery. Otherwise, the entire team will have to face unexpected shutdowns, pitfalls in customer satisfaction, and low production efficiency.

Facility managers can use modern technologies like predictive analytics for real-time equipment tracking. A software system for facility management using IoT can monitor the state of equipment and alert the manager in case of warning signs.

3. Coordinating teams

IoT facility management

Fostering an efficient communication system takes time and effort. It’s common for facility managers to use too many tools for keeping in touch with the team — email, instant messengers, Skype, and others — creating confusion among employees.

Choosing an all-in-one connected facility management system is a better, more consolidated way to build a functional communication framework. Using tools like report generators makes it easier for team members to report the results of their work. Adopting digital calendars is a way to keep track of calls and meetings, thus improving the discipline and awareness of the team.

4. Data storage

Facility managers have to keep track of huge amounts of data — processing large information volumes properly is a challenge for many professionals in the industry. The main issues regarding data storage and gathering include:

  • Retrieving data efficiently. Only around 10% of facility managers have instant or quick access to vital information on resource consumption or labor management.
  • Recording data change. Having to update databases manually is time-consuming and frustrating. The best way to record data productively is by using technology that logs all changes automatically.
  • Coordinating vendors. Having to deal with long feedback circles, delays, and miscommunication.
  • Meeting legislative regulations for data storage compliance.

5. Protection from security attacks

Facility managers have to create a framework that protects the system from outside threats — this includes a multi-factor authentication system, full control over data access permissions, and flagging suspicious actions.

Other than login-password two-factor authentication, modern-day systems add a captcha test, biometric authentication, public-and-private key pairs, and other advanced security tools to ensure the system is not accessible for intruders and data leaks are unlikely.

How IoT Can Improve Facility Management Systems

IoT applications help managers unite all the sectors of the facility, track, and monitor multiple operations simultaneously, and drive new insights thanks to the data provided by sensors. The Internet of Things offers a wide range of automation opportunities, improving the productivity of the entire team.

Here’s how IoT and facility management can boost efficiency and reduce operating costs:

  • Sensor-based automation. By capturing environmental and other data, facility managers get insights into space usage. Sensors also empower predictive analytics, alerting managers about potentially dangerous situations. A connected system can respond to an alert automatically, neutralizing a safety threat with no human supervision.
  • Reduced operating costs. Hospitality, healthcare, and office space facilities use the Internet of Things to find booking patterns. Connected tools help determine when the demand for bookings is lower than usual and reduce energy and heat consumption during the time frame.
  • Efficient employee performance. The Internet of Things helps remove daily frustrations from the workplace by seamlessly guiding the team through the day. Environmental sensors help ensure that the temperature and humidity levels at the facility are optimal. Thanks to connected systems, tracking facility area takes less time — thus, your team will be able to process more orders every day.
  • Transparency. Connected systems allow facility managers to provide clients with real-time updates. You will get more insight into employee performance as well, understanding how many tasks every team member performs during a workday and the type of assignments people thrive in.
  • Higher risk mitigation efficiency. IoT is a huge leap for facility managers in terms of contingency planning and physical security. Connected cameras, implanted tags, beacons for ID confirmation, and other tools help detect threats and eliminate them quickly to avoid crises at the facility. The technology provides facility managers with an extensive pool of high-value data, helping support the decision-making process. On top of that, companies start implementing automated planning tools that design optimal routes and workflows based on the data, collected via sensors.

IoT Devices for Facility Management

Most IoT projects are yet in development — however, those that have already piloted, help facility managers all over the world to have more control over the environment and streamline daily processes.

Here are some examples of high-performing and widely used devices in FM:

1. Sensors

Sensors empower most IoT devices. Thanks to them, managers get access to data — be it temperature, humidity, motion, velocity, or a different variable. The insights are then loaded to the facility management software system and visualized.

The following are the types of sensors that are widely used in facility management:

  • Motion/Velocity
  • Moisture, humidity
  • Vibration
  • Chemicals and gas sensors
  • Location
  • Pressure

2. Equipment and embedded beacons

Beacons are small wireless tools that transmit data via Bluetooth. The message will be picked up by a nearby device and used to trigger an action or start a scheduled workflow. A Bluetooth beacon is a common security facility management solution. Here are the applications of the technology in day-to-day management activities:

  • Beacons are embedded in clothes to track an employee’s location
  • Machinery beacons monitor the state of equipment
  • Beacons are used for ID verification to ensure a high level of security at the facility

3. RFID trackers

RFID and Internet of Things

RFID tags help facility managers confirm the identity of employees. Such tools use radio waves to transmit information and help automatically identify a person or an object they are connected to. The range of RFID tags can stretch to 20-50 meters.

There are numerous RFID applications in facility management, such as:

  • Tracking the number of people who attend the facility
  • Access control
  • Real-time location tracking
  • Asset monitoring

4. Automated Vehicles

Automated vehicles improve the transportation of items across the facility with no human supervision. Small automated guided vehicles are widely used for moving through crowded areas. The technology is intelligent enough to avoid bumping into guests or employees. On top of that, an automated vehicle can run for 13 hours non-stop, moving over 150 lbs.

Using automated guided vehicles helps managers allocate the workforce more efficiently, engaging people in more challenging, intellectually demanding tasks.

5. Data analytics and visualization tools

To manage the data captured by sensors efficiently, facility managers need to use visualization tools. Such systems process information and automatically generate visually rich reports. Through graphs and charts, facility managers will be able to notice patterns in resource usage, employee performance, and occupancy.

At Digiteum, we designed data analytics and visualization tool to monitor and manage an IT environment — it is a scalable solution for hardware and software performance monitoring.

data visualization

Facility Management Solutions with Digiteum

If you want to get the most out of digital transformation, consider designing a custom IoT facility management solution. Digiteum is a team of professionals that creates IoT-empowered systems from scratch. We build platforms that directly match the needs and objectives of small-scale or global businesses.

Our developers build a custom architecture to ensure it matches the project requirements. Our team is skilled in multiple technologies, such as:

  • Hardware platforms: Raspberry Pi, Arduino, CHIP
  • Big data processing: Apache Kafka and Hadoop, OpenTSDB
  • Machine learning tools: Python, Spark ML, SciPy

Conclusion

Implementing the Internet of Things helps facility managers scale their businesses efficiently, ensure the safety and a positive experience for tenants, reduce operating costs, and create an agile working environment.

Building a custom IoT solution is a smart way to outperform the company’s competitors in the field. Reach out to us to create a custom scalable Internet-of-Things architecture for facility management.

Take a look at our portfolio to see the full range of projects we have handled. Send us a message to discuss your plans for IoT implementation in facility management!

Let's discuss your project

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