The world of facility management encompasses many things, and it’s always evolving. Facility management professionals today are tasked with not only improving operations and reducing costs, but also creating a better overall work environment. While computer-aided design (CAD) software and geographic information systems (GIS) were once considered revolutionary new tools for facility managers, they’re now regarded as commonplace and foundational.
In the decades since those solutions were introduced, dozens more have emerged, including more advanced facility management software and mobile applications.
To stay successful in facility management, you need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. Here are eight technologies that will have the greatest long-term impact on the built environment and the workplace.
As a facility manager, you’re already the hero of your workplace. But, what if you could have actual superpowers — like the ability to see through walls and ceilings? VR creates an immersive digital experience that can look as real as the physical world. AR merges the digital and the physical world, using superimposed 3-D imagery that adds to what we already see.
These technologies offer several potential FM applications, such as making virtual meetings more lifelike by creating holograms of participants and showing 3-D images of floor plans. AR technology has the potential to make facility management faster, more efficient and more precise. In addition to offering an at-a-glance view of equipment, it gives you access to technical specs and data without having to carry around blueprints and other documents.
Deploying this kind of technology can also bring maintenance manuals and building components to life. Using an AR headset, you can visualize equipment temperatures and see components hidden behind walls, ceilings, and floors. AR alerts can improve knowledge of your surroundings — for instance, helping you steer clear of high-voltage assets, hot surfaces, high-speed machinery, and other hazardous conditions — which promotes safety.
Heating, cooling, and ventilation comprise a significant portion of your building’s electric bill. Any way to cut back on energy consumption is a big win, both financially and environmentally. New HVAC technology powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) is making it easier than ever to curb energy usage while improving the workplace experience. This technology can help your team identify and reduce energy waste, automate climate regulation, and stay on top of HVAC preventive maintenance. Smart thermostats and climate zones help keep areas comfortable for employees while ensuring server rooms and other equipment areas stay cool. HVAC analytics can also help you identify potential issues with equipment before it breaks down.
BIM is the process of creating and managing digital models of physical buildings. While it’s by no means a “new” technology, it has become much more powerful in recent years. BIM technology enables organizations to visualize specific components of a space, including structural elements like walls and windows and exact asset locations. Modern BIM is a highly intelligent, supercharged version of 3-D modeling.
Originally developed to assist architects and contractors in the design and construction of new buildings, the applications of BIM have evolved to include the improvement of maintenance plans and space management processes. BIM helps facility managers make data-driven decisions about space utilization, energy consumption, and redesigns.
This will be especially helpful as you consider how to adjust your real estate and space planning strategies in the coming year, following the coronavirus pandemic.
AI-based technologies use computer systems to perform complex tasks that previously required human intelligence — for example, speech recognition, visual perception, and decision making. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that enables building systems to automatically collect and analyze data to predict outcomes from experience without being explicitly programmed. AI can replace many repetitive and tedious facility management tasks. For example, it can collect, store, and analyze massive data sets in seconds. It also allows facilities leaders to be more proactive when it comes to asset performance management. If a system detects a potential issue, it will send an automated update. This can help you correct the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
Smart buildings, or structures that use automated processes and connected technology powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), have been around for more than a decade. Once considered cost-prohibitive for many organizations, they are becoming more accessible. Smart building elements, such as intelligent lighting, heating, cooling, and security, allow facilities managers to be more responsive and efficient. They can also monitor environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity.
Using IoT sensors, smart building technologies are always collecting data about the workplace and the workforce, which can help FMs make adjustments faster.
For example, you can easily adjust temperature and lighting based on occupancy. And when these technologies are connected to an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), all of that data is consolidated into a single platform where you and your team can make better-informed decisions.
Like smart buildings, IoT sensors unlock valuable insights facilities managers can use to reduce real estate costs and improve the workplace experience. Sensors can also make room booking, maintenance, and asset management more efficient.
With concerns about COVID-19 lingering even after organizations have returned to the workplace, facility managers are spending a greater percentage of their time keeping the office clean. These additional cleaning and sanitization protocols can be time-consuming and costly, especially when many workplaces are at reduced occupancy. Sensors like those designed by our marketplace partners, including CoWorkr, show exactly which spaces have been used throughout the day so you can adjust your cleaning schedule accordingly.
This allows for more intelligent, responsive maintenance and cleaner, safer workplaces.
Modern facility management isn’t just about maintaining buildings. It’s about managing the changing needs of the workforce. As the workforce becomes increasingly distributed and mobile, employees need a quick way to access the people, spaces, and services that allow them to be productive.
Mobile workplace apps with this capability do more than improve the employee experience; they also collect valuable real-time data that can improve operational efficiency and help you plan ahead.
For instance, if your workplace has decided to eliminate assigned seating in favor of a more flexible model like desk hoteling, employees will need an easy way to reserve desks. As a facility manager, you’ll need to know how many desks are being reserved throughout the week. This will help you determine if you truly need more office space or if you can improve space utilization in other ways, such as having employees work from home on alternating days.
Wearable technology like Fitbits and smartwatches have existed for years and continue to be popular, but you may not think of them as facility management solutions — yet.
Wearables can help you create a more flexible workplace and improve the employee experience at the same time.
Employees and workplace leaders alike are already using wearable tech in their daily lives, making them a natural extension of employee experience apps. That's why our Hummingbird employee experience app integrates with the Apple Watch.
Technology like smart badges can also help facility leaders improve the security of personnel and data by restricting access to a building or parts of a building to only specific individuals. Wearables also enable facility managers to collect data on employee work patterns, space occupancy, and resource utilization. As a facility leader, arming yourself with a wearable can help you stay connected to updates even when you’re away from your workstation.
The digital world evolves fast — and facility management software is no exception. Over the past few years, we’ve seen plenty of new solutions enter the field and become part of our daily lives. And as we move forward, relying on cutting-edge technology will become even more critical to your organization’s success.
That’s why we offer plenty of resources to help you, including our blog, bimonthly webinars, and our Workplace Innovator podcast. Our weekly podcast features insights from experts in facility management, workplace design, technology and much more.
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James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.