Technology is one of the fastest-growing areas of life today. It seems like almost every other week there are breakthroughs being announced in medical research, computer hardware and consumer electronics. As these devices continue to develop, so too do the ways in which we use them and integrate them into our daily lives. The Internet had a profound impact on how businesses and consumers alike operated in the early 1990s, and two decades later we're poised to see a similar paradigm shift.
The Internet of Things has grown out of the explosion of consumer mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. As it continues to become more prevalent, it will cross further into the realm of facility management, which may bring unique advantages and challenges to administrators and facility teams.
Understanding the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is likely something you've been reading and hearing more about lately, but if you don't know what it is, it can be hard to identify it as anything other than a trendy buzzword. In practice, however, it's a fairly simple concept that takes into account ways in which we already operate in our daily lives. Just as the Internet, as it developed through the '80s and '90s, consisted of a network of computers linked together that were capable of sending and receiving information between them, the IoT is a network that does the same thing with devices.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, mp3 players and even cameras and televisions are all now being manufactured with Internet connectivity designed to make things simpler for the people who use them. Each time a person turns on a smart TV or downloads an album to a smartphone, data is being sent and received. This information contains details on things like usage habits and trends - and that's where the benefit to facility management becomes clearer.
Automation: The IoT comes to facility management
Managing a facility is first and foremost a process of collecting large amounts of data and interpreting that information effectively. It can be anything from how much power your building uses on a daily basis to which lights get left on for extended periods of time and everything in between. Savvy and forward-thinking FMs will be able to ameliorate this process by integrating consumer mobile technology that the vast majority of us already use every day.
The chief method through which this is accomplished is through building automation systems and CMMS dashboards. These latter systems are Web-based software services that allow facility managers and administrators to view essential information on equipment, repairs, work orders and even capital budgets all in one place. What's more, they can easily sync up with smartphones or tablets carried by maintenance staff to give facilities teams even greater flexibility while on the job.
Preparing for the new wave of facility management
While the IoT stands to provide significant benefits to facility managers in terms of efficiency and cost savings, there are also unique considerations that must be taken into account to prepare for the technology-driven future.
The new focus on technology means that both existing facility managers and those preparing to enter the field must focus on a new emerging set of skills - namely, technological acumen. The near-total integration allowed by the IoT means that facility managers must play a much more centralized role in building management than simply maintenance and repairs. Keeping up to date with the latest technological innovations will be important, but so too will other more general aspects of facility management. The FM's role moving forward is likely to include elements of things like accounting, purchasing and even building design and construction.