Although the Internet of Things (IoT) is a game-changer in many ways, some facilities managers still see it as the next shiny new toy – something where the hype creates anticipation far exceeding the actual experience. In addition, they believe that IoT in buildings requires large upfront cash outlays whose return on investment is doubtful. Furthermore, they (wrongly) assume the technology is only suitable for new, state-of-the-art buildings. While in fact, it is easy to start collecting data to improve insight into how your building is performing and how it can offer the desired experience for occupants.
IoT in buildings: smarter facility management
Even if your buildings are not new, they can easily be made smarter through low-cost wireless IoT sensors. As a result of the plunge of sensor prices and new cloud-based as-a-service business models, Internet of Things projects today have a relatively low entry threshold and a short payback time (for example, check out this testimonial video from PostNord’s Christian Göttsche).
In other words: your facility is ready for the Internet of Things. The real question is: are you?
It’s flexible and affordable
The Internet of Things offers a much lower price tag for sensing, communication, and installation than traditional BMS. IoT sensors have no need for cables, power, or WiFi, and can work independently of the corporate network and data. They benefit from low-power, wide-area communication technologies such as LoRaWAN. This communication network facilitates cheap, secure communications without the need for wiring. Because they are wireless, the sensors are easily placed and moved – no need to rip open any walls.
It’s not about the “things”
It’s important to realize that IoT sensors are just a means to an end. Organizations should always start with the end in mind. To reap the rewards, an approach is needed that translates pain points and improvement ideas into specific use cases. For example, reducing ‘friction’ around reservations or removing other productivity obstacles. Only then can you define the data sources and appropriate sensor types to capture and correlate the information you need.
It’s not even about the data
Big data only becomes valuable for facility management to the extent that it provides (real-time) visibility into building portfolios and enables smart scenarios. Until recently, the focus was mainly on managing the building – think energy management, indoor climate control systems, preventive/predictive maintenance, physical access control, security, and safety. Today there is a growing awareness of how the Internet of Things can improve the employee experience in the workplace. This encompasses:
- Improving how space is used, which is especially useful in workplaces with flexible seating arrangements
- Rightsizing the office footprint and mix of space types
- Providing a healthy workplace environment with clean air
- Office hoteling, room, and desk booking
- Providing mobile, real-time guidance to employees
- Enabling efficient, activity-based services to building users
As analyst Gartner already said in 2015: “The focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions and big answers first and big data second — the value is in the answers, not the data.”
Is it for you?
If you’re looking to get the answers you need to make occupants comfortable, optimize resources and provide a great workplace experience, it probably is. As our workplaces evolve from legacy to digital, there are new challenges and expectations to meet. Without connected technology and granular, real-time data, a good chance exists that solutions will fall short of user needs – and ultimately will fail. This is even more true now that so many organizations are rethinking their approach to work and are shifting to more flexible, employee-focused work environments with more of a focus on health, wellbeing, and productivity.
Introducing a new blog series on the IoT in buildings
This blog post offers a preview of some of the topics we will be addressing in our new ‘From Sensor to Insight’ series. Our goal will be to examine how facility and workplace leaders can leverage the IoT in a range of different scenarios that benefit building occupants. We’ll also discuss analytics, best-practice implementation and adoption, privacy, and security. And we’ll look at considerations for choosing a solution that fits your needs.
We welcome questions and ideas and invite you to submit any comments using the contact button below.