4 Tasks in Facilities Management That IoT Could Take Over

Published on 26 Sep, 2016

IoT in Facilities Management

Recent advances and innovation in the industry pale in comparison to what’s arguably its next big thing - IoT enablement.

The Facility Management (FM) sector witnessed several advances and innovation over the past three years, enabling the FM community to serve and enable clients like never before.

Recent trends include the application of big data and analytics to intuit needs, automated housekeeping and inventory management, voice-enabled helpdesks, as well as the integration of facilities data with business data. 

The biggest transformation in FM however, and most facility managers in the know concur, will be the widespread use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in Facility Management.

IoT in Facilities Management?

In its simplest forms, IoT could be deployed as a centralized network and control scheme for what used to be disconnected systems and dumb devices such as:

  • Lighting
  • Refrigeration
  • Smart Meters
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Security and Safety Alarms
  • Appliances with Embedded Sensors/Software
  • Central Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

Some other facets of IoT deployment could also include:

  • Managing Energy Consumption
  • Data-driven Decision-making
  • Operational Cost-optimization
  • Remote Monitoring of Facilities
  • Determining the Exact Square-foot Utilization of Office Space

Smart networks and intelligent systems to automate facilities management could not only reduce the need for human intervention (and staffing!), but also improve real-time response to breakdowns and other untoward situations, driving down operational overhead by leaps and bounds.


Deployable IoT Applications in Facility Management Right Now


Sensors Embedded in Buildings and Devices

Sensors can be connected to HVAC systems, lights, doors, windows and buildings, and data from such sensors/devices can be integrated and analyzed to understand how the utilization of each device could be optimized. Installations could benefit from up to 25% energy savings through proactive energy management programs for example.

ISS, a leading FM service provider, decided to use IBM’s Watson IoT platform to manage its portfolio of 25,000 buildings worldwide. ISS and IBM would integrate and analyze data from the devices and sensors embedded into buildings, including doors, windows, chairs, meeting rooms, dispensers, and air conditioning systems.

Sensors in doors and entrance areas, for example, could identify the number of people in a building at any given time, allowing the cafeteria to better guess the number of likely orders for the day, thereby avoiding food wastage.


Room Reservations and Scheduling

Optimum utilization of meeting rooms using intelligent scheduling tools is a popular IoT application right now.

Employees can now see — in real-time — which rooms are booked or in use, view a scheduling calendar, invite attendees, and avoid double-booking of meeting rooms.

Crestron’s enables managers and employees to book rooms, view the status of meetings, release a room if a meeting is cancelled, and automatically allocate a room based on the type of meeting or a workers’ locations.


Monitor Stocks and Usage of Supplies in Restrooms

Sensors and software applications can be used to monitor the usage of restrooms and supplies, making supplies management more efficient, scheduling cleaning activities, reducing overheads,  as well as scheduling the requisition and approval supplies. Sensors in restrooms can also help in water management and preventive maintenance of fittings and pipes.

Kimberly-Clark recently developed an application using IBM’s IoT platform (Bluemix) that allows facility managers to receive data and alerts from numerous devices in restrooms. The app helps reduce tenant churn, lower costs, and enhance the customer experience. Initial tests helped clients reduce their consumption of restroom supplies by up to 20%.


Safety and Security Systems

Another crucial application area for IoT in facilities management is the remote monitoring of alarms, smoke detectors, and other life-safety systems. Manufacturers can use IoT to provide real-time information about a crisis or fire emergency in office premises by feeding data from heat detectors and other safety devices to Building Automation System(BAS).

Such applications are particularly useful in remote (sometimes fully-automated) facilities, especially fire-prone areas such as factories and mills. In addition, applications in tandem with smartphones can be used for emergency evacuation by tracking employees who haven’t reported in to a refuge area.


There’s plenty of scope for customizable IoT deployment in the facilities management space as well as allied concerns from parking and natural disaster management to counter-terrorism. 

What we’re witnessing right now is just the beginning of the Internet of Things era, with a world of opportunities for digital technologies limited only by our imaginations.

By 2020, intelligent technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC) sensors, smart surveillance, security applications and smart robots will automate  a number of FM activities and increase business efficiency.

While overhauling existing infrastructure and deploying automation systems for “connected buildings” could be a costly proposition right now, it’s important to remember the long-term rewards and ROI from a structure that’s sure to be around for a decade or longer.