Tech trends: an overview

Technology in FM

Source: Paul Djuric, CEO, Urgent Technology.

Workplace technology is changing faster than at any time in the history of facilities management and maintenance. To truly appreciate and benefit from the business advantages that advances in facilities and maintenance technology can bring, facilities professionals need to be early adopters, driving change through their organisations.

To that end, it’s important that we look at what is coming down the line, and what’s already gaining traction.
Neither the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) or the growth in smart buildings are new subjects – however, it’s important to remember that complete with an abundance of connected devices, all of these advances are enabling incredible opportunities for an array of sectors.

But as regular stories in the mainstream press remind us, this intelligence can come at a price. The owner of four-star Seehotel in the Austrian Alps, for example, was hacked and held at ransom via the hotel’s electronic door system. The owners have since moved back to traditional metal keys…

It’s not all bad press however. There are plenty of business benefits associated with this ever-evolving technology.

Devices are getting smaller and more powerful, and battery power is lasting longer, meaning this tech can essentially wrap around our schedules, making life that little bit easier. Certain companies out there are even offering microchip implants, allowing building occupants to access multiple features throughout the office, simply by waving their chip-infused hands. Granted, such electric tracking is spurring workplace privacy debate… but nobody can deny that big data is set to get bigger.

The facilities manager (FM) is the guardian of a huge amount of data from supplier performance and energy consumption to eating patterns and building utilisation. As it stands, only a small amount of that information is used to provide true insight into the business; but in time, that will change. FMs will be able to make sense of – and surf – the data tsunami heading their way, enabling them to make better informed business-critical decisions.

And then there’s all the data on the inside. As we’ve seen from the likes of Yammer and fixmystreet.com, not to mention Facebook’s community noticeboards, crowdsourcing of ideas and sharing of experiences is becoming an increasingly popular habit. These tools are being used in workplaces to share information, experiences and to build momentum towards a way of thinking. That’s never a bad thing but this level of transparency will have to be managed carefully.

Predictions about 2018 and beyond wouldn’t be complete without a mention of artificial intelligence (AI). Yes, the robots are coming. Driverless cars were first tested on UK streets in 2016, but Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report suggests it’s going to be more than 10 years before these cars take over the roads. And we’ve got at least another five years before we can truly expect to see the ‘fully connected’ home, where the TV communicates with the heating and so on.

But we don’t have to panic, or alter our retirement plans, because we’re still very much in the ‘early days’.
Plus, even when we have moved on from robotic cleaning machines and virtual receptionists to fridges that act as dieticians and tell you what to eat, there will always be a place for the personal approach and the human touch.
 

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