BIFM’s latest Guidance Note explores the impact of technology in transforming the Facilities Management function – specifically the Internet of Things and its contribution to improving overall business performance. The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as a network of physical devices and objects embedded with electrics, software, sensors and network connectivity which enable the collection and sharing of data, as well as communication with one another.

There are four distinct layers which make up IoT, according to the guidance notes, which jointly increase the level of real-time understanding of what is happening throughout every aspect and component of a building and its operation.

  • The Physical Layer comprises hardware such as sensors and gateways that collect and send data; and the remote devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and smart watches which enables people to connect with and control IoT devices using a dashboard such as an app, web portal or dedicated IoT software platform.
  • The Network Layer is made up of the networks that transmit the data collected by the physical layer.
  • The Application Layer is the layer that contains the protocols and interfaces that devices use to communicate with each other.
  • The Cloud Layer can be in the form of either private, public or hybrid cloud.

“The Internet of Things is changing businesses and leading to a digital disruption and data explosion. The opportunity that technology presents to change the way FM works is huge, but it will have to be leveraged by skilled and knowledgeable professionals who understand how best to facilitate the convergence of people, place and process for their business.”

Peter Brogan – Head of Research & Insights at BIFM

Working with real-time data

Cost reductions

IoT offers Facilities Management (FM) the possibility of access to real-time analytics to help understand what is happening throughout their buildings and operations, but the ‘golden egg’ for FM is the attainment of predictive instead of reactive maintenance. Having the ability to predict maintenance of assets will reduce downtime of assets and aid efficient labour management.

The use of IoT can also improve space management and provide an improved understanding of how a facility is being used and interacted with by its occupiers – allowing FM to identify and make informed decisions on how to ensure their facilities are operated and maintained to optimal efficiency. This approach can help encourage reductions in operational and maintenance costs, lower energy use leading to lower greenhouse emissions, promote building user well-being and stimulate demand for further IoT technological advancements.

IoT provides real-time data on how every space within a building is being used, enabling evidence-based decisions regarding usage. Therefore, the improved levels of space management will allow FM to only use what is needed and avoid allocating unnecessary space. By monitoring occupancy, it improves asset and facilities management as knowing exactly which areas have seen increased usage, FM can better schedule cleaning and maintenance activities. This approach also applies to energy consumption, which can be regulated based on occupancy.

Being able to monitor the condition of assets or allowing them to self-monitor, FM will know when an asset is due to fail and can act accordingly. By communicating with each other, assets in a system can warn each other that they are going to fail, and stop the process before it extends to the entire system. These measures will lead to increased asset performance and life through optimised asset operations.

“The world of IoT offers organisations a multitude of options and business benefits, particularly now as the technology is rapidly developing. At Matrix Booking, we are focussed on harnessing its potential for the benefit of our current and future clients.”

Kieron Murphy – Managing Director at Matrix Booking

Improved well-being

Enhanced organisational profile

It’s important for organisations to look after the well-being of their most valuable assets, their employees. The use of sensors and smart building systems will enable businesses to monitor and adjust the indoor environment to meet employee needs, based on the temperature or humidity of the space. The possibilities go even further as the use of sensors can monitor worker’s habits, such as how many hours they are active and how long they’ve been sitting at their desk.

The workplace has become a major differentiator in the attraction, development and retention of talent. IoT can assist in alleviating daily frustrations from the work environment and even improve the experience of customers and visitors by streamlining visitor registration and wayfinding to colleagues and meetings. In addition, the use of mobile applications can provide accurate information and allow occupants to create a social network and community for the specific building.

Reduction of risk

Enhancement of compliance

From security cameras and sensors to implanted tags, the physical security of a building can be improved and augmented by the use of IoT. The building can now see if there is a threat to its occupants or its fabric. The systems in place can stop intrusions, notify the authorities and assist the occupants in evacuating the building by using the safest and fastest route. Paired with technologies such as drones and robotics, security can be further enhanced and risks lowered.

Compliance can be further enhanced using IoT. Using unique identifiers, an employee or contractor can prove that they have the right permits and training to perform work on a facility, with checks conducted instantly using beacons and smart tags. Another area where IoT can enhance compliance is in assisting with the evacuation of buildings – sensors can identify if there are any occupants still in the building, guide authorities to them and help them find their way to the nearest emergency exit.