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fmME Site visit: Imdaad's INOC facility, Dubai

fmME takes a tour of Imdaad’s award-winning Integrated Network Operations Centre in Dubai

Site Visits

Technology Implementation of the Year proved to be a popular category at the 2016 fmME Awards, held in Dubai this May, with some of the GCC’s busiest FM operators nominating themselves for the category. A general consensus by this year’s jury was that regional FM operators are enhancing their capabilities to accrue the benefits of collaborative smart systems. Within that context, Imdaad’s Integrated Network Operations Centre (INOC) emerged as a clear winner of the 2016 fmME Awards’ Technology Implementation of the Year honours.

Tackling three IT trends that are currently reshaping global FM practices – Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine Communication, and Big Data – the operations centre, situated within Imdaad’s Jebel Ali Free Zone headquarters, enables the company to remotely monitor assets and manage maintenance operations. In its nomination entry, Imdaad stated that, in addition to remote-management capabilities, INOC is also equipped with automation tools capable of auto-correction.

INOC’s development commenced in 2014. Arif Al Yedaiwi, director of IT and procurement at Imdaad, says INOC’s conceptualisation was based on the smart city goals set by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

“INOC’s ideation started with Sheikh Mohammed’s vision to transform Dubai into a smart city,” Al Yedaiwi adds.

These goals were on the radar of Imdaad CEO Jamal Abdullah Lootah as well, who also presides over the Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA). Al Yedaiwi says Lootah’s familiarity with the level of FM tech implementation in regions such as the US and Europe encouraged him to implement similar tech-savvy operations within the Middle East’s FM industry.

“From there, we explored how Imdaad could link remote management and remote monitoring,” he continues.

“We searched the market and identified Robotina to be our partner in INOC’s development.

“They have exceptionally crystallised our ideas and transformed our business requirements into a technological product that we can look at and feel,” he tells fmME.

INOC was launched during the second half of 2015, with a proof of concept (POC) agreement set up to remotely manage the assets of three of Imdaad’s major clients.

“All of them were satisfied with the results, and we’re now in talks with our other FM customers to integrate them within INOC,” Al Yedaiwi adds.

Robotina, a Slovenian technology firm, has provided INOC’s software platform, as well as certain hardware components where required. Andrej Pasek, department director at Robotina, says INOC’s platform is compatible with all major BMS manufacturers’ systems.

“Compatibility is not a problem at all, and all big and established firms’ products work smoothly with INOC,” Pasek tells fmME.

An IoT linker – a combination of hardware and software components – was established to collect data from assets installed in buildings that are fully or partially intelligent. The platform collects real time information that is transmitted to Imdaad’s servers.

“The data you’re seeing here is live – it’s not something that happened years or months ago,” Pasek adds.

The platform that collects this data comprises three parts, he continues: “The first is classic BMS remote monitoring. Next comes fault detection and analyses, and the third part is vehicle and staff tracking. The latter helps keep track of which technicians are on site, what their skill set is, and whether it matches on-site requirements.”

The system flags an ‘alarm’ for any faults detected in a building’s components, and these alarms are listed on a large-screen monitor installed within INOC. Notifications listed in red text indicate alarms that need urgent attention, while those in white text are alarms that have already been resolved. This data display arrangement has been implemented to ensure operator priorities are identified and highlighted.

The platform’s matrix also accommodates commands that allow alarms to be listed on a priority basis. For instance, as Pasek explains, an AC breakdown will rate highly on INOC’s system, given the significance of cooling in the Middle East. “This helps us understand which asset is not very efficient, or which one might need to be changed in the next six months, and accordingly plan budgets for the same.”

These notifications are stored within the INOC platform to aid future analyses.

INOC’s capabilities also include scope for benchmarking, which helps operators compare asset performance in all their buildings across various parameters. As Pasek explains, analyses developed by the system will therefore include detailed information of all components across the total building portfolio. Operators could, for instance, receive detailed information about how all chillers installed in their linked buildings are performing.

Similarly, fan coil units in one building could be compared with those installed in another, making the analyses a handy tool for operators working through energy performance contracts (EPC). Pasek asserts this functionality in the platform also improves operator understanding of how each team associated with a building is functioning.

INOC enables remote maintenance through three tiers of correction, the first of which is automated.

“The idea is to reduce labour and time costs, so if the asset can be fixed from here then you don’t need a technician on site,” Pasek explains.

The first tier of remote maintenance involves the system auto-correcting an alarm or fault, and this function is enabled based on whether the system identifies the error as one that can be resolved automatically. The next correctional tier involves a remote reset of the system, and sending technicians to site is the last tier, typically saved for hardware damage.

“If an electrical breaker needs a physical reset or if a water pipe has broken, then it makes sense to send a technician,” Pasek explains.

“CRM is a reactive tool, but from the very beginning [with Imdaad] two years ago, our main goal was to bring predictive maintenance to FM.

“You gradually learn how different functionalities can optimise these systems, and it’s a growing process.”

Analyses prepared through the system also help review the time taken to resolve an issue, and each similar alarm can be compared on the basis of resolution time. Effectively, this step could help operators identify and standardise how long an FM team takes to complete any given task.

Imdaad’s Al Yedaiwi says that technology in IFM is “in its incubation” globally, but this could rapidly change in the years to come.

“With a lot of hard work and Robotina’s support, we’ve arrived at a position where we can go to the market and say we have a full solution, right from remote monitoring into automatic predictive maintenance, which is something people are still talking about,” he continues.

“Everybody is still learning and we’re also learning. Technology is evolving, and we’re looking at enhancing the solution with better services.”

All data collected by INOC is managed internally with the support of Cloud platforms.

“Cloud has already gained market trust, and those who are not believers of Cloud tech are going to be left behind,” Al Yedaiwi says.

“Maybe two or three years ago there was still debate about Cloud, but it is mainstream now and every big player in the market is trying to catch up with it. Similarly, people are not talking about IoT anymore – they’re talking about Internet of Beings (IoB), where you might be implanted with a chip, for instance, to track your [vitals], and this will be connected with your doctor.

“Companies these days are not building an office for those who have been in business for 20 to 30 years – they’re building an office with their digital strategy to be directed to those who are going to be in the workplace in five to six years’ time and have grown up with technology.

“People who are teenagers today will be in their workplace tomorrow, and will expect what they have on their iPads to be on their desk.”

However, Al Yedaiwi says, FM firms must implement smart systems with due consideration of their business plans.

“The business’s ‘intelligence’ isn’t just in bringing everybody together – it is [about] having a vision which is different than others’, how to actually realise what is just being discussed, and to do it all at the right time and cost.

“This is what we have achieved – building a technology operating model, and a business model on top of that. Anybody can go and purchase a platform, but it’s the ecosystem that goes around the platform that people might be struggling to arrive at.”

Al Yedaiwi says that Imdaad has charted out a programme aimed at connecting all its clients to INOC. While he cannot comment on how long this process might take, he’s quick to point out that client requirements will play a key role in the programme.

“It depends on different factors, like willingness of the customer, readiness of partners, and so on. There are multiple factors, but we have defined our business plans for the programme.”

Al Yedaiwi says IoB is the next big trend on his radar, especially since sensors are already used to monitor and control assets.

He concludes: “Technology is always ahead of us. What I want next is that if I’m sitting someplace where I feel hot, then the room’s climate changes based on my internal vital signs because [the sensor] read my chip.”

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