IoT and AI can change the meaning of facilities management

Both technologies must be adopted during the pre-construction phase to be truly effective, Facilio's founder says

IoT and AI can redefine how facilities management is implemented in the regional commercial real estate sector, Facilio's Prabhu Ramachandran says [representational image of Dubai].
IoT and AI can redefine how facilities management is implemented in the regional commercial real estate sector, Facilio's Prabhu Ramachandran says [representational image of Dubai].
Prabhu Ramachandran is founder and chief executive officer of Facilio.
Prabhu Ramachandran is founder and chief executive officer of Facilio.

This article has been shared exclusively with Prabhu Ramachandran, founder and chief executive officer of Facilio.

Buildings, ubiquitous are they are to our existence, have slowly but surely been transforming – in how they are built, managed and maintained. Technology has completely changed the most fundamental facts about commercial real estate (CRE), and shifted the focus from being entirely on location or cost savings or energy efficiency, back to the original purpose of creating buildings – adding value to the lives of the people using those buildings, and keeping them productive and comfortable.

The facilities and building management industry is undergoing a rapid digital transformation, born of a growing demand for cost savings and energy and operational efficiency, as well as the need to go beyond and create value for customers, by enhancing tenant comfort and the facilities experience. New-generation automation and innovative technologies such as internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) have had a massive role to play in how the built environment is reaching for these goals.

READ: 86% of UAE and Oman CEOs believe AI will create – not destroy – jobs

As the sustainability dialogue gathers steam globally, the ‘fixing’ of existing building stock in the form of retrofits has seen growing demand and mainstreaming. Massive stocks of existing buildings are being automated and digitally transformed to optimise their operational and energy efficiency. However, when it comes to new construction, despite this proliferation of technology, the pre-construction and post-construction phases of buildings have continued to be visualised and executed in isolation. Where technology interventions like building information and 3D modelling dominate discussions during the pre-construction and construction phase, IoT and AI-driven facilities management technologies, that can significantly impact the management of the building and its facilities, are still a post-construction discussion.

But change is round the corner. The ‘reactive’ approach to efficiency in the form of retrofits is definitely forcing CRE owners to think about how they can optimally prepare new construction for the ‘predictive’ era of buildings and facilities management. Adoption can be accelerated by increasing awareness about the benefits of bringing in automation into the design and planning stage of construction. Not only can this help CRE owners to optimise their automation investment to deliver multi-fold value post construction, it will also allow them to plan for IoT driven real-time FM from an early stage itself.

There are several reasons why CRE’s should start thinking about IoT and AI-driven facilities management early in the pre-construction phase. Some key benefits are that the facility can be designed bearing in mind the optimisation of post-construction operations and maintenance; the easy integration as foundation for IoT-led automation systems can be laid from the start; and considerable savings on time and cost in the long run as preventive and reactive maintenance is replaced by a predictive model. Technology investment can be optimised best with post-construction operational efficiencies and savings, and CREs can move beyond a focus on cost reduction to focus on value-creation and -addition from the pre-construction phase itself.

READ: Google’s facilities director says Big Data will change the Gulf’s FM market

Enterprise-level adoption of IoT and AI-driven facilities management during the pre-construction phase can have a massive impact on the efficiency and performance of a building post-construction. The CRE industry is uniquely positioned to harness IoT-enabled building management systems (BMS) to make building performance more efficient and also use sensor-generated data and insights to enhance building user experience.

Research indicates that nearly six times more money is spent on operational costs than on construction costs, with 20% expenditure on construction and 80% on operations, recapitalization, and repairs. Given this break-up, it holds to reason that including IoT and AI driven facilities management technologies needs to be part of the blueprint stage of a building, as it can impact 80% of its expense. 

During the design and construction phase, automation- and IoT-led BMS can help prepare the building and get it ready for operations. This can flow into the post-construction phase, where IoT- and AI-driven facilities management can help CREs understand their comprehensive facility and asset portfolio, and use the real-time data and insights to drive business decisions. 

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