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ThinkFM gets Smart for 2017

During a session on how technology is changing the face of FM, Andrew Wilkinson Marketing Director at Sodexo asked delegates “Is this the most frightening or challenging time for FM?”

It was the opening salvo in a day unashamedly dedicated to the overriding theme of ‘FM in a Connected World’ which featured a programme dedicated to exploring the rapid acceleration in the implementation of new technologies (estimated to reach about 21 billion connected devices by 2021 – Gartner) which suggests that the FM delivery model and management is likely to look very different in five to 10 years’ time.

Speakers debated what Reid Cunningham the strategic development director for BAM FM Ltd described as the beginning of the digital revolution, the next wave of which he said will be driven by cloud computing.

Facilities managers are now inundated with data from buildings with Smart technologies, fitted out with devices which can monitor everything from the presence of people in an office, to the quality of air being breathed and one of the major issues which was revisited throughout the day was how we turn all this data into information and therefore into knowledge.

According to Dr Paul Toyne, an expert on sustainability within the built environment, equipped with the latest data, FMs can not only make a positive contribution to delivering a sustainable built environment but ensure that the environment where people work enhances their wellbeing. We still need to attract people into offices, he explained, but we also need to maintain their health. The provision of sit/stand desking to foster more active offices, monitoring air quality, ventilation and the level of lighting all play a part. Sustainability is a driver for much of this technological innovation which is why a great deal of R&D is now going into delivering a technology-enabled sustainable built environment.

James McHale – managing director of consultancy Memoori, continued the digital theme with a look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) will help fundamentally change the way we design and operate buildings – as long he added, as Smart buildings are designed with the Smart user in mind. This includes an appreciation that cyber-security goes hand in hand with enhanced connectivity – no one wants their connected coffee machine to be the conduit to a successful hack.

Dr Claire Penny the Global Industry Leader for IBM Watson Internet of Things for Buildings delved deeper into the application of IoT with the suggestion that cognitive buildings where all the assets are ready for FMs to interrogate at handover stage will give FMs a powerful level of data at their fingertips – and the chance to exploit it.

This exploration on delivering the benefits of Smart Buildings was an area that speakers returned to throughout the day, but often with the proviso that ultimately, no matter what its technological achievements- a building should be primarily about the people which use it.

Delegates were also urged to think beyond the use of technology and consider the ways in which FM business models will change as digital disruption takes hold.

If you were not interested in hearing about the revolutionary changes that technology is reaping within the facilities sphere; this year’s Think FM wouldn’t have been for you, but it delivered exactly what was promised for anyone in FM who wants to get an understanding of the ‘new normal’.

About Sarah OBeirne

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