FMJ talks to AV specialist Anders+Kern about the ways modern technology can support the rapidly evolving role of an FM in the workplace
The modern FM is increasingly expected to take a strategic role within the organisation. The role is expanding to embrace services relating to every aspect of building maintenance, space management and communications infrastructure, while still ensuring that users are provided with a comfortable, functional working environment. And if the FM can find ways to increase productivity and cut costs, so much the better – which is where AV technology comes in. AV has the potential to help the organisation make significantly better use of its resources.
Digital signage products, for example, are all about taking data and representing it in a way that helps people do their jobs, increases the organisation’s efficiency, and presents an image of smart competence. At its simplest the technology is used to capture data from localised applications such as spreadsheets and present it in a more accessible, visually interesting way. It also tends to be associated with snazzy message displays and information panels. But it is capable of so much more.
All organisations face the challenge of making their stockpiles of accumulated data easily available to all those who could put it to good use. Connectivity is the holy grail, but it’s difficult to achieve with non-technical users. PADS has the potential to take data from anywhere in the organisation and display it wherever and whenever required. That includes real-time data like production output or sales figures from where it lurks in the back-end database. Complex data can be represented in a simple, easy to grasp, dynamic visual format that can transform presentations, or streamline reporting and analytics, saving time and money.
That’s the big picture, but digital signage technology can make life easier for the FM in many small, telling ways. Take the management of meeting rooms. No one wants hopeful groups wasting time wandering the corridors looking for a free room, or, worse, bursting into someone else’s meeting. Room booking systems can be linked to stylish interactive panels outside each room that use live booking data to display the status of the room. The information could include as many or as few details as required, from a comprehensive listing of all scheduled meetings on a given day to a simple ‘engaged’ or ‘available’ notice. Add a few rules to the software and you could have colour coding – red for booked, green for free – as a visual cue.
The system could add further value by generating a room utilisation report, helping the FM to ensure that the organisation’s meeting space is being used efficiently. A digital signage feature could be used to help greet and guide visitors via interactive panels in reception. The possibilities are endless – RFID technology, for example, could be integrated with the system, allowing rooms to be booked with the wave of an employee’s swipe card.
Interactive wayfinding is an obvious and growing application of digital signage. Static maps and displays in environments such as hospitals, universities, shopping malls and airports might look good, but they cannot respond to changing conditions. Interactive digital screens, on the other hand, can be kept continuously updated. It makes life considerably easier for customers, travellers and members of the public, and sends a great signal about the organisation’s efficiency.
The ability to turn bits and bytes into useful information opens up numerous possibilities for smoothing the path of daily working life. Digital signage could be used, for example, to send notifications to all desktops or departments that a fire alarm test is scheduled for a certain time. A simple add-on that improves the efficacy of the fire safety system at a stroke. A product like PADS can be used to add notifications to all kinds of systems, with numerous rules options to make the smartest use of the live data source.
Improved connectivity can also boost collaboration. Products are available that allow people in meetings to share notes, images, data and ideas, with obvious benefits to the organisation’s intellectual capital. These have the advantage that they are plug and play systems separate from the corporate network – simple and functional, with no encroachment on IT turf. A good example is the i3 Technologies family of products. The i3Sync is a wireless HDMI device allowing everyone in a room to share their laptop screen with everyone else. The device is simply plugged into the laptop, with no drivers needed or installation required. The user switches between screens at the push of a button.