A technology revolution in FM

A technology revolution is occurring in facilities management and the potential benefits for the industry are staggering.

At this year’s BIFM ThinkFM conference it was stated that 45% of human activity will be automated by 2030; an ambitious statement given this is only 12 years away. But, let’s consider that the first iPhone was released 10 years ago today and how that major innovation completely disrupted the smartphone market. ENGIE itself has experienced low cost, transformational change through deploying robotic process automation using existing IT infrastructure to automate manual tasks. It's quick, simple and effective. The virtual workforce has released staff from tedious, repetitive data processing to focus on higher value, customer facing and more fulfilling work.

So what do FMs think the next decade looks like with smarter, digital technologies shaping the future of FM?

Energy efficiency was seen as the biggest influencer by FM professionals in the last 10 years. Driven by a spiralling cost base and green agenda, FMs are still seeking innovative ways of controlling demand and reducing costs to create smart buildings. Technology is transforming the sustainability/energy/FM intersection with products like solar and PV film on the exterior of buildings gaining huge traction. 

In domestic settings, smart homes controllable from your smartphone are already here. But smarter heating has the greatest benefit to residents, owners and the planet. ENGIE is pioneering the conversion of electric storage heaters from mains to battery power which are charged when cost is low (night-time) and heated during the morning/evening. An innovation that tackles fuel poverty by reducing cost. The winner of ENGIE’s Innovation Week Big Pitch on 16 June heats buildings for free with computers - a very smart concept indeed.

Energy efficiency also relies on decentralising: the future of energy production is a model wherein energy is generated, stored, and consumed as locally as possible. ENGIE is hard at work creating technological methods to keep energy close to where it is produced.

“Looking forward, we can see a dual world developing by 2050. A world in which 50% of energy is generated by large-scale power plants and transmitted by equally large grids – i.e. the system we are all familiar with in all developed countries – and the other 50% of energy is generated at local level at the point of consumption in our own homes or in the buildings and factories where we work,” ENGIE Group CEO Isabelle Kocher

Electric vehicles sit squarely in the energy transition - the move from carbon intensive fuels to greener ones. Electric vehicles have reached tipping point in the UK and growth is set to rise. ENGIE’s EVBox was recently named one of the 10 most innovative companies worldwide by Bloomberg and is the only manufacturer with embedded smart technology to ensure uptime of charge point and reduce range anxiety for end users.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest growth area for smart buildings; with a huge 40% CAGR forecast for software and services to make the tech useable and meaningful. ENGIE investment Spica Technologies is part of the revolution; pioneering water and workspace monitoring services in offices. Hardware should be deployed at scale - as its cost is low - making the resultant data meaningful so FMs can make informed decisions is the skill. ENGIE’s C3ntinel software facilitates this by processing big data sets into visual, useable data that allows meaningful decision making.

The growth of monitored devices will radically change the maintenance industry. The days of pre-diarised maintenance intervals are numbered as machines tell us when they need servicing instead. This begs the question: will we see the rise of the OEM back into maintenance in a similar way that Rolls Royce maintain their jet engines? Time will tell...

A significant proportion of delegates thought the biggest opportunity for smart buildings is a more connected workspace; providing new collaboration, teaming and social opportunities to increase workplace productivity. This is something that the ENGIE backed STODDART Review championed.

However, as with most changes, it’s culture change with end users and FMs that is the key to success for reaping the benefits of new technology. Without this it's likely to all be another teasmaid or Sinclair C5. It is critical that consultants that spec FM services and the customers who specify them allow scope for technology to be implemented - either through output specifications or direct requirements to implement - otherwise what's the point of implementing technology to reduce cost or improve service. Let’s think outside of specifications that simply say maintain four times a year or clean daily and embrace the technology revolution!

Find out more about how technology and innovation can transform local government at the ENGIE Learning Zone in the LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition being held at the Birmingham International Convention Centre on 4-6 July 2017. Register here