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17 January 2019
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Three of the guest speakers at BIFM’s annual ThinkFM Conference on 8 June give a sneak preview of their talks on data use in the workplace.

For more information on ThinkFM 2017, and to book tickets, visit www.thinkfm.com

Credit: Istock

12 May 2017 | FM World team


Technology, the Internet of Things, AI, robotics, big data – all have one thing in common in a facilities management context: they offer new solutions to challenges that the profession has faced since its inception.

At BIFM’s annual ThinkFM Conference on 8 June at the Science Museum in London, delegates will hear from experts on how the technological landscape is changing and why the time to explore and use it to help advance FM delivery is now.

The conference is looking at how smart buildings – the data that can be gathered, the systems introduced to manage and automate controls and services – can as a whole enhance the user experience, providing greater user control and asset relevance while streamlining energy consumption, operations and maintenance. What does this mean for FMs and what do they need in place to be able to leverage this data and gain insights for their business?

The crossover and synergies between HR, FM and business leadership are becoming more strongly intertwined and interdependent for businesses to succeed. Technologies are now helping businesses implement health and well-being strategies through their combined HR and FM strategies, from motion sensors, activity trackers to promote employees to exercise to stimulate cognitive capacity.

Also on the rise in business strategy tactics are people analytics, through big data gaining insights to analyse the best approach to an organisation’s people management strategy. As well as a whole new level of insight for business leadership teams, it offers insights and tools to analyse, plan and monitor the impact of space planning to gain more productive outcomes for the business and its people.

What all this means for FM delivery will be debated by leaders in FM service provision in a panel session. Three of the speakers, and what they intend to focus on in their presentations, are across the page.

Ben Waber

Session: People analytics

"I am going to discuss people analytics – specifically, how to use data about how people work to change how companies make people decisions. The complexity of the work we do has increased at a phenomenal rate, but is quickly running up against some fundamental limitations of how we manage businesses because we don’t actually know how our organisations operate.  

"We can’t even answer basic questions like how much two teams communicate.  The answer to questions like these should drive major business decisions like reorganisations or new office designs, but instead, we focus on easy-to-gauge metrics like cost. While costs are important, they are inherently myopic and don’t capture the ROI of decisions.  People analytics shows this ROI and helps align decisions with actual results. We all know that it’s cheaper to not have offices than to have offices.  If we continue the current trend of focusing solely on costs, offices will cease to exist in the next few decades.  

"If, however, we’re able to prove the ROI of good office design and facilities more broadly using people analytics, then we can start to transform the industry from one focused on reducing costs to one focused on improving performance."

Ben Waber, leader of behavioural analytics for Humanyze


Claire Penny

Session: Please tell us what you think, Mr or Mrs Building!

"Most buildings are built for people to do something in, such as get better, have fun, live, work, build something, but often we lose sight of this. We spend about 90 per cent of our time in a building, and yet our experiences of being in buildings have not dramatically changed in the recent past. We still can’t find our way around, or it is too hot, or too dark, or we can’t find a free meeting room. My presentation will talk about how by using existing data building data and new data from IOT devices, we can deliver a superior experience for users.  

"Cognitive computing and machine learning is enabling us to understand how buildings respond to their occupants, and in turn how they can be places that are not only efficient to operate, but also cool to be in. A huge amount of data that is generated by sensors and other devices is not analysed and ultimately lost; we call this dark data and it represents a lost opportunity.  The reason for this dark data is that up until the cognitive era there were not the analytic tools to deal with these huge volumes of data from many sources – only structured data could be analysed. 

"Cognitive computing provides the capability to analyse, deliver insights and continuously learn from the explosion of IoT devices, which yield tens of thousands of new data points.  Building owners need to be aware of the advances in cognitive computing so that they can be equipped to deliver buildings that people want to be part of. ‘Cognitive buildings’ will radically change the way that people interact with their physical environments and how businesses operate. Cognitive buildings will transform the way FM is delivered, FM services will become more automated, more predictive – the result being transformed businesses and superior building experiences."

Claire Penny
 is global industry leader for IBM Watson Internet of Things for Buildings

James McHale

Session: The long winding road towards truly intelligent buildings

"I will be talking about the Internet of Things and will present research published at the end of last year that looks at its impact on the built environment. 

"Technology in the built environment is becoming more commonplace from video cameras and electronic readers on doors. But we have to remember it’s not just about collecting data but interpreting it and seeing how to use it to add value to an organisation. In the future it will form the central nervous system of a building. It will allow us to focus on – not just the output of a physical building – but assessing whether buildings are more fit for purpose for users. For instance, hospitals make people well again – how can the building help with that? More efficiency within a building would improve patient recovery times.  

"A lot of companies are focused on retaining staff and providing an environment where people want to work and where they won’t get sick – another indication of how the data can be used. We are focused on buildings and outcomes against the way the construction industry has [traditionally] operated, which has been more of a ‘measure, quantify and define’ approach. Predictive maintenance is a big issue for FMs and it should be a part of the feedback loop. It is better to see the early signs of problems and deal with them before they appear."

James McHale, managing director of Memoori