02 July 2018 | Martin Read
Martin Read addresses the value of direct human contact to add a human face to the connected sensor debate.
To paraphrase new wave inspirations XTC, there's no shortage of experts lining up these days to link the future of facilities management to one, two, three, four, five sensors working overtime. Or perhaps six sensors. Six hundred. A thousand. Millions. Billions. At this stage, who can tell?
Everybody extols the many potential upsides - actionable data, fresh insight, greater cost control and boosts to productivity; but the downsides are easily categorised under one umbrella; our ability to interpret all of this stuff.
Christian Huber, director of studies & research at Austrian higher education Institute, Fachhochschule Kufstein Tirol, took to the stage at last month's EuroFM conference to express his concern. How the hell can we analyse these ever-growing tsunami waves of data, much of which requires interpretation through competing proprietary languages, when "we already struggle to handle the volume of data we get out of all our systems?".
Also, said Huber, we should bear in mind that this data, whatever its provenance, volume and insight- generating ability, is by definition an indication of past rather than present activity. Algorithms trained with this data are fine for finessing the future - but what about what's happening now?
Herein lies the FM opportunity, says Gruber; a greater use of 'human sensors' - people interacting directly to report the need for an FM intervention, for example, through the use of buttons on walls to signal the need to clear a kitchen, or a tap on an app to trigger replenishment of a paper tray.
The data generated by these human interventions necessarily involves direct contact from a building user with the FM team. So as well as significantly complementing the data available already from their silicon-based cousins, this 'human sensor' data gives the IoT revolution a human face.
FMs and their teams can thus be positioned as a positive force, ameliorating at least some of the 'Big Brother' concerns that a building's users may understandably have.
Of course, we'll need our newly IoT-empowered building services equipment and the insight it offers. However, this human dimension has the potential to benefit not just productivity but how others perceive the FM function.
Martin Read is editor of FM World