29 November 2019 | Bradford Keen
An emergency has struck your building. Your incident management team needs to know where everyone is. Without the correct occupancy management tools, they might be putting themselves in unnecessary danger searching for missing staff members and building users.
Managing emergencies and unforeseen incidents was just one of the drivers - cited during a recent webinar hosted by Facilitate and sponsored by HID Global - as to why building and facilities managers would benefit from occupancy management technology.
The theme of the webinar, 'How the IoT and changing worker habits are helping building occupancy become an exact science', covered the benefits occupancy management technology can deliver and also addressed the appetite to implement these types of tools.
Whether it is powered by mobile or Bluetooth, Riskcentric CEO Steve Dance said: "Let's say your building is in lockdown and you need people in a certain area of your building. With this technology, you could actually manage your lockdown process and identify people that could be in a vulnerable position."
Add automated roll call to the tech's capabilities and an FM would be able to discern the number of people in safe areas - this could be achieved even without personally identifying the particular people.
Taylor Breihan, global business development manager at HID Global, said real-time location services (RTLS) grants insight into what employees and visitors are doing and where they are doing it inside the building.
But few managing buildings have this insight.
"Overwhelmingly, 45 per cent do not know the number or location of their employees," said Breihan. And only 21 per cent have that information but it's limited to floor or zone level, based on the access control system.
Many more maintain occupancy data on analogue systems. "You don't know where your visitors are, other than they signed into a paper roster. So there's still a lot of room for improvement," said Breihan.
After building users, contractors and visitors pass through the turnstiles, where do they go? This is an important question that needs answering, added Breihan.
Dance referred to "physical social engineering" where someone has entered the building pretending to be a contractor. Occupancy management technology empowers FMs to know where people are inside the building so that if the contractor is meant to be servicing the coffee machine, they're not near the server room, for example.
Security and emergency management are not usually the primary drivers for using occupancy management tools but they are added benefits, said Dance.
Space optimisation is the obvious driver. Breihan told of HID Global's partner Microsoft, which has used the technology to reduce its Stockholm workplace from 8,000 to 3,000 square metres.
"That's a massive, massive shift in real estate and, of that office, only a quarter of it will be secure. So they are moving the rest of that space for open collaborative environments," he added.
The technology is impressive but Beth Goodyear, founder of FMHS Consulting, said: "As an industry, we need a bit of a mindset change. Those who get it are on board, but we've got lots of peers out there who aren't interested and don't yet have to be A lot of people are burying their heads in the sand.
"Younger generations are more readily able to adopt technology; they want technology, some of the old farts in FM really are resistant to it."
Goodyear said ID cards, for instance, are usually limited to managing building access but employees and building users could use these cards to print documents or pay for food on site.
In the training courses Goodyear delivers, she said many delegates want to know how to stay up to date with tech innovation but most tend to "wait for information to come to them". They might read industry publications and social media posts but seldom actively seek specific information. This is worrying. "We're in the fastest period of change I have seen in my 20-plus years in FM; they need to start being more prepared for change."
Integral to rolling out this technology is that everyone understands why it is being employed, what it can improve and whether the benefits and costs are worth it.
"We need to make sure that whatever we're looking for fits our company, what we do, how we work, what our culture is, and then communicate Tech should improve any current frustrations, it should help productivity and efficiency," Goodyear said.
Facilitate will be publishing a two-page report on emerging themes and key takeaways from the webinar in our January 2020 edition.