How the Internet of Things will change the world of FM

It is expected that in 2020, computers will be about 200 times faster than today, and will have memories 1,000 times as large. Computers and robots will take on increasingly complex assignments, and the Internet will be a breeding ground for completely new, virtual industries. Welcome to The Internet of Things (IoT), reported by Gartner to have an installed base that will grow to 26 billion units by 2020. Defined as the foundation of a networked physical world connected with digital communication technologies creating ambient intelligence; improved data collection, storage, mining and analysis - the Internet of Things will certainly be not just the driving force of change and possibilities for the FM and services industry, but for the rest of the world.

Consequences for the FM and services industry

The force-multiplying effects of convergent technology (i.e. nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials technology, information and communications technology); acceleration of technological development; growing information exchange between developed and developing countries; as well as developing countries participating in technology development will shape the landscape of technological development towards 2020. The subsequent consequences to the FM and services industry, is that it will benefit from increasing labour costs as well as collaborative networking systems.

Improving quality and lower costs of robot technology: Towards 2020 we expect to see major progress in intelligent technology, such as Near Field Communication (NFC) sensors, smart surveillance, security applications and smart robots, which will enable automation of more activities. Technology will take over more domains and functions as robot technology improves in quality and stability and prices for advanced technologies decline and labour costs increase.

Global ICT will create new communication opportunities: Future communications technologies including “social” and “collaborative” networking platforms will increasingly bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. This will create a mixed and augmented reality that offers new communication opportunities for consumers, governments, businesses and employees.

Building maintenance and operation will change: Breakthroughs in technology will change the way buildings are operated and maintained. These new technologies will create skills gaps that FM and services industry companies will have to address to maintain the optimal level of business performance.

New risks call for new standards: New technologies will lead to new risks from chemicals, nano-particulates, and require new cleaning techniques, filtration, and FM standards and requirements. Understanding the potential health and environmental impacts of an organisation will have greater importance as we have for the most part grown used to assessing materials risks by considering their chemistry alone.

Increasingly blurred lines between technologies: The convergence of technologies will have many effects. It will lead to increasing blurring of lines between technologies. Nanotech will lead to highly specialised filtration usage for clean rooms in high-tech manufacture and medicine and for producing clean water, including nano-filtration for desalination.

Manager will develop better understanding of buildings: The development of the Internet of Things and ambient intelligence will allow managers to develop a much better understanding of how people are using buildings, leading to new maintenance approaches, better designs, and more productive spaces.

Develop new concerns for ethics and security: This development will also lead to a number of ethical and security challenges, for which FM and services industry managers should develop contingency plans. For example, which data are you permitted to store, and for how long? Who owns the data collected from individuals moving through the building? Who is responsible for securing and protecting these data?

Cost of labour will increase and create mismatch of labour needs: According to Keith Futcher, CEO ISS Facility Services Asia, the cost of labour is increasing in all markets, including those in labour-abundant maturing markets. Other labour challenges, including the mismatch between needs and qualifications, will also drive technological development in the global FM and services industry. These challenges will lead to a number of labour-reducing breakthroughs in remote monitoring through RFID technologies and the Internet of Things, self-cleaning materials, and mobile labour management, among other solutions.

Less low-quality labour and more demand for new skill sets: Technological development is squeezing low-quality labour out of the market and creating new demands for skill sets. Cleaning, for example, is no longer an issue of “elbow grease”. Security is much more than a pair of eyeballs. New technologies require that people work in more intelligent ways and new materials require precise knowledge. For example: cleaning practices that balance the correct application of chemicals in the right proportions on the allowable surfaces using the proper application methods.

New skills sets need ongoing training: New defensive mechanisms need ongoing training and employees have to be more technically savvy. According to Keith Futcher, “organizations are flattening to such a degree that even the lowest levels of the company are now making decisions that were once the sole purview of managers and senior executives.” The Internet of Things will breathe life into many new operations and bring forth opportunities that extend beyond our wildest productivity dreams. According to Dr. Dean Kashiwagi, technological development will help transition the FM industry from its technical paradigm towards new strategic approaches.

Are you ready for the changes that come with the Internet of Things? How connected is it now and what are your plans for adding technological innovations to the business? Share your comments below.

This blog post is based on the ISS 2020 Vision whitebook.