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A Steady Eye on AI



Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and facilities managers must consider how it fits within their departments.


By Scott Mason


While it has been present in our everyday lives for a long time, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken center stage over the past year. There have been differing reactions to the new digital future, ranging from elation to skittishness. This is to be expected whenever a disruptor of this magnitude infiltrates the business world. However, with the proper nuance and education, multi-site facilities managers can understand how valuable AI technology can be for their everyday operations.

Todd Brinegar, BrainBox AI
Todd Brinegar, BrainBox AI

At the ConnexFM2024 National Conference, a panel discussion on the education schedule will hopefully ease some weary minds about AI. Moderated by Todd Brinegar, Senior Vice President of Sales at BrainBox AI, this panel session promises to equip attendees with practical knowledge, actionable strategies and inspiring success stories to propel your organization toward greater operational excellence and improved bottom-line performance.


AI Evolution


When implementing and utilizing AI technology, Brinegar noted that the multi-site FM industry has already forayed into the AI sphere via machine learning. “Machine learning uses legacy data sets to try and understand or predict outcomes,” he said. “We migrated from machine learning to large language models (LLM), which is essentially AI.” By doing this, you’re removing the guesswork that was once central to any machine-learning operation.


Brinegar said that collecting and sharing data drives the effectiveness of any AI tool. But to do so, a commonality of data is necessary to ensure the AI can accurately read and interpret it.


According to Siemens, Project Haystack is “an open-source initiative, which seeks to standardize the way semantic tagging and data-modeling is used in smart buildings, for various applications, including HVAC, power management, lighting, shading, metering, fire detection” and more. “It sounds really simple, but it’s to have a commonality of nomenclature for every piece of equipment you are gathering data from,” Brinegar said.


“The data we’re gathering is now attributable to an activity, and then it’s training an artificial neural network to do predictive analytics,” he continued. “When is the piece of equipment going to fail? How is it running? What type of maintenance does it need? This information lets a facilities manager accurately plan when to start investing and when to start budgeting for new assets.”

 

Calculated Decision-making


The real power of AI tools in the facilities industry is the opportunity to take the precise data collected and apply it to real-world decisions. Brinegar said that the introduction of LLM can positively impact all areas of FM.


“It doesn’t matter if you’re in HVAC, if you’re in [point of sales] or if you’re in CMMS — when AI is properly implemented, it makes autonomous decisions to allow you to be far more efficient, effective and optimized in your business process,” he noted.


Perhaps most importantly, it happens far faster than any team of humans can do it. “An AI solution can run through literally millions of permutations to decide the best course of action for that next period,” Brinegar said. This means that AI can potentially analyze the data and make the best possible decision before a human even notices something is amiss.


This is the moment where many people’s fear kicks in. Are facilities managers’ jobs safe with the introduction of AI, or will they be replaced by the algorithms and modules they themselves implemented? According to Brinegar, FMs need not worry, as this is actually a boon to facilities department operations when considering the workforce shortage throughout the industry.


“I don’t know of any facilities manager who has had an increase in staff,” Brinegar said. “The advancement of AI in this marketplace makes you far more effective at your role because you’re acting on valid information. You’re not paying people to sit behind a monitor to shadow this. You’re not paying a supplier to have their 15 people watch over exception management and hot/cold calls. You can manage at the business level with verifiable data with anticipated outcomes.”

 

An Educational Experience


Attendees of this AI panel discussion will leave the event with a more educated view of what AI can bring to the facilities world, along with the human perspectives and experiences of experts already familiar with the technology.


“The panel’s participants have a wide range of experience with AI, and our technology pros work on a global level,” Brinegar said. “Each one is either on the forefront of AI, has implemented AI or is implementing AI in their businesses.”


Brinegar will be asking the panel various questions about their own AI journeys: Why are you implementing AI? What are you afraid of? What were you afraid of?


“AI is relatively new in this space. ‘Weren’t you afraid?’ Sure, but what made you make the switch from a traditional solution to an AI-driven solution?” Brinegar said.


This investigative look at AI will allow multi-site FMs to see the benefits of this transformative and innovative technology and receive real-life advice on how to make an AI program work for them.


Check out the AI panel moderated by Todd Brinegar at the ConnexFM2024 National Conference.

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