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Connect the Dots

Internet of Things technology allows FMs increased visibility into the health of their buildings.

By Jason Henninger

“I predict that not only humans, but machines and other things will interactively communicate via the Internet … The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the integration of people, processes and technology with connectable devices and sensors to enable remote monitoring, status, manipulation and evaluation of trends of such devices.”

So said Peter T. Lewis, the man who coined the term in 1985, before most of us had even heard the term “internet.” Fast-forward a few decades, and we see that Lewis’ prediction holds as a pretty solid definition of IoT, which today serves as a bridge of data and communication between devices to address people’s needs faster and more precisely than ever before.

IoT is the network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other items embedded with software and sensors, enabling these objects to connect and exchange data. One of the key benefits of IoT is its ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data in real time, allowing businesses to make informed decisions more quickly.

Steve Hamby, EcoEnergy Insights
Steve Hamby, EcoEnergy Insights

“IoT can mean many things to different people,” said Steve Hamby, Director of Business Development, National Accounts, at EcoEnergy Insights, a division of Carrier. “In the facilities management space, the easiest way to explain it is that employees no longer turn on lights. Employees no longer manage temperature. These things are all done autonomously through an intelligent platform that’s working in tandem with the building automation control systems in a facility.”

Many devices and systems in facilities management are already integrated via IoT solutions, from refrigeration, lights and heating to security cameras and garbage collection. And even as nearly ubiquitous as it is, the real impact of IoT has just begun.


Crawl, Walk, Run

Basant Singhatwadia, Facilio
Basant Singhatwadia, Facilio

Basant Singhatwadia, Director of Customer Success and Strategy at Facilio, a SaaS solutions provider for multi-site facilities management, has spent the last 20 years in energy management, remote monitoring, maintenance, sustainability and mobile workforce management for large retailers in the U.S. and the U.K. He described the implementation and usage of IoT as a “crawl, walk, run” scenario. Crawling is monitoring devices to avoid critical failures. Walking is the predictive aspect, monitoring usage and wear and tear in real time and extrapolating what maintenance and usage needs will be. Running, he said, is when sustainability — benefiting the environment and lowering spending — comes into play.

“The crawling phase — the monitoring side of things — has been implemented by all multi-site facilities to an extent,” Singhatwadia said. “Only a few have done the walking part, which is the predictive side of things. But the running part is where IoT will play a very crucial role, tying into sustainability.”

Singhatwadia gives an example of working with a large retailer in the U.K. First, IoT allowed the retailer to monitor and stay on top of equipment. The savings at this stage come from lowering repair costs by avoiding emergencies, monitoring energy usage and extending the lifespan of machinery. “[The retailer’s] energy bill was 300 million pounds (377 million USD) per year. Fifty percent of energy consumption in a supermarket is attributed to refrigeration, and we saved 3%. That translates to about 2 million pounds (2.5 million USD) just by fixing things,” he said.

That same retailer saved even more money when crawling and walking aspects of IoT provided detailed data about energy usage. The cost of electricity in the U.K. can vary dramatically depending on the hour. From 4 to 7 p.m. in winter, the cost of electricity can shoot up to five to 10 times the normal rates. Singhatwadia’s team used the data collected to determine ways to optimize automated shut-down times for refrigeration to avoid the most expensive hours without risking the safety of the food. “Those three hours of nonconsumption

of energy translates into 5 million pounds (6.2 million USD) in energy savings,” he said. This kind of application of IoT, especially when implemented across multiple systems, saves tremendous amounts of money and resources.


AI and IoT

Artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT go hand in hand. Though these terms may still sound like science fiction to some, their integration is already part of daily life. AI uses algorithms to collate data and make predictive decisions from that data. “If you have a smartphone, you’re already using AI and IoT,” Hamby said. “The little rewards card you have at every grocery store, that’s AI and IoT, specifically linking you to the products and services you’d like to buy. This helps the store make more productive decisions with inventory management and more.”

Hamby feels the multi-site facilities management industry has taken a while to warm up to the full use of this technology, but AI and IoT have profound ways of benefiting those businesses. For example, if a facility has five rooftop HVAC units, and one is not functioning correctly, “the algorithm can actually learn from itself to say, ‘Well, we need to make up this temperature in this space, we need to change something with the other four working units that the fifth isn’t doing.’ And all that can happen without relying on human interaction.”


Who Owns the Data?

IoT is a data-driven product and industry. First, there is the data needed to create the software and hardware. Then, the data needed to implement and run it. Lastly, there’s the data derived from its use. For example, if a multi-site facilities manager installs motion sensors, this data can be used to analyze times of peak foot traffic, either for the entire store or specific departments.

In a world where gathering and selling data is growing exponentially, the chain of ownership is an important concern. When it comes to IoT usage, who owns the data derived?

Basant Singhatwadia, Director of Customer Success and Strategy at Facilio, and Steve Hamby, Director of Business Development, National Accounts, at EcoEnergy Insights, are unambiguous: the data belongs to the customer.

“There have been IoT companies that keep the data to monetize it,” Singhatwadia said. “It’s unfair to the customer. The customer owns the device. And the monitoring company is just a conduit of the data.”

While sharing data between the technology provider and its user is necessary, the data should not be sold to any outside parties. “The raw data belongs to the end user,” Hamby said.


Learn more about new FM technology at the ConnexFM2024 National Conference!

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