Automation and the IoT for Facility Management
By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most transformative driver of modern workplaces. An ever-growing network of connected devices—sensors, beacons, and automation technologies— is bringing traditional facilities management into the IoT era.
The workplace IoT is opening doors to integrated data collection, analysis, and action once thought impossible with siloed information. Workplaces are smarter, more aligned with employee needs, and increasingly cost-efficient.
But IoT devices aren’t panaceas for facility challenges. They need proper configuration and deployment, as well as an ecosystem designed to support them.
Automation is the starting point for facility managers intent on bringing the IoT into their workplaces. This goes beyond a simple understanding. Facilities managers must know how automation generates data and analytics, which are then used to make data-driven workplace improvements.
Master the ITTT mindset
Automation operates on principles of logic—specifically triggers. One of the simplest, and the cornerstone for any basic automation process, is cause and effect, or “if this, then that (ITTT).” The premise centers on triggers and reactions. If X happens, then Y is triggered. It grows more complex and difficult with scale.
Look at IoT facilities management from an ITTT perspective and automation opportunities become apparent. Through another lens, you’re looking for ways to pair action with reaction, problem with solution.
Pinpoint automation opportunities
Smart facility management is all about problem-solving. If you have a problem and know the solution, the automation equation is in place.
Occupancy sensors help solve room overbooking issues when used in concert with booking software. An employee uses Slack to check on room availability. Room sensors relay information to Slack as an ITTT action. If there’s movement, the system returns an “occupied” message; if there’s no presence detected, it shows “unoccupied.”
This simple example provides an automation baseline within an IoT-enabled workplace. The more sensors relaying information, the more opportunities for automation.
Create the framework
Automation framework and the scope of your office IoT are directly proportional. The key to creating a robust automation framework is building out an IoT ecosystem that supports your unique needs.
- Where do problems exist and what devices can solve them?
- What IoT ecosystem do you need?
- Can IoT devices efficiently communicate with each other?
Cooperation between devices and software is key in developing automation.
Test, then deploy automation
Automation takes work, even with a recognized need and the right IoT devices. You’ll likely go through several iterations of an ITTT formula before getting it right. And, as mentioned, the more complex your automations, the more steps and triggers needed for correct programming. Testing before large-scale deployment is imperative.
Consider the room occupancy sensor automation from above. Automation isn’t always cut and dry. How sensitive should motion detectors be calibrated to detect occupancy? How sensitive is too sensitive? What’s needed to prevent false positives? Should there be a sensor point to determine how long the room has been in use?
Testing and fully developing automation means understanding IoT devices’ capabilities, restrictions, parameters, features, and basic functions. Rollout can happen once automations are in place.
Understand automation’s benefit to facilities
IoT facility management solutions offer real benefits. Facilities managers save time and reduce the burden of simple, everyday administrative tasks. Workplaces become more cost efficient to occupy and run. Data is more easily available and robust. All these factors drive workplace innovation.
The modern workplace IoT revolution has just begun. Now’s the time to get your facilities up to speed and on-trend. Automation will improve each step, along with your capacity to make the most of the IoT.
Keep reading: the top five facility management trends.
Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash