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Building a smart society: The future of facilities management is automated

According to the World Bank, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. To cope with these increasing populations, tightening budgets, rapid urbanisation and climate change, civic managers and facility managers around the globe are looking at better ways of doing more with less through automation technologies. The creation of these “smart societies” has the potential to drive efficiencies and improve services. 

Compact, well-planned and connected cities and facilities can:

– Increase productivity

– Boost competitiveness

– Maximise efficiency 

– Improve wellbeing 

– Protect the natural environment

And in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, technology has a crucial role to play in preventing the spread of the virus, enforcing social distancing and enabling remote activity. 

In this article, we take a look at some of the many solutions that are transforming smart societies. 

Smart facilities management 

Smart buildings are fundamentally changing people’s expectations of what a building can deliver. In today’s world, a building is more than purely bricks and mortar; it’s an opportunity to install robust connectivity and added tech-enabled solutions to support its occupants’ efficiency, productivity and wellbeing. 

Here are some of the many applications of smart technology in different types of facilities. 

In schools 

As children go back to school as part of the UK’s phased response to the COVID-19 outbreak, attention is turning to solutions that will allow schools to reopen safely. Fever scanning technology allows for quick crowd scanning that identifies individuals presenting a high fever, one of the symptoms of COVID-19. This is preferable to handheld temperature scanning, which is resource-intensive, requires closer contact and can be less accurate. 

Fever screening cameras provide a safe and fast way to detect those with a temperature in a building or entering a building. Mounted self-scanning cameras can also offer access control and mask detection. So, for example, if a student has a high fever or is not wearing a mask, they won’t be allowed on the premises. 

In hospitals 

Legionella are disease-carrying bacteria which infect humans through the inhalation of water droplets. In the hospital environment, people can come into contact with the bacteria from showers, basins, humidifiers, respiratory equipment, birthing pools, and other water sources, especially those which may remain dormant from time to time. Legionella infection can cause Legionnaires’ Disease, which has pneumonia-like symptoms and can be fatal, especially to the elderly, newborns or immuno-compromised people—the people one tends to find in a hospital. 

It is a hospital’s legal requirement to implement risk control measures to prevent Legionella infection, especially due to the high instance of infections in the hospital environment and the vulnerability of people in this setting. Non-compliance can result in illness, death, hefty fines, possible prison terms, and reputational damage.

Because Legionella bacteria proliferate at between 20 – 45 degrees Celsius, regular water temperature testing at all water outlets is a way of monitoring Legionella risks. For a hospital, this is a resource- and time-intensive process. In addition, records of regular flushing and temperature testing need to be kept for five years. 

A smart solution is the use of automated Legionella temperature monitoring and flushing technology. By automating the flushing, temperature testing and record-keeping, hospitals are better equipped to protect patients, enhance operations, and establish high compliance standards for healthcare – while saving time and money. 

In commercial offices 

As we deal with fears and concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace, with a recent study revealing 65% of Brits are anxious about a return, the ability to manage social distancing and environmental settings using smart technology is reassuring to the workforce. Some of the potential applications of Internet of Things (IoT) networks in commercial office space include technologies that:

– Tell when a conference room is ready

– Adjust zone temperature based on data input from a smartphone

– Show which elevator or parking space to use

– Provide occupancy details for various areas of the building 

– Monitor air quality 

The benefits are not only greater efficiency, but also employee reassurance and retention, engagement, and satisfaction, which can be improved by more customisation and personalised decision making in the workplace at the fingertips of its occupants. 

In manufacturing 

In energy-intensive activities such as manufacturing, smart facilities management systems have the potential to increase energy savings. Control strategies that reduce energy costs include:

– Automation of the HVAC systems

– Temperature resets

– Pressure resets

– Time schedules

– Lighting control

– Preventative maintenance 

In addition, by constantly collecting energy consumption data, smart analytics systems provide decision-makers with actionable insights to achieve further energy efficiency.

A smart society with unlimited applications 

These examples are just a few of the many use cases for smart facilities management. Nevertheless, it’s clear that by using internet- and transmission-based protocols, smart building systems facilitate the analysis of aggregated data, enable automation and optimise operational decision-making. In addition, smart buildings also have the potential to increase the building’s value and marketability. 

Ultimately, the systems and processes in place in any building or facility have been put under a microscope in recent months. This, paired with an increasing number of users and occupants will only create greater pressure for facility managers to keep up with their growing demand, expectations and concerns. Therefore, leveraging technology will not only make their job easier, but also ensure a safer and more secure society. 

Matthew Margetts is Director of Sales and Marketing at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia.

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