November 2014

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How the IoT is Changing Facility Management

Our most reliable source of information around facilities is the occupants themselves.
Eric Graham

Eric Graham
Co-founder & CEO CrowdComfort

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Managing buildings today is getting increasingly complex. With space at a premium, increased utility costs, and higher occupant expectations, facility managers are under pressure to manage buildings more efficiently than ever before. With the rise in device connectivity and consumer-facing feedback applications like Waze, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, and Glass Door, occupants expect to be more involved in the way their buildings are run.  Now accustomed to instantaneous feedback, they want to know that their reports are being addressed in real-time.
Today, buildings are managed through a complicated network of automated sensors and highly complex software solutions, which leads to tickets submitted through a variety of channels (email, phone, web forms, etc..).  There is a general acceptance that building management needs to be a command and control system that routes input from sensors to facilities managers. Building technology companies claim they have the equipment and algorithms that will change the way buildings operate, improve comfort, and optimize building performance, all without any input from occupants.
Far From Ideal
Yet, we are far from an ideal solution. Facility managers still spend an inordinate amount of time managing information through paper, emails, phone calls, and overly complex software systems rather than fixing the problem and proactively addressing small issues before they become larger issues. 
From the occupants’ perspective, they have limited options to report obstacles they encounter in the workplace, whether this is a broken printer, slip hazard, or flickering light.  They can deal with it, call facilities, or report using an overly complex, web-based software. In all situations, the outcome of their efforts is uncertain and feedback is limited.
From the facility manager’s perspective, the situation is not much better.  They are overloaded with information from a variety of channels making it difficult to distinguish the real problem from the “noise”.  This further complicates the process of addressing complaints and aggregating data in one place. 
The Gaps in Our Current System
Control Solutions, Inc Current systems don’t take into account the human factor. Although we can leverage sensors to measure independent variables like lighting, airflow, and temperature, these don’t necessarily lead to better decisions concerning lights, HVAC, and set points.  It seems that if the ultimate goal of facility operations is to efficiently optimize building performance to accommodate the occupants, then those occupants should have an opportunity to provide their input with a simple and intuitive solution.

In fact, our most reliable source of information around facilities is the occupants themselves.  As devices like smartphones and tablets become more common in the workplace, there will be increased opportunities to leverage the collective intelligence of occupants to make buildings more efficient while providing a built-in feedback loop that keeps employees engaged.

In other words, the IoT will usher in an era where humans, not sensors, provide all the information facility managers need.

About the Author
Eric Graham is a clean energy entrepreneur who is committed to spreading energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. Eric has helped leading companies such as EnerNOC, Fraunhofer CSE, Next Step Living and Building 36/ bring their technologies to market. Currently, he co-founded and serves as Chief Executive Officer of CrowdComfort, a SaaS company that leverages crowd-sourced occupant feedback to improve building operations.


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