By Gina Daniel-Lee
The Internet of Things (IoT) holds a world of promise for facilities management. As sensors become integrated with communication networks, formerly passive objects become “smart.” Instead of merely transmitting information, devices can now receive commands, get data from outside systems (like weather reports), learn user preferences, send alerts about environmental conditions, and call for maintenance.
But as with many technological advances, the devil is in the details. In this case, those details are proper deployment and support of IoT devices and the networks they rely on.
Here are the key factors to consider as you begin transitioning your facilities to smart networks intended to help you lower costs and better plan future upgrades.
- Understand the resources required. More often than not, technology project planning focuses on choosing the devices and the applications that will run them, with not nearly enough consideration given to resource allocation. Your IoT deployment will require a detailed schedule of purchasing, preparation, deployment, training, and support. Will you as a facilities manager be responsible for creating this plan alongside your other responsibilities? Will you then be in charge of implementing the plan? How many full-time workers will you have at your disposal? Keep in mind that relying on workers who already have other responsibilities will lengthen your deployment time. If completing the project within a certain timeframe is part of your mandate, consider adding third-party resources, which can reduce time to deployment by as much as half.
- Create a detailed project plan. It is not enough to identify the business process you want to solve and choose the solution you want to integrate into your business environment. There needs to be a detailed plan in order to launch a successful project. You’re familiar with this type of project planning, but an effective IoT plan depends on fully understanding the technology involved and how long devices and networks of this complexity take to install.
- Oversee proper physical deployment. IoT devices will be new to many of your workers, and improper installation will result in devices that don’t work as intended and networks that fail to properly communicate. Make sure your workers receive proper training and obtain all necessary certifications before they begin work, or consider a third-party resource. Pay special attention to the security requirements on IoT devices and networks, which differ considerably from legacy systems.
- Don’t forget about BYOD. Workers are happier and more productive when they can use their own devices to do their jobs. Be prepared to receive requests to control major and minor building systems from a variety of devices on more than one platform.
- Prepare a robust training program. One of the benefits of IoT can also be a hindrance: a flood of data about your building systems. In addition to basic training on the devices and networks, you’ll need building managers to receive in-depth education on how these systems work and how to interpret the data they generate.
- Implement proper support. Ideally, you’ll want a centralized support team to handle all troubleshooting and maintenance for these sophisticated systems. Keep in mind that support will be needed for not only networks and devices, but all reporting systems.
If your company doesn’t contain the internal means to install and maintain your new IoT technology solution, there are resources available that can help achieve the full benefit of your solution. Look for a deployment partner with the ability to perform a wide variety of technology system installations, including maintenance options to reduce downtime, a facility equipped to manage large inventory, and flexible scheduling solutions, such as working during the hours that will have a minimal impact on business operations. Proper planning and resources can help your IoT deployment to result in a cohesive system that allows decision makers to gather data from multiple systems, quickly analyze it, and use the results to make significant system-wide improvements.
Gina Daniel-Lee has had a successful career in the technology industry for over 20 years. She worked closely with Velociti through her previous role at Stratix and in 2014, she joined Velociti as Vice President of Strategic Alliances, where she is responsible for a diversification strategy through the building and maintaining of key partnerships across the organization, as well as identifying and driving the alignment of Velociti key industry partners.