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Technology has the power to change the way we approach building management and design. Did you know that virtual reality headsets allow users to view a building’s layout before construction even begins? Biometric technology can boost building security and authenticate a person’s identity with the scan of a finger, palm or face. Drones can be flown over buildings to not only collect aerial images, but also gather thermal imaging and automate rooftop inspections. And the best part is that we’ve only just scratched the surface of today’s building technology options.
Technology, when used correctly, can save building and construction managers significant time, money and resources. If you’re looking to read more about the latest in facility management technology, you’ve come to the right place. Here are seven top tech trends to look out for this year.
7 Facility Management Tech Trends You Should Read About
1. Biometric Technology
Facial recognition, voice activation and eye sensors used to be for science fiction, but biology-based security systems are no longer just for the movies. They’re now the reality of maintaining cutting-edge security in many of today’s buildings. Between employees, occupants and visitors, building managers may find it difficult to confirm who is authorized to enter a facility and who is not. Biometric technology can help mitigate these concerns by verifying a person’s identity based on his or her unique characteristics (such as his or her fingerprints, handprints or facial structure).
Are biometrics are more reliable than traditional security measures? In most cases, yes. Biometrics are difficult to duplicate and nearly impossible to share with outsiders. When paired with a “smart” identification card, biometrics can significantly boost security in your facility. It is for these reasons that biometrics continue to gain acceptance as an accurate way to confirm a person’s identity. Looking to learn more about the benefits of biometrics? Here are examples of biometric technology, how they’re used in facilities and how they can improve security measures.
2. Wearable Technology
Hands-free, wearable technology has officially entered the facilities market and is making a big impact on safety and security in buildings. Like biometric technology, which can be used to boost your security measures, authenticate identity and grant access to restricted areas, wearable technology also has the potential for data gathering and analysis within the built environment. Wearable devices currently include a wide variety of options, including cutting-edge smartwatches, headsets and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) wristbands.
Wearable Technology Fun Fact: Wearable technology can eliminate many barriers that come with the use of biometrics. For example, facilities personnel may wear personal protection equipment (PPE) like gloves, eye protection and full-body suits while in the field. Wearable technology eliminates the need to remove this equipment to present a hand, eye or face for scanning. Instead, wearables grant access to restricted areas with a simple scan of a sensor or signal. RFID technology can also be paired with a smartphone to automatically relay desired information to sensors tied to building automation systems.
3. Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building information modeling (BIM) is changing the way today’s buildings are planned, designed and built. BIM involves creating a three-dimensional, interactive model of a building and placing easily-editable “smart objects” upon it to represent HVAC components, electrical systems, lighting, mechanical assets and other types of machinery. In essence, BIM creates virtual libraries of useful equipment data and information, including product specifications, electrical connections, clearance requirements and more.
What’s so cool about BIM? Perhaps the greatest benefit of BIM is the ability to gather sophisticated data about how a building will function before it’s even built. Integrated with existing work order programs or facility management software, BIM can help facilities teams learn more about their buildings, retrieve O&M manuals, understand floor plans and gather asset information and building data. If you’re interested in exploring BIM programs, AutoDesk® Revit® Software is a trusted program within the industry.
Pop Quiz on BIM: Do you know the difference between BIM and CAD? Click here to find out!
In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has become incredibly popular, even making appearances in movies and video games. It’s no wonder why many people love the futuristic feel of VR. When immersed in virtual reality, people get the opportunity to have fun and explore their imaginations. But what’s cooler is that virtual reality isn’t just for the entertainment industry; it can also be used in facility management and design. VR uses computer technology to create realistic, three-dimensional images of the built environment. Users can interact with these simulated environments as if they were real by using headsets, smartphones or desktop software. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR fully immerses users in an interactive experience.
True or False? “Virtual reality is the same as augmented reality.”
The answer is false. Augmented reality differs from VR in that it superimposes a computer-generated image on top of a real-world environment. Facility managers can use AR to view a space and overlay virtual information on top of it using a smartphone, laptop, tablet or other mobile device with a camera. The main difference between VR and AR? VR providesan entirely virtual environment, whereas AR offers an enhanced physical one. Click here to read three ways facility managers can utilize VR to improve safety in their buildings.
5. Autonomous Systems and Smart Sensors
The Internet of Things (IoT), smart buildings, building management systems and other building automation technology are all starting to connect and communicate with each other as part of the fourth industrial revolution. Today’s smart buildings are utilizing autonomous systems and smart sensors to increase efficiency, save energy and collect data on space usage.
What in the world are IoT sensors? There are two major types of IoT sensors in facility management. The first is temperature and humidity control sensors. These devices track environmental changes to keep occupants comfortable without giving them total control of a room’s thermostat. The second type of sensor is machine listening and vibration detection sensors. These sensors are placed on larger mechanical assets and alert facility managers of equipment failures or performance changes. As a bonus, these sensors can record data for later review. Here’s more information on how autonomous systems and smart sensors are used to benefit facility managers.
Looking to expedite the building modeling process? If so, look no further. Light Detection and Ranging (“LIDAR”) technology is here to make your job quicker and easier. Through a specialized remote sensing method, LIDAR equipment uses photons (i.e. light particles) to measure distances within and around buildings. Photons are scattered within a space and bounce back to the instrument’s receiver. The final result are high-resolution models of a building’s surfaces, terrain and elevation, collected at record speeds.
Let’s Get Nerdy: One of the most obvious benefits of LIDAR is the ability to collect precise, 3D information about the built environment and its surface characteristics. But LIDAR can also be used for a variety of other facilities-related tasks including land surveying, aerial mapping, facility compliance mapping and subsurface utility engineering (SUE). Space surveys can be performed by a single person with little-to-no setup, in as much time as it takes to walk through a building.
7. Drones and Aerial Imaging
Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no longer just a tool for military reconnaissance, nor a for-fun flying toy used for aerial imaging. In fact, drones are quickly becoming the number one tool that facility managers are using to transform the way they view their buildings, assets and grounds. These increasingly popular flying machines come in a variety of sizes, capabilities and price tags and have become more readily available for commercial use than ever before.
Drones are a building manager’s best friend for two reasons. First, drones can automate data collection via 2D mapping, 3D mapping, area measurements, thermal imaging and even volumetrics in construction scenarios. Aerial imagery can be useful for recording how heavy equipment, temporary structures and assets are stored and maintained on-site for insurance regulation requirements.
Second, drones can be used to expedite inspections of rooftops and grounds. These inspections can be risky, as they traditionally require a technician to physically walk an area to gather data. Drones eliminate the need to climb hazardous sections of roofing. The final result is detailed square footage measurements of roof sections, fields or pavement, which can be used to assist in facility capital planning. Click here to learn how drones are used on construction sites to streamline data collection, provide education and help crews meet certain benchmarks.
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The Future of Facility Management Technology Is Now
As technology continues to improve, it’s important to start integrating technology into your current workplace to lay the foundation for a successful future. Small changes can lead to big results, and you’ll feel prepared for whatever high-tech solutions emerge. In the meantime, checkout Technology Trends in Facility Management, a 2019 report that includes insight and data on how facility management teams are already using new technologies such as drones, 360° cameras, and IoT sensors in their facilities and grounds.