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Managing facilities with IoT

04 July 2016

Rob Morris, UK Country Manager at Powervar, explains how the Internet of Things and big data can revolutionise facilities management.

Rob Morris, UK Country Manager at Powervar

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase that’s being heard more frequently. The past few years have seen smartphones replacing hotel keys, fridges ordering groceries when stocks run low, or factory operators being alerted to maintenance issues by the machinery itself. All of these sensors generate masses of data, contributing to the Big Data ecosystem. Businesses are starting to see the benefit of using the insights from Big Data, whether it’s through monitoring employee engagement or encouraging customer loyalty in shops and restaurants. 

Another way of using insights from IoT is in facilities management. By monitoring energy use, infrastructure issues and other buildings services, facilities managers (FMs) can identify inefficiencies and faults quickly, saving time and money. 

According to IBM, buildings will be the largest consumers of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases by 2025. Businesses and the government are becoming more aware of the need to make buildings more efficient. For example, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which rates the energy efficiency of a building, is compulsory for many commercial properties. 

Facilities managers currently face multiple challenges when trying to handle their building’s energy use. Their job is to find the best price for energy, ensure the company is adhering to local energy regulations and enforce a company-wide energy policy. They have to ensure energy efficiency without sacrificing cost efficiency. 

This is even more challenging in a shared building. Different tenants use different amounts of energy. An office that has automatic lighting that doesn’t use computers overnight will use much less energy than a call centre that has phones and computers running all night. This will skew the average consumption of the building, leading to an energy strategy with incorrect assumptions about energy usage. 

IoT can revolutionise facilities management by providing real time energy management information to help easily identify where energy is being used, and areas of inefficiency. Data can be collected over long periods of time to identify trends and make comparisons. However, this vast quantity of data can be difficult to understand and analyse. 

To help FMs better understand their energy usage, user-friendly energy management systems are becoming more common. They analyse the vast quantities of data and present it in a dashboard that’s easily understood by FMs.

Management in practice

Powervar has created a smart monitoring system to work with sensors and power management devices which can be placed around the building. Atlas FA is Powervar’s total facility management package. Combined with Latitude Facility Management Dashboard (FMD), real time data can be displayed and analysed. Having continual access to sensor data allows FMs to quickly identify issues or inefficiencies. 

A national convenience store chain in the USA put this into practice. The company was expanding rapidly but to stay profitable, it needed to keep operational costs down. It already had a Powervar power conditioning UPS system installed to reduce service calls but trialled Atlas FA to see if they could further reduce their costs. The result was an energy cost saving of more than 20 percent at these stores. 

IoT and Big Data don’t need to be just buzzwords anymore. Combined with an energy management system, they can be an opportunity for FMs to save money, monitor performance and make informed decisions about the energy use in their building. While it might sound daunting at first, there are user-friendly systems which can make it much easier to meet the growing number of challenges involved in being a facilities manager.  

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