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FM 2.0: Exploring the growing role of AI

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Once merely a concept, artificial intelligence (AI) technology is now seamlessly integrated into various aspects of our lives, from how we work at the office to how we shop for our groceries.

In facilities management (FM), AI is a highly beneficial tool that can save organizations money, reduce energy usage, improve productivity, and deliver better outcomes for occupants.

The term AI covers an expansive breadth of technology, which can sometimes cause confusion as to how it can be applied in FM and what it can actually do. Here, we explore just some of the use cases for AI and how FM leaders can integrate it into their buildings.

1. Energy monitoring
AI tools are able to analyze a building’s performance model, taking variables, like weather and occupancy, into account to provide more accurate energy consumption estimates for FMs to work with.

Tech giant Google uses AI to monitor energy consumption in one of its data centers and has reported savings of 40% on powering its cooling system. While the AI system functions independently, it still requires human management and insights on how to best act upon the data, helping to prove that AI is far from a human replacement in FM.

2. Predictive maintenance
For many years, FM has been shifting to become more predictive than reactionary when it comes to maintenance and repairs. Of course, AI is not required for FMs to conduct predictive maintenance; all that’s needed is a timeline and alert system when something requires proactive attention.

However, following a set schedule of planned maintenance can prove costly. AI can provide an extra layer of efficiency by using real-time data to determine precisely when to conduct necessary work instead of performing regular maintenance, which could be unnecessary. According to Gartner, investments in predictive maintenance are forecast to grow nearly 4x by 2022 to $12.9 billion.

3. Space planning
Prior to the pandemic, offices were increasingly moving to more open-plan designs and flexible work arrangements. It meant that buildings needed to be designed in such a way that there was enough space for people during peak times while ensuring there wasn’t too much costly dead space.

Now, building owners are adapting to a different issue. Covid-19 shone the spotlight on social distancing, germ transfer, and airflow. Conversely, a number of businesses are opting for hybrid work solutions for staff, so occupancy levels are likely to ebb and flow more dramatically from here on out.

Using space sensors, AI technology can predict demand at different times of the day, which can help if companies are planning to open a new office or just want to better manage their existing space. By pulling in the data collected from the sensors, AI can deliver estimates of occupancy, highlight high traffic areas, and other important data that can help FMs plan and resolve potential issues.

4. Predict cleaning needs
The pandemic also emphasized the importance of cleaning within commercial buildings. Pre-covid, many businesses opted to conduct cleaning out of hours. However, to prevent the spread of viruses, it’s clear that cleaning must be an ongoing task while a building is occupied.

A cleaning rota can be beneficial, but AI can help to make sure that spaces are cleaned exactly when they need it, based on actual use. Using the same occupancy trackers mentioned previously, AI analyzes the data and produces reports that predict cleaning demands and can even generate schedules for service providers.

5. Connect departments
The growing digitization of facilities requires closer alignment with IT and HR teams to optimize the technology in place and maximize the data that it produces. Both departments stand to gain more information, insights, and capabilities from FM than ever before, largely thanks to the implementation of AI.

AI can help to make system integrations between teams easier, streamline communication and improve collaboration. By breaking down barriers that have previously seen these departments work in isolation, AI can help to bring them together into one powerful team that can influence future decision-making within a business.

A bright future for FM

The application of AI in FM is set to continue growing as organizations seek to gain greater insights, operate more efficiently, and make cost savings across multiple business areas. Today’s FM leaders must equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to manage such systems so that they continue to thrive as the valuable assets they have always been within any company.

Operating throughout the USA, PRS USA is actively recruiting FM professionals to help our clients complete a series of high-profile building projects. For more information about how we can help secure a position or find the right professional, contact Sammi Fairbrother on 281 800 9837 or email [email protected].

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