How the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin still resonates within Facilities Management today

Have you heard of the old German legend of Pied Piper (Rattenfänger von Hameln)? It was first told in the middle ages. This is the story of a piper who owns a magic pipe, and who lures rats away from the towns he visits, ultimately drowning them in nearby rivers. One day when visiting  the town of Hamelin, the villagers refuse to pay him for his services. He then decides to use his magic flute on their children instead…

Article - The ambiance of ambience: How AI changes occupant experience
Article - The ambiance of ambience: How AI changes occupant experience

The interaction of humans with technology has changed. What seems to be emerging more and more is the ‘smart environment’, in which a place, such an office, can hear us and see us, and take actions without our explicit intervention.


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Pay for services received

I believe this story still resonates today. It is part of today’s reality within the field of facilities management. The villagers of ‘our towns’ sometimes hesitate to ‘pay for services’ or deliberately ask us to provide the same services for less money. We have become so accustomed to this behaviour that we have invented a word for it. It is called ‘efficiency’.

It must be a daunting task to be having to achieve more ‘efficiency’ year after year when the possibilities of becoming more efficient are limited to either ‘working harder’ (and thus often longer) or ‘skipping things’ (sorry, we will have to postpone maintenance or we will have to drop some services).

Magic Pipe

At the Facilities Show in London last year I had an experience in the true sense of the magic piper. I was doing a number of presentations and after one of them I decided to leave the theatre for a bit and have a walk around the exhibition.

I encountered a small stand labelled ‘pest control’. Being Dutch, I quickly learned that ‘pest control’ is not about the disease, but about rats and other animals we do not want to have walking around  our buildings. Pest control is indeed a concern in facilities management.

At this stand, rat traps were being sold. The great thing about these rat traps was that they would lure the rats in, shut the door and electrocute them right away. Ok, I may have made you feel a bit awkward by telling this story so far, but let’s be honest: rats are unwelcome guests and sometimes this issue needs to be addressed.
Now comes the good part: after a rat is ‘caught’, the trap immediately communicates this to the network. The information is displayed on a central monitor (web page). Rats become smelly when just lying around dead. When multiple traps are placed in a large building, it becomes a time consuming endeavour to check them on a daily basis. The cure should not be worse than the plague. With this new type of trap, daily checking is no longer needed, saving time (money), effort and boredom.

If you have read my previous blog, you will understand that I am not inclined to call this a ‘smart’ solution, although I am sure the manufacturer will. It is nevertheless appealing, isn’t it? I would say the ‘connected rat trap’ is a good idea and that it provides for a nifty solution. Again, demonstrating how connected devices provide real and tangible value.

Mmm. Perhaps that is a great alternative to name solutions that are appealing but not ‘smart’: nifty.

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