Navigating challenges in deploying sensor technology for real estate and facilities management

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to have a remarkable impact on real estate and facilities management. But alongside expectations of the benefits it can bring, the practical realities of deploying sensor technology are not always fully considered.

In this blog you will find an overview of the challenges to overcome first - both technical and human - before organisations can fully unlock the advantages of IoT sensors, whether they are trying to improve productivity, sustainability, efficiency, or any other metric.

The most common IoT challenges explained

Some challenges are very visible, others will be less known. It depends on which phase of investigation or implementation you are in. Which do you recognise and which do you not?

1. Overwhelming choice

The first challenge to address is deciding exactly what you are trying to achieve. Today, there is a vast array of different types of IoT sensors available and this choice can, understandably, be overwhelming for firms. As such, clarity is key. Identify your goal and then seek the best IoT sensor that will help you to meet it.

2. Connectivity

Another challenge revolves around how your IoT sensors fit the broader connectivity of your smart building. Will you decide on wired or wireless sensors? If the latter, have you thought about their range and power requirements? How are they going to be installed?

3. Scalability

Scalability may also create a hurdle. This includes not only sensor hardware, but also IoT infrastructure. How much data will be created by an IoT deployment at scale, and do you have the resources to manage it?

4. Interoperability

For a building to truly be “smart,” multiple types of sensors will be needed. In fact, McKinsey & Company states that 40% of the potential benefits of IoT are dependent on the interoperability between different systems. To work effectively, IoT sensors should seamlessly integrate with your other solutions.

5. Cybersecurity

Reports of cyberattacks on IoT sensors are common and almost half of all businesses admit to being unable to detect IoT security breaches on their networks. IoT sensors may introduce additional vulnerabilities into a network, particularly if they suffer from weak authentication, a lack of encryption or inconsistent security standards.

6. Privacy

While technical safeguards will be needed to address security issues, organisations must also address privacy concerns. IoT sensors can collect a huge amount of data. Individuals may not be entirely comfortable, initially at least, with sensors recording information about them.

Although much of the discussion around IoT technologies is of a technical nature, it shouldn’t be forgotten that installing sensors is not an end goal in itself - it is about adding value for building users.

Adopt a human approach

Prioritise transparency when talking to your employees about your sensor deployments and reassure them that any uncertainty about IoT’s necessity or privacy fears can be laid to rest. Explain what data is being collected, why, and how it can be used to improve the workplace experience.

In addition, make sure you work closely with your IT team and your existing facility managers when exploring IoT sensor deployments. IT departments prefer to have as few applications as possible within their technology stack, so look for integrated solutions that can collect and harness data from multiple sources, whether it’s regarding air quality, space utilisation or energy consumption. Seek a solution that can consolidate your IoT data and employ robust access controls to keep it secure.

At the same time, inform your building users of the benefits that you expect to be unlocked through IoT regardless of how large your commercial real estate portfolio may be. Instead of the manual and (often) inaccurate process of collecting facilities data with a notepad and pen, IoT sensors provide a holistic picture of what’s going on. Accurate data is collected 24/7, across multiple time zones.

Choose the right vendor

One problem remains, however. While investigating IoT and sensor technology a variety of information will come your way. It can be hard to tell fact from fiction. How do you ensure you make the right choices? That’s where a trusted third-party vendor becomes essential, with products that combine IoT data from multiple sources before delivering actionable insights to improve employee engagement, efficiency, and sustainability. Look for an experienced vendor – like Planon - with an open IoT platform and a vendor who has the expertise and partner ecosystem to ensure you select the right kind of sensor.

While there may be challenges involved when deploying IoT sensors, the right vendor can help to solve them by applying its expertise and experience in the right areas. That’s exactly what Planon can do, working with all the relevant stakeholders so any concerns around interoperability, security, and scalability are resolved.

Are you considering implementing IoT solutions within your business strategy? Learn about the opportunities and challenges in our latest e-book. Discover how facility management and real estate teams can benefit from this technology.

Image of Planon's Senior Solution Marketeer Richard Bellairs.

About the author

Richard Bellairs | Senior Solution Marketeer

Richard Bellairs is a senior B2B product marketing specialist with 25+ years of diverse industry experience. He drives go-to-market activities, provides support to our global sales organisation, and fosters collaboration between our marketing and product teams.

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