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27 October 2016

How my own car shows that the IoT is fulfilling its promise

I’ve been driving a BMW i3 now since January 2015. Not only is this car electric, but thanks to its built-in sensors and its own web and app connection, it is also always connected. When I had my first car, a trip to the garage for a minor service was needed every 15,000 miles, with a major service after every 30,000. Was this necessary? Who knows, but that was what the owner’s handbook stipulated. Now, my current car with its 2,000 sensors measures so much data that it indicates when it needs a service. So the fixed service regime has totally disappeared; a perfect example of the Internet of Things (IoT) in practice.

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No more unnecessary services.

I see a parallel here to facility management, where the IoT has enormous promise. Sensors in buildings measure a building’s performance and can detect small faults far earlier than people could ever do. This technology promises a fantastic saving in maintenance, where performance is measured better than ever and building usage can carry on uninterrupted. What is partly still in the future for immovable property, is already reality today for movable items: no more fixed service intervals.

Deploying the IoT using sensors ensures that a building is always in good condition. With fixed service intervals, the end result is often not the optimum. Scheduled maintenance can lead to components being replaced too early, or even unnecessarily. My car’s scheduled 15,000 mile threshold was often reached in just three months in those old days; was it really necessary to go to the garage? Reactive maintenance is also not always wise; if the car’s oil light comes on suddenly, the journey becomes far less relaxed. Sensors are better than humans at judging and determining optimal maintenance points. In combination with an intelligent software system, sensors can determine that point with accuracy. If a building’s servicing is done at times when it is really needed, you have more confidence in the building’s condition.

Everyone benefits

This is not only good for the building manager, but also for its users and the environment. Put simply, less maintenance means lower costs, fewer journeys by technicians, and also fewer interruptions in the workplace. Consider for example meeting rooms which are unavailable, ladders obstructing the corridors or noise disturbance. The less often this occurs, the nicer it is for a building’s users, and satisfied employees are good for an organisation’s productivity. For facility managers and service providers, this is another innovative opportunity to free-up budget for other expenditure, such as hospitality.

After approximately a year and a half and 76,000 miles, I’ve still not been back to my car dealer. Just to be clear, I have telephoned the garage, but the car still appears to be in excellent condition. My car will tell me itself when it is time for a service again. No, absolutely nobody needs to convince me of the benefits of the IoT.

David Stillebroer
Director Product Management