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19 May 2016

Is the Internet of Things a 'game changer' for managing buildings and building-related installations?

There is no other technological development to which facility and maintenance managers are looking forward to as much as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). Objects containing sensors that are connected to the Internet make it possible to take action using real-time data, and that offers a great many opportunities. A building can adapt itself to the presence of employees or measured temperatures, thereby minimising maintenance and personnel costs. The benefits appear to be good, but is the enthusiasm justified?

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The 'Internet of Things' is probably one of the most discussed phenomena these days. What is the added value of IoT for Real Estate and Facility Management?

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A digitally connected world full of sensors sounds futuristic and, of course, has a certain charm, but surely, for some time now, haven’t we been connecting machines and building management systems to information systems to collect measurement data for analysis? It seems to me that this is not so unique after all. The hype created around IoT looks very similar to what happened with the words ‘in the Cloud’. The Cloud is also another term  that was massively blown out of proportion, because it really is a data centre that reduces your IT services. And that is something that we have been doing since the last century. 

Ease and simplicity

So we have already been doing it for a long time, and yet the industry is jubilating about this development. McKinsey analysts even predict that in 2025, or thereabouts, 1 trillion devices will be connected to the Internet and that it will involve between 3 and 6 billion dollars. Although the development does not  appear to be new, the basis of this transition is new and that is exactly where the added value is. Where you previously needed tailor-made solutions to enable devices to communicate with each other, communication is now being standardised and it therefore follows  that the end-user will use this facility. The novelty of the IoT is in the ease and simplicity with which both the IoT and the Cloud distinguish themselves from their predecessors.

For me, the promise of the IoT is that standards are being created with which connections between object, Internet and information systems can be realised out-of-the-box.  A project is no longer needed to create  a connection between an object and an information system. Billions of connected objects (devices, telephones, computers and sensors) are able to communicate with each other, regardless of manufacturer, operating system, chipset or physical transport.

The impact of IoT

IoT makes real-time measurement possible, enabling immediate intervention, if the situation so requires. Take as an example, 'just in time maintenance’, where measuring the condition and the use of assets eliminates unnecessary maintenance, thereby making it possible to react proactively to potential disruptions. Gartner anticipates that IoT will have a significant impact on labour productivity and the number of jobs. "In 2018, digital operations will lead to a halving of employees in the supporting processes and, at the same time, to a fivefold increase of the number of jobs that enable these digital operations."

The impact of IoT will be immense, perhaps even the 'game changer' for managing buildings and building-related installations. As my colleague Erik Jaspers suggested previously, IoT seems to have become a synonym for 'smart'. Whether it will come to that is another matter. In any event, it would be stupid to ignore it.

Nico van Dijk
Product Manager Maintenance Management