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07 July 2016

Technology in the movies: a preview of future Facilities Management organisations?

Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed watching action movies of the ‘breakout or break-in’ genre. I learned from this that the integration of information on buildings and facilities can be very useful to keep out of sight of security guards.

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A successful breakout depends on three things

In one of the best known breakout movies, ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ (1979), the prisoners break out by making use of the building’s poor condition on the one hand, and the knowledge of the routines they acquired over the many years they spent in the building on the other hand. In the series ‘Prison Break’ (2005), engineer Michael Scofield, states after a prisoner suggests that it is impossible to break out,: ‘Not if you designed the place, it isn’t.’ Scofield was familiar with the floor plans and systems (they are in fact tattooed on his body), and for the rest only needs some help from fellow prisoners and employees. In the more recent escape movie ‘Escape Plan’ (2013), Sylvester Stallone sums it up nicely: ‘A successful breakout depends on three things: a layout, routine and help.’ He studies the habits of guards, researches the layout of the building and cultivates the right friends, who ultimately help him to escape.

IT gurus facilitate break-in

Nowadays, in break-in movies you often see an IT guru in a small van five streets away who effortlessly hacks into the security system of the building to be broken into. For this purpose he or she magically pulls up perfect 3D models and CAD drawings and uses these to provide the accomplices with useful information. The number of visitors, the escape plans, access codes and whether a service company may be at work on a certain floor. All relevant information that contributes to a successful break-in.

In both types of movie, building information is used in ingenious ways. Somewhat like the way in which an employee has to find an available workplace within an office, or how a service company wants to know the location of broken equipment. This information must comprise ‘routines’ (established processes, SLAs, integrated financial and name and address information), a current layout (preferably 3D) and tools that make it possible to use this information as effectively as possible (apps and dashboards).

As is often the case, movies run far ahead of reality. There are few Facilities Management organisations that can make their building information magically appear as fast as the break-in hacker. Yet, this time is quickly approaching. Building information is increasingly more often made available with the aid of Building Information Modelling (BIM). With the right preliminary preparations, a BIM model can be linked to the Facilities Management processes, so that a current 3D environment continues to be available during the building’s maintenance and management phases as well. The technology is ready for this. It is therefore only a question of time before we start seeing the technologies already used in my favourite movies become actual reality in the Facilities Management domain.

Jan-Fokke Post
Implementation & BIM Consultant