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

Have you heard the old, German legend of the Pied Piper (Rattenfänger von Hameln)? It was first told in the Middle Ages, and tells the story of a piper with a magic pipe, who lures rats away from the towns he visits, ultimately drowning them in nearby rivers. When he visits Hamelin, the people of the town refuse to pay him for his services, so he decides to use his magic flute on their children…

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 as an office, can hear us and see us, and take actions without our explicit intervention.


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Pay for services received

I’d say this story still resonates today within the field of facilities management. The villagers of our “towns” sometimes hesitate to “pay for services” or blatantly ask us to provide the same services at lower costs. We have become so accustomed to this behavior that we have invented a word for it: efficiency.

It becomes a daunting task to always achieve better efficiency year after year, when the possibilities of becoming more efficient are limited to either working harder (and therefore, 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 decided to walk around the expo floor for a little bit after one of my presentations. There, I found a product that represented efficiency in the truest sense of the Pied Piper and his magic flute.

I encountered a small booth labeled “pest control.” Being Dutch, I soon  discovered that pest control is not about the disease (like I originally thought), but instead about the management of rats and other animals we do not like walking around in our buildings. Pest control is indeed a concern in facilities management.

This booth was selling rat traps, and the great thing about these specific traps was that they would lure the rats in, shut the door, and shock them right away.

Ok, I may have made you feel a bit awkward with this story so far, but let’s be honest: rats are unwelcome guests for all facilities managers.

Now comes the “efficient” part: after a rat is caught, the trap immediately communicates this to the network, and the information is displayed on a central monitor (web page). When multiple traps are placed in a large building, it becomes a time consuming endeavor 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 (and time is 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 provides a nifty solution. Again, demonstrating how connected devices provide real and tangible value.

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

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