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May 19, 2016

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

There is no technological development that facility and maintenance managers are looking forward to more than the Internet of Things (IoT). Objects containing sensors that are connected to the Internet make it possible to act based on real-time data, and that offers a great many opportunities. A building can adapt itself to the presence of employees or measured temperatures, thereby minimizing maintenance and personnel costs. The benefits appear to be numerous and good, but is all the enthusiasm justified?

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A digitally connected world full of sensors sounds futuristic and, of course, has a certain charm, but haven’t we have already been connecting machines and building management systems to collect data for analysis and adaptation for some time now? It seems to me that this is not so unique after all. The hype surrounding IoT feels very similar to what happened with the words “in the Cloud.” While the cloud actually refers to a data center that reduces your IT services—which is something we were already doing in the last century—it became one of those terms that was massively blown out of proportion.

Why the hype for IoT?
Similar to the cloud, IoT—or at least the connection of devices to the internet—has been around for a long time, so why is the industry jubilating about this development now? First, the number of devices connected to the internet has drastically increased—just think about the sheer number of people who have a smart phone. 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 billion and $6 billion.

Where you previously needed tailor-made solutions to enable devices to communicate with each other, communication is now being standardized. The novelty of the IoT is in the ease and simplicity with which it can be used compared to its predecessors.

The promise of IoT
For me, the promise of IoT is in the fact that standards are created in which connections between object, internet, and information system are realized immediately out-of-the-box. Customized projects are no longer needed to create a connection between object and information system, meaning billions of connected objects (devices, mobile phones, computers, and sensors) are able to communicate with each other, regardless of manufacturer, operating system, chipset, or physical transport.

IoT developments are making real-time measurement possible, enabling immediate intervention, if the situation requires it. Take, for example, “just in time maintenance,” whereby the measuring of the condition and the use of assets through IoT eliminates unnecessary maintenance, making it possible to react proactively to potential disruptions. Garner anticipates that IoT will have a significant impact on labor, productivity, and the number of jobs, stating "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 truly becoming a “game changer” for managing buildings and building-related installations. As my colleague Erik Jaspers suggested previously, IoT seems to have become synonymous with the term “smart.” Whether it will live up to that is another matter. In any event, IoT is something we cannot ignore.

Nico van Dijk
Product Manager Maintenance Management