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July 07, 2016

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

Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed watching action movies of the “breakout or break-in” genre. Watching these, I learned that the integration of information on buildings and facilities can prove to be very useful.

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A successful breakout depends on three things
In a well-known breakout movie, “Escape from Alcatraz” (1979), the prisoners are able to break out by taking advantage of the building’s poor condition and taking note of the routines within the building from their many years spent there. In the series “Prison Break” (2005), a prisoner suggests that it is impossible to break out, and the engineer Michael Scofield states, “Not if you designed the place, it isn’t.” It’s revealed that Scofield was familiar with the floor plans and systems - they are in fact tattooed on his body - and only needs some help from fellow prisoners and employees to break out. In a recent escape movie “Escape Plan” (2013), Sylvester Stallone’s character 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 escape.

IT gurus facilitate break-in
In break-in movies today, you often see an IT guru in a small van five streets away who effortlessly hacks into the security system of the targeted building. 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, such as 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 of these types of movies, building information is used in ingenious ways. In fact, similar to the way in which an employee has to find an available workplace within an office, or how a service company wants to know where the equipment that broke down is located. 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 organizations that can make their building information magically appear as fast as the break-in hackers in the movies. Yet, this time is quickly approaching. Building information is becoming more readily available with the aid of Building Information Modeling (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 there. It is, therefore, only a question of time before we will be seeing the technologies used in my favorite movies become the reality within the facilities management domain.

Jan-Fokke Post
Implementation & BIM Consultant