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The Challenges with Digital Technology Management in the FM and Building Sectors

Excerpt from Building and Facilities Management Magazine
May 2018 Issue | UK NEWS

James Symons, CEO of LocknCharge, talks about how the FM and building industries are facing challenges in the way they not only deal with data and IT breaches but also in the way they manage IT and digital systems.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018, which will affect the way businesses process the personal data of EU residents. The regulations cover many aspects of personal data, including how data is stored, video surveillance and even covering use of photographs. Those who fail to adhere to the regulation will face large fines. Facilities Management companies will have long been planning for this change, having been given two years notice of the regulation coming into force, and making provisions to avoid data breaches in order to comply. But, out in the real world with the people putting GDPR into practice, there are definite hints of uncertainty and confusion along with a little panic. And you can understand why.

As an industry, it is fair to say the FM sector has been slower than some to fully embrace digital technology, and perhaps adapt to the management issues that have arisen from this. It is therefore not surprising that for some these regulations will present challenges that have never surfaced previously. But with digital technology being used more frequently in the FM market, (and looking extremely unlikely to go away), how does this affect us all in the industry?

In years gone by we have seen a rise in smart buildings, with connected solutions introduced into the infrastructure of buildings, focusing on better facilities management. This is mainly directed at optimizing energy use and adapting the workplace experience to suit individual employees by real-time monitoring.

This has in turn brought with it a rise in the use of virtual reality, apps, digital monitoring and a larger emphasis on interactive displays. There are apps for visitor and contractor management software solutions (for recording all staff, visitor, and contractor check-ins), tools for job management, engineer scheduling, quoting, costing, invoicing and asset tracking, and even janitorial apps which can enhance communication between managers and employees.

In fact, it is estimated that there will be 21 billion connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices by 2020.

But investing in these technologies and managing them are two different things. With all the digital changes happening throughout the industry, this has raised questions and challenges about how best to manage this emerging new technology. Some of the software now used is multi-platform, and can be accessed via the web, iPad, or by using mobile iOS or Android apps. A device management program is becoming (and now should be) an integral part of management plans. But with time-saving and cost reductions being two of the main drivers for change, how can this technology be managed sufficiently to make sure this becomes a reality?

Can users connect quickly to the internet or Wi-Fi? With an increase in tablet and mobile usage, and apps needing Wi-Fi connection, is the current standard acceptable? For example, there are standards out there that would allow a greater number of devices to use network without losing speed, even in public areas.

Does the building’s website integrate well with a tablet format? Can staff use the tablets or devices quickly and efficiently? Are they trained to do this, and does this match their skill set?

There are some simple solutions to problems with device management that can be overcome with the addition of products or management processes, that can actually increase productivity even further than just what is achieved by just using the actual technology.

For example, if you wanted to ensure tablet devices are fully charged and ready for use at all times (which can be particularly challenging when you have huge multiples of people all needing tablets to do their jobs) you could invest in a multi device charging station, which not only charges multiple devices simultaneously but also syncs them. Expensive investment in technology means people want digital devices to be kept safe, especially when stored overnight. Not only does this solution help with the task in hand (charging iPads, Chromebooks etc.), but it also saves time doing this and also provides a security aspect also as they can be locked away safely.

It is clear that behind the scenes, the industry does have some work to do to make this smooth transition though. Business leaders need to change their approach to the management process of IoT devices. Device management plays a critical role in the future of digital technology, and in the future of building interiors, as technology shapes the new workplace experience.

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