Digital Empowerment

Note: Article originally published at the Facilities Management Journal:

Prior to the pandemic, it was to meet the call for sustainability within the built environments where we mainly saw the emergence of innovative technologies. From green materials to sustainable energy, the built environment responded with innovative construction technologies. PropTech solutions emerged to serve better infrastructure and mobility demands, while offering Corporate Real Estate (CRE) managers a host of applications to better serve their tenants.

The FM sector on the other hand played catch-up compared to the rest of the built environment. But that was up until the global COVID pandemic happened.

Now that climate action is becoming a priority for corporations, the facility manager’s role is moving closer to the widespread adoption of digitalisation. 

Nearly two years into the pandemic, we have seen a remarkable transformation on how we access, use and manage our buildings. In order to respond and cope with the necessity to provide a safe and efficient built environment, facility managers rose to the occasion and responded with the accelerated adoption of digital technology and solutions.

In effect, COVID has ushered in the future workplace well ahead of time and permanently altered how we access, use and manage our buildings. 


So how does FMTech support facilities managers? How can innovations in FM help them increase their take up and understanding of the role of technology in delivering services and monitoring performance? Let’s look at some examples of how FMTech is helping facility managers and is shaping the way facilities will be managed in the future. 

Access control, workplace management and analytics

The need to observe and comply with health protocols has made it convenient to use digital solutions like contactless access controls at building entrances. Aligned to this, there is also a need to monitor the number of people – both visitors and regular occupants – onsite. And as workplaces go hybrid, employees are no longer being assigned a fixed desk as offices may have different sets of employees depending on their working schedule.

All of these situations can be managed with a range of digital solutions, including common area access control, visitor express check-ins, configurable visitor workflows, seamless meeting scheduling and simplified room booking.

Without technology, it would not be possible to enable employees to view desk availability, map occupancy levels and reserve desks instantly or in advance, via mobile or web. If you add in touchless check-ins, thermal scanning, contact tracing, and heath declarations, FMs can ensure return-readiness at all times. 

Workplace Management Solutions is the collective denomination for solutions that are helping facilities managers implement hybrid working safely and efficiently. These are open, online digital platforms to which, when required, more and more data-driven functionalities can be added, modelling the system to the need of every building and organisation. Users install an app on their smartphone to access its functionalities, and the FM department is equipped with a central dashboard for monitoring and control. The availability of quality IoT devices, mostly sensors, is the enabler of these solutions.

FMTech solutions are not limited to office buildings but work as well for huge workspaces and built environments like shopping malls, hospitals, concert venues and airports where indoor positioning and wayfinding technologies not only help employees navigate and follow social distancing protocols but more importantly allow for people to find their way around.

Data-driven, dynamic cleaning as opposed to static fixed cleaning routes

Data-driven cleaning was already gaining recognition due to the increasing popularity of co working spaces. In traditional workplaces however, static fixed cleaning routes tended to take place after working hours or at night, not during peak hours. This is no longer the case. The rise of the hybrid environment not only necessitates extra cleaning but also dynamic, just-in-time cleaning throughout the day.

Cleaning becomes on-demand, especially in areas where you have the highest potential concentration of viruses and bacteria; including desk spaces (particularly where there is “hot desking”, with different people using each desk), keyboards, and doorknobs.

As a result, FMs are turning to digital solutions like desk sensors, space counters to count the number of people passing through a desk and cleaning it after a certain number, and cleaning requests buttons (either physical buttons on desks or via apps).

There has been an increase in the use of cleaning robots, especially in big spaces like airports or hotel lobbies. In confined spaces, typical of the hybrid workplace, the trend is towards “superteams” of human cleaning staff aided with technologies that are driven by AI and big data.