Big Data set to shake up facilities management

Data-driven operations bringing significant change for building owners, managers and tenants in commercial property industry

December 15, 2015

​​The increasing prevalence of Big Data has significant implications for facilities management​ in commercial real estate and the operations of the future workplace, according to JLL. Outcomes will include the emergence of increasingly intelligent buildings with the ability to better manage and prevent issues, increased sustainability for owners, and technologies that allow staff to engage with the buildings and influence their surroundings in new ways.

Big Data is the term given to extensive sets of data that are of a size, diversity and complexity that require new techniques and advanced analytics to manage and extract valuable insights from them.

"When we look at the staggering data volumes involved we can get a sense of the enormity of the task of making sense of the data available to organisations," said JLL's Director of Corporate Solutions, Rajiv Nagrath. "90% of all the data we have in the world today was created only in the last two years. Today we create about 6 Exabytes of data every day, whereas all the data produced on the planet up until 2003 only totalled about 5 Exabytes," he said. 

Mr Nagrath said all types of organisations are increasingly relying on analytical tools to generate data-driven insights that enable better decisions and improve operations. "Analytics initiatives often focus on technology to support data collection, storage, processing, and access. However, such technologies are simply a means to an end. The real value of analytics lies in the insights it yields and how well organisations can translate those insights into tangible benefits for their business," he said.

"Internet of Things" and impact on FM:

In buildings a major contributor of Big Data are the "Internet of Things" (IOT) devices. IOT is the term given to the vast network of automated pieces of hardware that are individually connected to the internet, enabling them to collect and exchange data all the time. "By 2020 there will be an estimated 26 billion internet-connected devices in addition to about 7 billion laptops, tablets and smartphones. 

"Hundreds of thousands of these IOT devices will be located in commercial buildings, constantly creating huge volumes of data points to make sense of managing the buildings efficiently and effectively. Various sensors, controllers and other IOT enabled devices will revolutionise how buildings operate and make the truly "intelligent building" a reality.

"Most modern buildings today are already provisioned with such advanced devices and technologies, having about 5,000 to 10,000 points connected to the Building Management System - already a high number of devices that act together, and a large volume of data that needs to be collected, analysed and acted upon. If we have the right analytic tools, Big Data offers us the chance to find the patterns and identify the correlations and causes of malfunction," he said.

Big Data and IOT also has a number of significant effects on the way facilities management (FM) and the modern workplace could operate. Mr Nagrath said, "Workplace models are shifting towards increasing choice and flexibility, which not only means changes for the staff, but also for the building owners and managers. One key shift the IOT will have on FM will be the integral role Wi-Fi will play in controlling the office environment, and the intimate level of control each individual could have over their immediate space and surroundings. 

"Where once we had a simple passive infrared sensor (PIR) detector switching off the lights in a meeting room, we will have situations where all of the lights will have a movement detector and each light fitting will be addressable. Individuals will be able to set their own lighting and space temperature preferences all via an app on their smart phone. This will add another layer of complexity for facilities management previously not witnessed in the commercial property sector," he said.

Command centre models for managing buildings:

Mr Nagrath, who recently presented on the relationship between Big Data and Facilities Management at a conference in Perth, said another effect of Big Data and IOT on FM would be the shift towards a central command centre model for managing a portfolio of buildings, instead of standalone building management systems that operate in isolation.

Mr Nagrath said that while most modern buildings already incorporate a standalone building management system that controls some of the systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning and emergency generators, it was no longer the best solution. "What we are seeing more often is that due to changes in resourcing and skill levels, it is no longer efficient for someone to be constantly monitoring the performance of the building at an individual site level. It is much more efficient to channel all of the information from those systems back to a central 24/7 command centre to monitor, analyse performance and detect failures and anomalies. Command centres increase efficiencies because they can monitor many buildings, staff can conduct in-depth analysis, and it can leverage powerful software to run algorithms over a huge amount of data. Our experience is that in most buildings you can improve sustainability and save 10-15% in energy costs once you connect it to a command centre too."

JLL has been implementing such models for a couple of years now. Mr Nagrath said that while the concept of a command centre was not new, it had taken a while to gain traction in the FM sector.