How Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Has Changed the Game in FM

The world is evolving and changing. With the current Covid-19 crisis, many of us are confined to our study rooms, typing away on keyboards while trying to manage remote trades staff and personnel that are carrying out essential services for their assets—being good Samaritans by trying to flatten the curve.

At a time where physical and social interaction is limited, there are many restrictions on the daily tasks that once filled the role of a facilities manager. Perhaps we can no longer be onsite to ensure a tradesperson has completed their work, check that everyone on site is known to them, or conduct contact tracing; now magnify this challenge across all of the sites, offices, warehouses, and homes they may be responsible for maintaining. Without adequate technology, this challenge is impossible, though with the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, it suddenly becomes a possibility again.

Where facilities managers once might have gone onsite and visited the job, AI and modern CMMS’s allows the tasks to be completed remotely, eliminating the manual day-to-day tasks so that facilities managers can focus on the 10% of the jobs that need their attention, rather than the 100% of jobs that they do.

Among the successes of AI being used by facilities managers, there are many features that provide significant benefits such as text prediction, automatic field selection and image recognition.

CMMS’s harnessing the use of text prediction with industry terminology are dramatically reducing the number of keystrokes for customers to create work requests and are helping to guide the end-users into standard terminology.

CMMS platforms are also enabling automatic field selection. When an end-user inputs a job description, for example, “clean the gutter”, and then selects a job type of “cleaning”, the platform will understand the job type by the job description. Hundreds of automation steps like this will help to maximise efficiency and reduce costs.

TensorFlow 2, which sounds like a daunting and confusing model type of cyborg from the terminator, is a revolutionary way that AI can analyse images for image recognition. If a photo is taken of a broken chair, the platform knows that it is a broken chair, selects the job type, and automatically allocates the job to the right tradesperson. This image recognition eliminates five manual steps. Urbanise is now using the same technology for the evidence of the closure of jobs. Once a tradesperson takes a photo of a painted wall, AI will tell the facilities manager that the wall has been freshly painted. This isn’t perfect yet, though as the platform learns every night it will get smarter and smarter. One day, jobs will be validated automatically based on the photo evidence.

Another major unsung benefit of AI is that it can often be more accurate than a human at a narrow task such as job selection. AI learns from the millions of job types that are created and corrected through the platform each month, whilst a person, especially a new starter, are limited with only the knowledge that they have experienced. That’s the amazing thing about AI, it can draw on information lakes that a person can’t possibly try to ingest.

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence will continue to change the game in FM. Facilities managers will achieve efficiency within their workforce, longevity of assets, increased accuracy over tasks and overall reduced costs, and they can achieve it all; remotely.

Saurabh Jain, CEO