The 4 Trends that will Shape the Future of Facility Management


One FM challenge that is sure to appear in the next decade is looking into how we combat Global Warming. There will be a great demand to become environmentally aware and lighten our carbon footprints that will result in numerous companies worldwide having to re-design infrastructures and their economies [1]. Understandably, this shift, in a bid for eco-friendliness, has the potential to cause difficulties for Facilities Management as it stands.

There are, however, technology trends emerging that can aid this change. FM Companies, through technological sustainability, can help reduce their carbon footprint as well as drastically lower their financial output.

One of the main trends consists in encouraging FM companies to supply their own equipment and systems. Not only has this proven  to cut down costs but it also avoids the uneconomic pitfall of allowing company facilities to fall into disuse and remain redundant for extended periods of time.

Another technological development, designed to support greater sustainability, that is likely to be seen in the near future, is the implementation and usage of building and energy monitoring systems. These features will enhance each facilities’ asset-level energy consumption and performance [2].

Facility Managers will receive detailed information about their equipment and buildings, enabling them to know how how to deal with water, energy and waste maintenance initiatives. It will allow personnel to make educated and strategic decisions, achieving a higher level of efficiency and fulfilled executions [2].

2. The Internet of Things (IoT)

With Gartner predicting that there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT), an upcoming trend in the FM industry, is set to transform the world as we know it.

The Internet of Things is a concept that allows for a hands-free approach when exchanging data from inter-connected devices. Sent via the Internet, the process eliminates any human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction, making information not only more accessible but also facilitating speed and efficiency.

In Facility Management companies, IoT takes the form of smart wireless sensors that monitor, collect and communicate key data relating to a building’s status and performance. This state-of-the-art technology has revolutionised the way Facility Managers deal with structures; it detects changes across a variety of parameters, including light, temperature, water, humidity, motion, vibration and much more.

If a sensor leaves the set profile range, signals are triggered in real time by the Cloud platform and relayed to maintenance personnel on their smart-phones, via SMS and email. This enables technicians to identify the issue, respond and ultimately fix the problem in minutes, leaving the building occupants with a fault free environment.

Sensors can be retrofitted into any building in minutes and the data can be accessed from any smart phone, tablet or desktop. Rob Cumming, Chief Product Officer at Urbanise explains that “using this data allows the FM provider to move from a brute force planned maintenance program to a targeted condition based maintenance approach, minimising the cost of service provision and controlling the risk of asset breakdown”.

IoT sensors provide Facility Managers the business insight necessary to improve space usage, optimize energy consumption and prevent asset breakdowns, in an efficient, express and seamless manner.

3. Robots

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on the rise and is likely to have a bright future. Robots are progressively becoming a standard in the workplace, in the search for seamless and precise technology. In Facilities Management, with technology constantly evolving, robotic automation technology will become increasingly important.

Robot use will be particularly employed for energy management and in hospitals. For example, through the use of robotic Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs), hospital staff are able to rely on artificial intelligence to handle anything from medical waste to laundry and linen. This will benefit healthcare workers by eliminating extra tasks, improving efficient output and productivity. Furthermore, with regards to patients’ interest, the use of robotic assistance can dramatically lower the risk of infection due to the robot’s sterility and inability to carry ill health. It also promotes patient privacy [3].

The advantage of robots is already being seen at the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth. Since employing a robotic drug dispensary, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the hospital has observed a 70% decrease in stock depletion, since they are now alerted when medical supplies dwindle [4].

However, Artificial Intelligence is not strictly limited to the healthcare industry. Robots could significantly change the FM industry in many sectors. One example is the Finnish company, ZenRobotics, which has created a waste-sorting system, the first of its kind. The company’s use of robotics has radically remodeled the way waste is processed, removing human error and increasing productivity [4].

The implementation of robots in the FM industry could prove extremely beneficial. AI is able to complete tasks in a systemized and methodical manner, significantly lowering the risk of human miscalculation. AI’s value also likes in their ability to work during unsociable hours and operate repetitive machinery in factories, for example [5].

4. Big Data

Big Data is the gathering and analysing of enormous data, used to extrapolate patterns, trends and associations, specifically surrounding human interaction and behaviour [6]. Companies such as Amazon are already using it, in this case to predict items that a user may want to purchase, based on their previously bought items [7].

Within the FM sector, it could lend serious insight. To illustrate, Facilities Managers could benefit from the ability to predict energy consumption in a space, according to the temperature, weather or time of day. The use of Big Data could consequentially lower costs, ensure customer service satisfaction and increase business value. [8].

Many FM challenges, such as the lack of effective energy management systems, are having negative ramifications on a facility’s operational efficiency. However, this is where Big Data can make an enormous difference. Through Big Data, Facility Managers are able to make educated decisions based on former data collected through surveys, smart meters, IT networks and occupant behaviour [8].

One use of Big Data can be seen to help and prevent operational malfunctions, such as the detection of future power outages and equipment failures, allowing FM personnel to rectify the problem before these faults occur. This usage not only ensures consistent operational function, but it can also cut costs. This is achieved by establishing an integrated system in the facility, which allows for data be shared across a space, where it can be used to determine causes of any failures in near-real time and repair any potential issues before they occur [8].

Analysing data can make remarkable changes in a facility, including, time reductions, cost reductions, smart decision-making and new product development and optimised offerings. The data can help Facility Managers to make smart decisions and create strategies to avoid future facility problems [6].