Once looked at with entitled skepticism, urban centers that have come into their own relatively recently, are now some of the leading lights in the future-ready real estate revolution. Across two of our signature FUTUREPROOF conferences held earlier this year in Bangalore and Dubai, change makers from the built environment gathered together to identify the future-ready agenda for the evolution and transformation of the industry, and to look at new ways of harnessing technology to unlock unprecedented efficiencies.
The consensus in the FM space currently centers on the profound impact that digital technology enabled, innovative and future-ready management of built assets can create. FM has the capacity to be a major contributor to the global economy, to expand as a primary profit center and deliver unprecedented business growth, and to enhance the wellbeing and end-user experience of built space occupants in line with the conveniences they have come to expect across the entire service industry. The key drivers of change that the industry is being reoriented towards are many, but the notable ones we identified from the leaders and change-makers we met include:
1. The Experience Economy
Why the focus on evolution? Aren’t we already indulging in unprecedented convenience, at least in the developed economies? In a technology enabled world that can address the most personalised of needs, a focus on providing enhanced customer experiences and on-the-go convenience is the standard to aspire to. Parallels can be drawn between AI and IoT driven FM, and the recent tech-driven disruptions in markets such as urban mobility (Uber), short rentals (Airbnb), mobile banking and more.
2. Facilities Management as the Key Brand Differentiator
Brand experience is the only true competitive advantage for the modern organisation. Buildings enhanced by smart technologies can reorient every task, every performance metric and every outcome, to reflect an overarching brand vision. The larger the portfolio, the more substantial this cumulative effect. From standalone assets to multi-location portfolios, tech enabled FM can be a key differentiator for commercial real estate businesses, by driving a dramatic rise in the perceived value of the properties.
3. True Portfolio Scale Interoperability
Integration will be the key to Smart Cities, but how do we reconcile an entire industry worth of proprietary technologies? In a sector that has thrived on selling updates to manufacturer specific suites; hardware agnostic, enterprise-wide O&M software platforms are the most effective solution. This is the only low-cost and immediately implementable way to reconcile diverse standards, protocols and technologies. The result is the scaling of the maintenance and management of complex building portfolios, and interoperability between people, assets, data and technology.
4. Beyond CAFM
Haven’t we had CAFM for a while? What’s different about the new generation of software platforms? Well, most existing CAFM is built either on repurposed industrial solutions or takes an out-dated approach by working in silos. These cannot be implemented beyond the individual building level, too effectively. The new generation of technology consists of enterprise-wide platforms that enhance entire portfolios. They are an integrated suite, created specifically for the management of buildings, which addresses operations, maintenance and sustainability at the same time.
5. Leveraging Automation
Across the globe, especially in developed economies, commercial real estate businesses have a large inventory of existing buildings. A lot of money, time and effort have already been invested into installing an extensive automation infrastructure. Enterprise-wide O&M software platforms enhances, rather than replaces, this existing automation, leveraging its operational data and adding AI to the mix. Much like Industry 4.0 is redefining the manufacturing process, these retrofitted technologies have the capacity to upgrade buildings to a future-ready, smart status.
6. Optimise, Scale, Repeat
Is the return on investment these innovations offer, worth it? It might even be the most compelling argument, from a strictly bottomline perspective. One of the reasons digital transformation is the catchphrase of the day, is that one can often start small, and scale up to enterprise-wide deployment. Smart buildings are no exception. Low hanging fruits, such as collecting automation performance data to drive real-time experiences, are an obvious advantage to grasp. Virtually every early adopter has scaled up from such initial forays relatively rapidly, and it’s no surprise. Being able to unlock hidden value, in any business, tends to become a standard practice almost overnight. Fortunately, in this instance, it also translates into a much enhanced and enabled user experience, for the rest of us.
7. More Open, More Connected, More Agile
Unified and complete visibility into operations, performance, energy-spend and costs, is taken for granted in the average manufacturing, logistics or retail business. Commercial real estate businesses were locked into an outdated model, simply because no alternatives were available. With data-driven insights and enterprise-wide O&M platforms, these businesses can finally deploy the sort of optimised control that other industries take for granted. Integrating sustainability, everyday workflows and optimal occupant experiences is a much more accurate reflection of the standards that the world has legitimately come to expect.
A Future-Ready solution that combines convenience, sustainability and business growth
Retrofitting existing built assets is high on the global agenda. In Dubai alone, nearly $8bn has been earmarked for upgrading building infrastructure. New York’s Climate Mobilisation Act requires the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the city’s buildings, to be slashed by 40%, by 2030, and retrofitted digital technology is the tool of choice. The expectation around end-user experiences, in built spaces, is undergoing a complete and utter transformation. As we transition into a world where the majority is urbanised and accustomed-to-modern-conveniences, how do we reconcile the needs of large populations, with our sustainability goals, and with end-user comfort and delight?
The answer, of course, lies in innovation. To evolve into a world of Smart cities and buildings that delight and are sustainable, an enterprise-wide O&M software platform, specifically designed for the real estate industry, is what FM leaders and building owners are seeking. A solution that helps digitally retrofit existing assets while becoming the critical efficiency core of new construction.
(The Author, Prabhu Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of Facilio Inc.)