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Stepping into a Smarter Future


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Stepping into a Smarter Future

Dubai’s forward-thinking decision to transform itself from a predominantly oil-dependent economy to a global service and tourism hub has placed real estate and construction at the heart of its long-term growth agenda. Several mega-projects in Dubai has set regional and even global benchmarks in integrating key technology and sustainability components into its ambitious development plan One of them being the landmark decision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to introduce a major project for transforming Dubai into a ‘Smart City’. Currently, the Dubai Government has over 1,000 e-services all of which contribute to the overall development of the city and helps in realising its vision to become the ‘smartest’ city. Earlier this year the world’s first fully functional 3D printed building – the Office of the Future was open and the city is set to be home to the world’s first Hyperloop One transport link, which is expected to commence operations for passengers in 2020. The Museum of the Future will actively produce futuristic inventions and contribute to UAE’s mission to be a global innovation center. 

The City’s focus on both technology and sustainability will have a huge and lasting impact on the practices of real estate developers and service providers. Now we see more buildings incorporating ‘smart’ technologies alongside eco-friendly solutions. Since the FM industry is responsible for maintaining the functionality of the built environment, FM practitioners are particularly hard-pressed to meet the growing demand for ‘smarter’ and ‘greener’ services.
Industry experts tell Megha S Anthony that the positive side of this has been that many FM companies are acknowledging the influence of both sustainability and technology on the performance of the facility and on property value. The FM industry in the region is also harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable smart decisions around building and asset maintenance. Remote monitoring technology means that now every building can be retrofitted to be ‘smart’ using IoT sensors to help prevent critical system breakdowns, reduce onsite engineering staff and optimise building system performance. However, many believe that there can be an improvement in the increased participation of the private sector to contribute to the vision of the Government. According to Memoori, not all products are smart and until 2021, only then will there be enough smart devices ready for a smart city,” says Mick Dalton, Director FM, Meraas Estates Division, Meraas Holding Company.

FM Relevance

Being a young city, Dubai had the advantage of integrating the latest technologies and solutions during its growth phase. Currently, Dubai is best placed in the world with regards to smart buildings. FM solutions are vital to establishing a future with smart cities. According to Dr. Hayan Sayed, Chief Executive Officer, Al-Futtaim Engineering, and Technologies, FM will play a key role in contributing to the ‘smart city’ vision. “Most buildings in the city are equipped with the latest Building Management Systems, Access Controls, ELV and with the adoption of smart solutions, FM will play a key role in contributing to the overall lifecycle cost of the building by providing synergy between operational solutions and analytical data,” he adds.

Urbanise, a cloud-based analytic system which monitors critical assets, uses its technology to empower local FM service providers to adopt “smarter” service delivery and building management practices. Today, thousands of services are delivered faster and more efficiently thanks to Urbanise’s Residential Property Cloud. The cloud software is being used to expand and enhance the range and quality of services provided to buildings and communities-making the cities we live and work in smarter.

This very much includes Dubai. “The FM industry in Dubai is also harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable smart decisions around building and asset maintenance. Remote monitoring technology means that now every building can be retrofitted to be ‘smart’ using IoT sensors to help prevent critical system breakdowns, reduce onsite engineering staff and optimise building system performance,” says John McGuire, General Manager - Partner Success Centre, Urbanise.

The essence of good FM is understanding your customers’ requirements and analyzing trends to provide proactive services to the highest standards, says Michael Moore, Operations Director- KSA, DTZ. Thus it can be seen that the concept of smart cities is the technical evolution of FM. Through surveillance and data gathering, FM services can adapt and change to meet the predicted needs of the community. “Through analysis of citizen data, municipality services such as cleaning, street sweeping, waste collection/disposal and even landscaping can be optimised with the quality and frequency of service delivery fluctuating to reflect the footfall leading to higher levels of client satisfaction and best use of available budgets. In this way, it’s really more of a question of how the smart city concept can influence FM solutions rather than how FM solutions are relevant to the smart city,” he adds.

Future Skills

With the advent of new technology at every level, it follows that the skill sets required to provide FM and operate smart cities is likely to be at a far higher level than the typical skill sets currently associated with the FM workforce Imdaad, an IFM company, has continuously harnessed the power of software, data analytics, and robotics, among others, to contribute to Dubai’s and the UAE’s vision of leading the world in creating smart and sustainable cities.

Their ‘IMTEDAAD’ system is a concrete reaffirmation of this commitment. This system has been one of the industry’s much-talked-about technological platforms due to its ability to intelligently analyze the performance trends of interconnected assets. Jamal Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Imdaad, believes that in this modern setup, FM companies must acquire new skills to remain relevant. “FM companies must ensure more than ever to deliver smarter services, implement a quicker turnaround, provide real-time data, and ensure automation processes,” he adds.

Sayed, on the other hand, believes that customers in the future will demand holistic solutions from their FM providers focusing on energy management, asset management, and data integration. “At Al-Futtaim, we are perfectly poised to offer customers a one-stop solution through our Engineering and Technologies divisions. Al-Futtaim Engineering has partnered with BMS solution providers which are recognized as the leaders in the Building Automation sector. Our technologies arm is capable of building integrated software applications that provide customised solutions thereby offering customers a one-stop solution. Another area we believe will be important is the need to identify, recruit and train the right staff,” adds Sayed.

Agrees Moore. “At the moment it is hard to envisage a time when FM is no longer heavily labour dependent, however, every day we are seeing the steady progression and introduction of technology solutions such as drone and robotic construction and cleaning systems,” he adds.


With Dubai’s sharp focus on technology and sustainability, the question arises on what kind of impact will it have on the practices of real estate developers and service providers? While awareness for a sustainable future has increased among real estate developers and service providers, experts say that sustainable designs are not just about the buildings but also at products and infrastructure. “Today, with technology playing a big role in sustainable development, a good FM solution provider, will ensure optimum utilization of the assets thereby reducing overall lifecycle costs. The FM provider needs to maintain a flexible approach to applying industry best practices and processes to maximise the environmental performance of the asset,” says Sayed.

Lootah insists that innovation is always the key. “Real estate developers and service providers must keep on innovating to keep up with the changing times, become more efficient, and provide exceptional services,” he adds As the consumer becomes increasingly selective, real estate developers will have to work harder to secure a sale. The increased service standards and reduced costs associated with living and working in a smart city will be very attractive to the potential customer. “As a service provider, we need to make sure we are simply not left behind. We will need to keep abreast of new, potentially labour/cost saving technologies and ensure that the FM operatives in the delivery team are at the requisite level to operate such systems effectively thus maximizing the return on the initial investment,” says Moore.

As Darwin stated very succinctly “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change” The impact of the smart city concept on the FM industry will be profound, but it doesn’t have to mean the extinction of the industry, just an evolution to a higher form.