Benjamin Franklin once said an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. The wisdom of that axiom still holds today at a time when new technologies have brought us to the brink of fundamental changes in how we lead our daily lives, which can be combined with lasting truths to improve our lives.
The real estate and facility management industry is now implementing Industry 4.0 principles that can improve the health and wellbeing of workers in various facilities. Using elements that utilise the Internet of Things (IoT), new building management and security systems analyse enormous amounts of data and allow us to monitor and control our homes and offices in ways never before possible, allowing us to be healthier, happier, and more productive.
There is a strong link between better physical and psychological health and better performance and communication in the workplace, according to research by Business in the Community (BITC) and Ipsos Mori. Improving employee well-being thus needs to become a strategic directive within firms to foster better results. Smart buildings equipped with IoT-enabled sensors enable maintaining ideal working conditions within buildings while also providing corporate stakeholders with hard data that will help them make decisions about facility management, HR, IT, and marketing.
Over the next decade, employee wellness programs will grow in their importance and scope, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. Measurement of personal health data is becoming more commonplace with the increase in popularity of devices like the Fitbit and Apple Watch. Aggregation and analysis of this data could help predict sick leaves and manage human resources.
Some of those ideas are already being put into practice. Investment firm British Land refurbished its London HQ with sensors to monitor humidity, lighting, noise, pressure, temperature and volatile organic compounds. The data collected can help the fund’s managers analyse how the office environment affects staff turnover, discomfort, medical costs, and sick days.
An excellent example of how IoT elements can discover new sources of productivity and create a better environment comes from research performed by MIT computer scientist Sandy Pentland. He equipped call centre operators with smart badges that measured more than 100 data points up to and including face-to-face interactions and tone of voice.
The team discovered that a simple adjustment to daily routine could have a profound effect on business. If the operators had lunch together instead of their regular staggered pattern, there was an 18% increase in employee communication, a 19% drop in stress as measured by tone of voice, and the call completion metric surged a whopping 23%. Hitachi is one firm that knows the value of this kind of data and implemented smart badges a few years ago.
Furthermore, Deloitte said 40% of employees spend up to 30 minutes each working day searching for things, places, or people. An internal IoT-enabled building navigations system, like the solution made by Spaceti, can reduce those losses and keep people focused on their jobs.
IoT can also slash operating costs significantly. UPS implemented sensors that monitor speed, braking, and other aspects of driving and delivery. With the addition of planning software that optimizes routes and helps eliminate idling, left turns, and calls for maintenance only when necessary. The results were astounding: in one year UPS cut idling time by 15.4 million minutes, delivery routes were 1.7 million miles shorter, and nearly 200,000 gallons of fuel were conserved.
Cushman & Wakefield’s report cited research saying well-ventilated offices can double cognitive abilities, while environments with substandard ventilation have the opposite effect, among other negative aspects. Access to light and windows helps employee sleep cycles, their mood, and lower blood pressure, while a lack of natural light is associated with negative moods and feelings. All of these influences can be easily monitored and adjusted with the use of an IoT building management solution.
Naturally, the collection of all this data sparks concerns about data protection and security. Organizations and administrators needs to implement steps to anonymise and aggregate the data. Employees, as the greatest security risk in any organisation, need to be adequately trained and educated about the importance of data protection and how to avoid data breaches.
Despite concerns about security, the use of IoT in facility management is poised for significant growth. Navigant Research estimated the worldwide smart building market will exceed the $22 billion mark by 2026, up from an estimated $6.3 billion this year. That type of growth will be compounded by spending on the wellbeing industry, which grew 10.6% in 2013-2015 and research firm Technavio predicts global spending on health and wellness will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6% until 2020.
The trend here is clear. IoT-equipped smart buildings will not only improve the lives of the people that live and work inside, but will also cut operating and facility management costs. This revolution in how we live and work is set to coincide with larger technological trends that are shaping and will transform the world we inhabit in just a few short years.