Sensor Tech: Possibilities in Facilities Management
Tech is on the rise in facilities management; one of the most intriguing of which is sensors. Used to monitor and measure activity, mitigate risk and improve safety, sensors help FMs gain a greater understanding of what is happening in their building, which is always beneficial, but how must it be integrated and is everyone on board for this type of new tech? We talk possibilities with a leader in the field.
In this Workplace Unplugged interview, we sat down with Michael Carne, VP of Sales and Partnerships for Lighthouse.io, a tech start-up specializing in location and activity tracking. With a background in engineering and law, Michael moved from defining strategy to working on execution and implementation with facilities managers.
Michael explains what Lighthouse.io is and how it can improve work life for facilities managers.
MC: Lighthouse.io is a real time location platform that does three things: 1) make it simple to find and track people and assets; 2) location specific interactions and processes; and 3) optimize your business based on analytics of the first two.
A good example is janitorial services: If you’re managing the cleaning of a property, you need to know how frequently and timely the bathrooms or food areas are being cleaned or inspected. If someone slips and falls, you want to understand when the last inspection took place to ensure you identified and resolved any spills or hazards that may have caused the slip. If your customer wants the bathroom cleaned every 20 minutes you can be notified at 21 minutes that the bathroom needs attention and you can run a report to ensure your SLA’s are being met and if the bathroom was actually cleaned.
As Lighthouse.io was founded in Australia, we were keen to know the differences in the Australian and American markets from Lighthouse.io’s perspective.
MC: We find that there are common core needs, particularly in facility management.
- The need to demonstrate to stakeholders the level of service provided.
- The need to look for opportunities to increase productivity or efficiency of their team.
- Similar risk of litigation from poorly managed facilities, in particular high slip and falls liabilities.
However, there is a difference in the labor force, in particular in that it is less costly in the US. This can impact the choices that are made to optimize a service delivery because the cost of that delivery is much higher higher in Australia.
Between Michael’s strong background in strategy and his experience implementing Lighthouse.io technology, he gives particularly sound advice for FM’s looking to implement this new tech.
MC: At Lighthouse.io we implement technology to solve real problems, and what we see, as I’m sure anyone who is implementing a technology solution sees, is if you don’t entrench the right behaviors and get the right use, you never get the full value. You really have to ensure people use the technology, use it in the right way and use it every day. If you don’t and it sits on the shelf or is implemented and forgotten you’ll never get the return on investment or value. It’s crucial to give people heavy support in those critical early days, weeks and months so you do get the right behaviours from staff, you build good habits and that way you have success you’ll need to make it worthwhile..
There also must be a strong need for the platform. It could be high litigation claims, limited to no visibility into the current operations or a strong desire to improve services FM’s are providing. Typically the best starting approach is to take one of those strong needs and implement Lighthouse.io in a few locations and use that as the case for other facilities. We demonstrate the impact, then present the findings before expanding to other facilities. We work very collaboratively with the Facility Managers and Property Owners to give them a real understanding of what’s going on in their facilities, and how to make impactful change.
With IoT (Internet of Things) becoming a reality through systems like Lighthouse.io, Michael shares what he sees as the next steps for technology/sensor integration in the workplace.
MC: At the moment there is still a piecemeal approach to IoT being implemented throughout a property. For example, a property may have Bluetooth Beacons, Desk Sensors, Floor Traffic Counters and HVAC sensors all implemented in an isolated fashion. Whereas the direction and future of IoT will be the ability for software not to care where the sensor came from but to listen to all sensors and integrate with other systems or services.
For example, imagine a situation where the lighting has Bluetooth sensors, temperature gauges and other atmospheric sensors. All of that information interacts with mobile devices that are moving throughout the property and informs the HVAC system, the work order system and Lighthouse.io. So you end up with a property that is in tune with the changing conditions within, can relay that information to those that need it and automatically makes adjustments or recommendations.
Michael wears many “hats” with Lighthouse.io – not unlike a lot of FM’s!
MC: My typical day is quite mixed. I’m speaking to existing customers and helping them analyze and optimize their results or speaking to new customers or prospects and helping them understand the impact Lighthouse.io will have on their business. I work with the development team to help steer the direction Lighthouse.io takes based on customer feedback and market needs. We’re a small but quickly growing startup which can give us tremendous advantages but it also means I can end up wearing multiple hats!
The best part of my role, though, is implementing and executing something that is very real and impactful. Coming from a strategy background there was a lot of defining strategies that had 5-year implementation timelines, millions of dependencies and enormous programs of work. But here is a technology solution that will have an impact the day you implement it and change the way you work on day 2 and day 5 and ongoing from there. So seeing the results of that and being part of that is wonderful. Talking with customers and seeing how they use it and discovering how we can improve upon what has already been built is amazing. Seeing a tangible positive impact on a client is a joy, it’s challenging, but a real joy.
With sensor integrations, there can be a lot of fear of “Big Brother” watching or fear of so much technology and data that it can be hard to understand or do anything with. Michael provides us with a great example from a real Lighthouse.io client that demonstrates the clarity sensor driven data can provide.
MC: Our system monitors how frequently an area or room is visited, so it can really help with SLA’s. For example, if a bathroom should be cleaned every 2 hours the system will let you know if that’s been missed and if so, by how much. One of our clients, over the course of 3 months, saw a 43% reduction in the number of times an SLA was missed and a 40% reduction in the average duration the SLA was missed by. So in the bathroom scenario if it needed attention every 2 hours this client hit that 2-hour mark 43% more often with our system in place and reduced the amount of time beyond those 2 hours by 40% when it was missed. The reason we see this is because before our system everything is manual and relies on people to either complete forms, supervise or wait for complaints. So when our platform gets implemented it’s common to see a reality that is very different than the previous perception; but it gives you the insight to ensure every area of a property gets the correct attention and your team’s time and energy go to the right places. That makes it easy to demonstrate the value of the platform and sensors.
With so much focus on technology, how does Michael keep up to date facility industry knowledge? Simple. He has a great source of industry leading FM’s and property managers to reach out to.
MC: I’m a lot more up to date on the technology landscape as that’s what we live and breathe. However I wasn’t a Facilities Manager or a Property Manager so my knowledge in these areas comes a lot from our customer base, especially those that are ahead of the curve. Our customers are technology adopters and extremely knowledgeable so learning from their experience is very important and impactful. It also goes a long way toward helping us improve the product which is nice.