Building Management in the cloud, Facility Management SaaS, an FM app store? The benefits can be immense!

Data analytics, benchmarking, knowledge sharing, collaboration and a host of new FM apps make FM in the cloud very attractive

September 11, 2012

Data analytics, benchmarking, knowledge sharing, collaboration and a host of new FM apps make FM in the cloud very attractive

By Neil Cameron, GM of Johnson Controls Systems & Service: Africa

Worldwide, digital platforms are enabling collaboration across industry sectors and disciplines and among interest groups. They are delivering immense value as communities share knowledge, approaches and methodologies. The same is about to happen for facility management (FM) as cloud based computing becomes more tangible for managers and professionals in this industry sector.

For FM professionals, getting the efficiency and performance they need from their systems is paramount. While best practice approaches and methodologies can be applied, it’s harder for FM professionals to constantly monitor, analyse and proactively address performance issues. It’s also difficult to benchmark the performance of specific buildings against peers, or gain an overview of a specific building’s performance where a portfolio of properties is owned or managed. The reality is that many simply cannot afford the team of experts needed to do this. A cloud-based FM service, supported by a community of FM professionals, has the potential to provide more than a few of the answers.

Imagine the benefits: key FM data could be streamed to a single platform for analysis, the performance of equipment or a building can be benchmarked against industry peers, and subscribers would be able to tap into the expertise of a community of experienced FM professionals to optimise performance and/or resolve issues. And with a team of experts constantly monitoring the key performance indicators (KPIs) of a building, FM professionals can be alerted when equipment starts to act up or energy usage patterns change.
FM in the cloud is likely to make use of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, with building and other data (from electricity meters to weather information) available to the FM professional via the cloud. Subscribers may be able to act on this information, using little more than a browser based device to manage a building (or multiple buildings in multiple geographies) from anywhere. The functionality of the service would depend on the provider and what the subscriber needs, but with all the advantages of SaaS – i.e., it would be scalable and less expensive than owning.

Of course, you would still need the nuts and bolts on the ground – the equipment needs to be maintained and the Building Management System needs to be implemented as the BMS collects relevant data to send into the cloud for analysis. Also, any equipment calibration, configuration or FM optimisation suggestions made through the FM cloud service will still need to be implemented in the real world by an in-house FM team or contractors.

For FM professionals and portfolio managers, key drivers are energy and cost savings and portfolio optimisation. Achieving this is a multifaceted task that requires order, organisation and insight. The tools that FM in the cloud, FM SaaS or even access to an FM app store can provide, would go a long way to assisting to deal proactively with daily operational requirements, long term scheduling and maintenance, and achieving key targets an strategic goals. Definitely worth looking into and looking out for.