11th February 2015

Since signing up to the various social media networks and observing the various interesting technology feeds and what we could see in the future, I have collated a few of the most likely ideas that we may actually see one day.

I have been intrigued by some of the recent posts on Social Media regarding technologies that we may see very soon in some of our buildings. There are some exciting ideas out there, and I have collected a few of them here.

I wonder what impact they will have on our Facilities Management service delivery?

Cable-free elevator

We are all used to the standard elevator, you get in, press your floor and go either up or down, and in most modern day buildings we forget about how vital the elevator is. You may not even realise but in some buildings there is more than one elevator car in the shaft, in fact double storey lifts are common in high rise properties. However, could the elevator take us anywhere else in the building apart from up and down (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style)?

German firm ThyssenKrupp have devised a new kind of elevator that moves both horizontally and vertically using linear motor technology (magnetic levitation), no it is not an illusion. This principle is designed to work very well in all buildings but could be particularly helpful with unusually shaped modern designed buildings.

The elevator system can be made up of multiple cabins due to the fact that there are no cables. The cars travel in a loop at about 5 meter per second (about 11 mph) allowing passengers to access an elevator cabin up to every 15 to 30 seconds.

ThyssenKrupp plans a live test for its elevator in a trial tower in 2016, and if all goes well we may begin to see them shortly after. It will be interesting to see the impact on both capital costs and maintenance costs once these emerge.

Autonomous, human-sized security robots

Every day in many large office blocks a security guard patrols the property making sure everything is ok, this is even more prevalent and necessary at night.  A company called Knightscope is almost ready to activate the K5, a human-sized autonomous robot that is designed to take the place of the security patrol.

The robot uses GPS and laser range finding to understand its surroundings and then patrols on its own using a mix of four high-definition cameras, a license-plate detector, cameras, radar and environmental sensors can also be fitted that can identify fires and gas leaks.

If the robot detects a person, the robot will stop whilst recording footage and transmitting the information via Wi-Fi or other connectivity to the control room.  If vandals try to take on the robot (you will be getting a visual picture from a number of films now I suspect), it will warn the person with a menacing beep before unleashing an ear-piercing alarm if the person does not stop.  The robot will also send an alert to the control room, allowing a member of security to check out what is happening.

There is some other functionality such as staff and visitors can ask the robot for help by pressing a button on the top of the robot, this button will activate a link to the control room allowing them to speak with the control room for assistance.

Knightscope plans on charging the robots out at an hourly rate at just below minimum wage and only has seven in full development at present.

I have to say I’m not holding my breath on this one, as the picture of an autonomous unprotected robot confronting an intruder seems a bit one sided at the moment, although I see the merit in a low cost early warning system. I also see a future when they will want more than the minimum wage to put themselves in harm’s way!

Here is the original story link, I warn you the robot does look particularly frightening!

Courier Drones

In most cities there are a plethora of couriers that can deliver items quickly, unfortunately they are all limited by being based on the ground with all of the traffic and other restrictions this brings, even bike couriers get stuck in traffic.  With modern drone technology is there a way that items can be delivered more efficiently through the air?  Amazon is currently testing unmanned drones for delivering goods to its customers, albeit mostly in rural areas.  They are taking it seriously too, they have employed an experienced Flight Safety Manager to oversee the project and make sure its Drone Flight Tests deliver the goods without any problems.

It is still early days but this may have great potential in a future given the amount of high priority and confidential documents or parcels businesses need immediately today. There will be limits with weight and size that a drone can carry, but no worry about traffic and even parking (only landing space).

What will it mean for FM? I can envisage that we will have to maintain the last part of the loop, taking the parcel or document from the Drone when it has landed and delivering by hand to the intended recipient…..or maybe our robotic security guard could have a part to play in this scenario!

It will be interesting to see how these technologies develop over the coming years and if successful, how they begin to filter into both the workspace and our day to day lives. I suspect that we may see these technologies developed from their current format but what I think will be most interesting will be the human interface. As Facilities Professionals, we need to consider what new challenges this will bring for our services and teams and just how far this technology may go in replacing or complementing many of the day to day Facilities Management tasks. Pending no Doomsday ‘Terminator-style’ scenario where the machines rule, I suspect that, certainly in the foreseeable future, that their success as with most things will still rely on having a healthy human interface and that their success will be determined by how they adapt to meet our specific needs. Whatever the future holds, new technology will continue to change the way we provide services across the workspace. #FacMan #AnabasTech

Johnpaul Pearson,
Commercial Manager



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