FUTURE TECHNOLOGY TRENDS IN THE FM INDUSTRY

29th May 2019

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There is no doubt we now live in a digital world, and this has translated into the world of connected workplaces and smart buildings. New technologies are undoubtedly improving business processes, performance and affecting how we go about our day-to-day. But how is the implementation of new technologies reshaping or affecting FM? There are so many we could discuss, but here are a few of my personal favourites and ones to watch.

Cable-free elevators

We’re so used to using a standard elevator and taking it for granted, that It’s easy to forget how vital a mode of transport it really is for getting you from A to B, and up and down floors efficiently and quickly. But what if it could be more than that? What if Willy Wonka’s vision became a reality?

Well, thanks to the German firm, ThyssenKrupp, it has. They devised a new kind of elevator that moves both horizontally and vertically using linear motor technology, also known as magnetic levitation. The cabin system runs on rails rather than cables, and magnetic fields accelerate the cabins along, allowing them to rotate and move to the left or right as well as continuing up and down.

German Developer, OVG Real Estate has plans to install the system in its forthcoming East Side Tower building in Berlin, but this may remain the first of its kind for some time due to its costly nature. However, we all know how rapidly things change, and it will be interesting to see how quickly this technology is adopted further, and what the impact on both capital costs and maintenance look like once these emerge.

Autonomous, human-sized security robots

A key role of a security guard is to patrol a property making sure everything is ok; this is even more prevalent and necessary at night. One US-based company, Knightscope, has developed an alternative – the K5, a human-sized autonomous robot that is designed to take the place of the human security patrol.

The robot patrol uses GPS and laser range finding to understand its surroundings. At 5ft tall and 3ft wide, it features four high-definition cameras facing in each direction, four microphones, gentle alarms, blaring sirens, weather sensors, and Wi-Fi connectivity, so that each robot can contact HQ if there’s some kind of security breach/situation.

Other functionality enables staff and visitors to ask the robot for help by pressing a button on the top. This is designed to activate a link to the control room, enabling them to speak with a real person for assistance.

The use of these robots is definitely growing, and towards the end of last year, 50 machines were reported to be in network, across 16 states, four time zones, and running 24/7 in the US, which demonstrates that AI is well and truly here to stay. However, I don’t think jobs are truly at risk just yet, and they will never match the interpersonal skills required of a great security person. There have definitely been a few teething troubles along the way and, since launching, one took a nose dive into a fountain in Washington D.C. so there is clearly still some work to be done on perfecting the technology which will drive this forward.

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 and come up against traffic and other restrictions. Even bike couriers get stuck in traffic! With modern drone technology, however, is there a way that items can be delivered more efficiently?

Amazon is currently testing unmanned drones for delivering goods to its customers, albeit mostly in rural areas. The online retail giant claims to have made its first successful (Prime Air) delivery by drone late last year to an address in Cambridge. Apparently, a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Firestick arrived with the ‘client’ just 13 minutes after the order was placed!

Walmart, UPS, Google and many global postal companies are also investing in drone delivery projects, so is it only a matter of time before their drone parcel delivery service goals become a reality?

Whilst it is still early days, this may have great potential 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).

So 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 it by hand to the intended recipient…or who knows, maybe our robotic security guard could have a part to play in this scenario!

It’s safe to say that these technological advances are both exciting and a little scary in equal measure. I don’t really believe that humans will ever be fully replaced by robots, drones and the like, people will always want real, face to face, human interaction but there’s nothing wrong with life being made a little bit easier and jobs being completed a little quicker. As for traveling in an elevator in all directions, this is really ingenious. Buildings and how we use them are changing at a rapid rate, and so should the tools that we use in daily life to keep life always moving forward.


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