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Smart Monitoring in a Post COVID-19 Office

Post COVID-19

During the previous months, we are seeing signs of transition to the post COVID-19 normality. Most of the restrictive measures have been waived and the “return to office” movement is in progress. Nevertheless, the pandemic is expected to have long lasting effects on the way companies and employees will work in the new normality. As a prominent example, office work patterns will be significantly disrupted, as employees will be offered flexible schedules and work-from-home opportunities. Moreover, the pandemic has already put corporate sustainability and resilience at the very top of the strategic agendas of modern enterprises. For instance, enterprises are increasingly setting concrete sustainability goals as part of their strategic objectives. In this context, facilities managers are presented with new challenges: They are asked to cope with flexible schedules and meet sustainability targets without compromising employees’ comfort and satisfaction. To address these challenges facilities managers are increasingly deploying smart monitoring solutions such as smart sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and advanced IoT analytics.

Smart Monitoring: The Use Cases
Smart monitoring solutions provide facilities managers, property owners and tenants with real-time insights on the status of the property. Leveraging such insights, facilities managers can take timely and evidence-based decisions for managing the property in ways that optimize comfort, operational efficiency, and sustainability. Prominent examples of smart monitoring functionalities in modern facilities include:

  • Occupancy Monitoring for Space Management: IoT technology provides the means for collecting data about the occupancy of spaces within a facility. To this end, smart sensors (e.g., temperature sensors) are placed in offices and desks. Data from these sensors are analyzed to extract office usage and occupancy patterns, including real-time information. Using these patterns and real-time insights facilities managers can effectively manage space allocation. Moreover, they can schedule relevant maintenance services (e.g., cleaning) in ways that maximize operational efficiency and reduce costs.
  • HVAC Adaptation and Optimizations: The analysis of information about space occupancy patterns, also enables optimizations in the operation of HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems. Specifically, HVAC operation can be automatically adapted to the level of an office’s temperature and occupancy. This adaptation saves BTUs and optimizes comfort for tenants and employees.
  • Intelligent Assets Management: There is also a wide range of IoT applications for the smart monitoring of assets and equipment, such as lighting, valves, and other machinery that empower the operation of a building. By monitoring the operational status of the various assets, facilities managers are provided with opportunities for implementing condition-based monitoring and intelligent asset management strategies. For instance, they can implement predictive maintenance strategies that replace or repair assets at the best point in time. These strategies avoid downtimes and maximize equipment efficiency at the same time. This leads to increased efficiency and optimal maintenance costs.

The above-listed use cases drive operational efficiency and reduce costs. For instance, they cut down on cleaning and maintenance costs by optimizing their scheduling. Likewise, they help tenants and facility managers to save on HVAC energy costs. Most importantly, they create a comfortable office environment, which is a key to maximizing employee satisfaction and productivity.

Sustainability Benefits
Nevertheless, the benefits of smart monitoring use cases are strictly economical. Rather they play an instrumental role in helping facility managers achieve their sustainability goals. Some of the most prominent ways in which smart monitoring improves sustainability are:

  • Energy Usage Optimization: IoT technologies enable the use of HVAC only when required, while optimizing the use of other assets (e.g., light sources) as well. In this way, facilities managers reduce the energy usage and CO2 emissions that are associated with the operation of these systems.
  • Optimized Operation and Service of Assets: As already outlined, smart monitoring solutions enable the implementation of predictive maintenance strategies, which optimize the assets’ maintenance schedules and their overall utilization. This saves CO2 emissions on repair and replacement operations.
  • Establishing a Healthy Office Environment: Using smart monitoring, facilities managers can dynamically adapt office conditions in-line with the occupancy and environmental conditions of the various spaces. This is a foundation for creating healthy, comfortable, and sustainable working environments.
  • Tracking and tracing Sustainability KPIs: IoT-enabled solutions for smart monitoring facilitate the tracking of sustainability KPIs such as the levels of consumed energy and various sustainability metrics (e.g., CO2 footprint parameters). This helps companies track and gradually improve their environmental performance. Likewise, it boosts compliance to stringent regulatory requirements for building sustainability such as requirements imposed by the NYC energy code.

Overall, sustainability improvements boost facilities managers’ brand image and help them adhere to applicable regulations. These benefits add up to the economic advantages.

Resilience and Flexibility for Future Crises
Resilience is one of the most important dimensions of sustainability, yet it is often overlooked. The importance of resilience became evident following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, when agile and resilient enterprises managed to resist the pressures of the pandemic and to adapt to the COVID-19 environment in a very short time. This flexibility was a clear competitive advantage, as it helped them stand out in the market. In this context, smart monitoring boosts the resilience and flexibility of facilities managers. Based on the acquisition and analysis of real-time data about the status of their assets, facilities managers can become more agile and more responsive to problems and abnormalities. Likewise, leveraging predictive analytics on smart monitoring data, they could also predict and anticipate adverse events. In this way they can become better prepared to respond to unexpected situations and to manage crises. Therefore, smart monitoring and IoT technologies are a very powerful tool for confronting future pandemics and other events that cause large scale disruptions to business operations.

Productivity and Revenue Growth
At the end of the day, smart monitoring is all about increased productivity, revenue growth and improved bottom lines for facility management enterprises. As a prominent example, energy savings and reduced maintenance costs are directly contributing to higher profit margins. At the same time, the offering of sustainable and healthy workplaces leads to improved brand image and additional revenue streams. Furthermore, the ability to effectively respond to problems, abnormalities, and crisis incidents, can set a facilities manager apart from its competitors. These are the reasons why IoT deployments for smart offices nowadays have a very positive ROI (Return on Investment). Specifically, the costs of IoT deployments are amortized in short times, due to increased revenues and reduced operational costs. At the same time IoT deployments enable future innovations that may further improve operations and generate new revenue streams. Hence, the question is no longer about whether a facilities management enterprise should deploy smart monitoring. Rather, it is about when and at what scale.

Smart monitoring and IoT technologies are facilities managers’ best ally, when it comes to reducing operational costs, organizing operations more efficiently and increasing tenants’ satisfaction. They are also a powerful sustainability and resilience tool, which boosts enterprises’ ability to pursue ambitious sustainability targets, while being prepared to confront any future disruptions. Facilities managers must therefore leverage smart monitoring solutions as one of their most precious assets of their twin (i.e., green and digital) transformation in the post COVID-19 era.

Bengt Johannes Lundberg is the CEO of Disruptive Technologies. He holds an Engineering degree from Vestfold University College and has more than 16 years of international operations experience within the supply chain management, manufacturing and telecom industries.