Smart Buildings

The Blurred Line between Facilities & IT Departments in Smart Buildings

Sensor rich LED bulbs cover the office ceiling late on a Wednesday evening; they know Steve is there because the motion sensor detects his movements. In fact the building’s central control system already predicted he would be there because he always stays late on a Wednesday. If it could, it might speculate as to why, but instead it keeps the lights on around his desk, which also transfers data to his computer via Li-Fi, and maintains the best positioned air conditioner to keep him cool. The following Wednesday something doesn’t work as planned, but who does Steve contact to solve the problem, the facilities manager or the IT manager? Which department purchased and installed the system, and who is responsible to fix it? While many increasingly automated buildings have made this decision, there is no clear consensus across smart buildings as we move into this automated future. IT departments are weary of the physicality of […]

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Sensor rich LED bulbs cover the office ceiling late on a Wednesday evening; they know Steve is there because the motion sensor detects his movements. In fact the building’s central control system already predicted he would be there because he always stays late on a Wednesday. If it could, it might speculate as to why, but instead it keeps the lights on around his desk, which also transfers data to his computer via Li-Fi, and maintains the best positioned air conditioner to keep him cool.

The following Wednesday something doesn’t work as planned, but who does Steve contact to solve the problem, the facilities manager or the IT manager? Which department purchased and installed the system, and who is responsible to fix it? While many increasingly automated buildings have made this decision, there is no clear consensus across smart buildings as we move into this automated future.

IT vs Facilities

IT departments are weary of the physicality of lighting and HVAC systems, even if linked to a highly computerised building automation system (BAS). While the majority of facilities staff are not equipped to deal with the complex software involved in new data rich BASs.

“Facilities managers are going to bring a lot of this stuff in largely without the CIO and IT managers involved”, said Tom Pincince, president and CEO of Digital Lumens. Predicting the facilities department will take the lead in this regard, and will be the target of BAS sales. After all is it an evolution of the lighting and HVAC building facilities, and any evolution these days will include computerisation in some form.

However, “light is not just light anymore” stated Eric Rondolat, the Global CEO of Philips Lighting. “They are systems with location sensors and intelligence. We need to develop full architectures for the light sources, and on the marketing and sales side of the equation we must also make sure we are equipped with the type of people who can drive those types of enterprise sales”.

Rondolat says Philips’ sales team is finding itself in the offices of the CXOs and the IT managers, more often than in facilities and building management department. This also results in the sales pitch being more about the potential return on investment from lighting around energy efficiency, perhaps also increasing productivity in the office through lighting systems which mimic the daily progression of natural light.

However there is so much more to offer from BAS systems that do blur the lines between facilities and IT departments. Be it light based data transfer, or the connectivity between sensor systems, computing and communications. We are also yet to touch on physical security systems.

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As these departments begin to overlap, a change will be needed. One logical solution would be to develop a new breed of software-savvy facilities managers, able to deal with the multitude of Big Data applications in smart buildings from Internet of Things connected devices. The extent of such applications is explored in much more detail in a recent Memoori report: Big Data for Smart Buildings: Market Prospects 2015 to 2020.

Another realistic option would be for IT departments to evolve to encompass the responsibilities of facilities management, as a building rolls out their BAS applications. Perhaps even a new entity is required to focus on building automation while bringing harmony between facilities and IT factions.

While individual building owners are free to create their own structure to meet their needs and preferences, there will be a push for consistency in the coming years. This will have to come as confused lighting and HVAC sales people wander from one department to another seeking answers, and as a skills shortage arises from the lack of specific education available to meet this increasing need.

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