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Can IWMS Suppliers Smarten Up Space Utilization with the Internet of Things?

Across the IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management System) market there has been no shortage of product launches based on technology enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT). It seems that IWMS vendors, along with those offering CAFM (Computer Aided Facilities Management) and energy management software, are all racing to take advantage of the declining costs of sensors, meters and communications technologies to launch new offerings to customers. But the question that still looms is: can vendors identify the applications of IoT that will solve tangible customer problems in facilities management? After all, no-one is looking to pay for a high-tech solution for a non-problem.

One area of value that vendors are honing into is using IoT-led propositions for the real-time monitoring and management of workplace utilization. Tracking the utilization of office space has for many years been a laborious task, based on collecting data through manual audits and then inputting it into a software platform. Emerging offerings use motion sensors and analytics software to track and analyse employee use of space in real time. This real-time view could help building occupants to better use space on a day-to-day basis, such as identify free meeting spaces or collaborative areas to use. In addition, more granular data can also help building managers to make better decisions around long-term space requirements. The real carrot here is when companies can reduce their total real estate needs by 10-30% through hot desking strategies.

There has been a lot of activity in this space. For example, on October 4 2016, IWMS software provider FM:Systems announced a partnership with start-up CoWorkr, a provider of real-time occupancy sensing and analysis. IBM is partnering with IoT start-up Yanzi Networks, a provider of long-battery-life building sensors, to support IBM’s ‘Cognitive Buildings’ initiative. Condeco and SerraView have partnered so they can provide screen kiosks that display floor plans with live usage data to allow building occupants to quickly find a free desk or conference room.

Verdantix expects the customers that will get the most value out of these IoT-propositions for space utilization will be large building occupiers moving towards activity-based working (a term used to describe offices that are designed to be flexible and collaborative spaces, where employees have no set desks). It also seems the facilities management firms are taking note. Witness ISS using IBM’s Watson IoT platform alongside sensors embedded into buildings – including on doors and in meeting rooms, so ISS can optimize its services and further its understanding of how people use buildings.  Like many IoT applications, whether these propositions can really provide measurable business value will only become clear over time.

For more insights on the evolving Real Estate And Facilities Information Management Market, see our report - Facilities Optimization Management Emerges As A New Vision For Optimizing Building Portfolios.