2017: The power of technology is within everyone’s grasp
Since its launch in 2009, Uber has become the poster child for the transformative impact that new business models, enabled by technology, can have on traditional sectors. The term ‘Uberized’ is now commonly used to describe this impact and we’re seeing the powerful effect of technology shaking up how we develop and deliver services.
If we think we are used to a rapid pace of change, we need to think again as we witness more connection, more automation and investment than ever before. The year 2017 will see more innovation as companies of all sizes look for new ways to reduce operational costs and improve processes by exploiting the latest technologies, one of which is the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things
IoT is just at the beginning of its lifecycle, connecting data, objects, processes and people. As we embrace the consumer market of smart devices linked together on a single network, it will soon become the new normal in the workplace as our buildings and work environments become smarter, constantly adapting to employee and business needs.
To facilitate this, developments such as LiFi are being evaluated, providing super-fast wireless network connectivity through LED lighting. LiFi, or Light Fidelity, provides the opportunity to incorporate devices with LiFi capability into a large number of LED environments and applications in commercial, industrial and government facilities. LiFi can be incorporated into existing lighting systems, expanding network coverage and compliment WiFi access. In turn, this minimises infrastructure commitment, lowering the associated capital expense and operating costs, also reducing emissions and waste.
As a result of widespread connectivity and cloud access, business mobility is on the increase. Of course, one could argue this trend isn’t new, but it won’t be mobile as we know it. CEOs have often talked about running their entire business from a smartphone and facility managers will soon be able to work with a level of mobility that means a more effective and efficient way of organising work and operatives remotely or on the move. Whatever your device of choice, managing projects, staff, customers and workforce allocation will become accessible anywhere, any time.
In order to easily maintain this connectivity, in addition to our typical smart phones and devices, wearable technology has entered our consciousness, mainly through the fitness industry, but will soon play a broader part in the facility management industry especially. Most recently we’ve seen applications in play such as ‘swimlytics’ where a Canadian designed sensor analyses a swimmers movement to pinpoint areas for improvement, potentially assisting Canadian swimmers ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
Wearables also offer the ability to improve workplace safety, security access, collaboration as well as supporting data collection in different physical work environments. The challenge is to ensure it doesn’t cross any personal boundaries but makes the most of the overall work experience and helps drive efficiencies. In parallel to this, developments in battery power are moving quickly, enabling more reliable on the go access to everything offered at a desk. Advances in mobile hardware technology, with items such as tracking devices and sensors mean people as well as ‘things’ can be traced or tracked, no matter where they are.
The connotation of ‘big brother’ has to be overcome of course, but the ability to manage a workforce, for instance in the service or delivery sector, is obvious to all and the overwhelming positives simply have to be communicated properly to those involved to dispel the myths.
Big Data Just Gets Bigger
Big data is being generated by everything around us at all times. Every digital process and social media exchange contributes to it. Systems, sensors and mobile devices are constantly transmitting. Big data is arriving from multiple telemetry sources at an alarming velocity, volume and variety, but to extract meaningful value from it, you need optimal processing power, analytics capability and skills to work with this asset as it turns data into insight for business. Extremely large data sets can be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions which a facility management team can utilise to implement workplace improvements. Big data is also changing the way people within organizations work together and is creating a culture in which business and IT leaders must join forces to realize its value. Insights from big data can enable all employees to make better decisions - deepening customer engagement, optimizing operations, preventing threats and fraud, and capitalizing on new sources of revenue. However, escalating demand for insights requires a fundamentally new approach to architecture, tools and practices as well as staff trained to work in this new discipline.
Although many of these various technologies are starting to become more mature, many organisations are running pilot projects first. Often smaller companies are able to adopt the technology faster, because they are nimble, but the process can be slower in larger organisations. The important question though is whether they could yield better profits by harnessing new tech? In Canada, there are many options for Government grants and tax credits for new technology initiatives. Instead of fearing change, organizations should challenge technologies in a proof-of-concept scenario rather than waiting for their competition to blaze past them. If you always settle for the status quo, you’ll get left behind.
Kyle Booth is the General Manager of the Canadian division of Service Works Global
Read the January 2017 issue of Business Review USA & Canada magazine