Smart facilities go smarter

by Melanie Basta
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Securing homes and offices with blockchain technology can significantly improve facility management, writes DEIVIDAS JACKA.

 

As new technologies emerge and infiltrate our lives, our jobs and our facilities, these innovations bring with them a number of security concerns.

Recently, Business Insider reported how a casino’s highly protected database was hacked via a simple lobby thermometer. The case is a practical example of how the Internet of Things (IoT) – aimed at simplifying lives and improving the work of facility managers – is actually posing new threats and challenges. Luckily, a quickly developing blockchain industry may allow facility managers to significantly improve the cyber security of commercial and residential properties.

For several years now, blockchain has been actively developing outside of its traditional industries. For instance, a real estate-related project ATLANT raised over US$6 million during its initial coin offering (ICO) last year. The project is aimed at developing an online marketplace with a more transparent real estate price formation – and it’s thanks to blockchain, which allows it to minimise speculation and even eliminate middlemen in property trading and renting. In the facility management industry, however, blockchain is still a relatively novel idea.

Blockchain and FM

Although facility management is considered to comprise a fraction of the property industry when compared with the overall real estate sector, the global FM market still exceeds US$760 billion. According to Transparency Market Research (TMR), the market will more than double by 2024. And, whether it’s soft services like cleaning and waste management or hard services including maintenance, repair and equipment management, the competition grows in all segments. Real estate developers, property owners, governmental bodies and even smaller vendors – more and more companies enter the FM market each year.

“Naturally, the customer benefits the most from the growing competition, but the tricky part comes up during the contract transition,” says Deividas Jacka, chief business development officer at Civinity, one of the largest FM companies in the Baltic States.

“One FM provider passes the facility to another while keeping property data to itself or even falsifying it. And this is where a blockchain-based solution could help. If all consumption, amortisation, maintenance and other historical data is kept on one platform and secured with blockchain, it would then be much easier to transit properties between market players. The data would be also secured from manipulations and fully traceable.”

 

A quickly developing blockchain industry may allow facility managers to significantly improve the cyber security of commercial and residential properties.

 

Smart contracts are another area where facility managers can explore blockchain solutions. With hundreds and thousands of residential, cultural, commercial and public buildings under management, FM providers have to monitor both consumption and payments of numerous consumers. But smart contracts, coupled with smart sensors, can significantly accelerate the process and reduce human error risks while automating the entire utility management process (collecting consumption data, processing payments and forming reports to both facility managers and utility providers).

It can also help in third-party management when the system automatically releases payment once the outsourced service is completed. But a major opportunity for blockchain in FM is security of the IoT network.

IoT and FM

Today, more and more smart building equipment, globally worth approximately US$120 billion, is connected to IoT networks. These devices, whether it’s office thermostats or a boiler sensor in an apartment building, pro-actively notify building administrators about possible breakdowns. They also enable the collection of big data, which allows FM providers to better plan maintenance works and allocate human resources.

But along with the development of the IoT market, a larger number of building and other infrastructural objects become vulnerable, leading to a lack of confidence of the part of users. A report by BullGuard has revealed that 60 percent of users are very concerned about the risk of their internet-connected devices. The study also reports alarming statistics that approximately one-third of users have already become victims of security and privacy-related incidents.

“If you have remote access to some of your devices, it’s always a risk that someone else can get it too,” says Jacka. “And it’s not only about electricity and water consumption data, but the control over the devices themselves. “Encrypting options offered by blockchain can significantly improve security of IoT systems and thus ensure higher protection of homes and facilities against intruders.

“Naturally, the data also becomes more secured, which is particularly important in Europe under new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

“Unfortunately, there aren’t many blockchain solutions for facility managers at the moment,” Jacka says. “Hopefully, either third parties or FM providers themselves will show a higher interest in these technologies, and facility management will become smarter in the upcoming years.” ●

Deividas Jacka is chief business development officer at Civinity.

This article also appears in the December/January issue of FM magazine.

Image: © Monsit Jangariyawong at 123rf

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