The three ways AI is designed to support the built environment

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AI support facility managers in three key ways.

ANANTH SELLADORAY explains how artificial intelligence is being developed to make the work of facility managers more efficient and less stressful.

From myths about automatons guarding religious relics in ancient Greece to programs that can diagnose health issues as well as any doctor, the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) has fascinated humanity for all of recorded history. It is only in recent years, however, that technological advancements have made exploring this potential possible.

The goal of those developing AI is to create systems that can replicate a human’s ability to make decisions. We see this reflected in cognitive services like text-to-speech, in the recognition capabilities of smart cars and in tools that examine large troves of data for key commercial insights.

For those operating in the built environment, AI is already playing a crucial role in asset-based management. But don’t worry; while automation is set to redefine the workplace significantly over the coming decade, AI is not here to replace facility managers. Instead, the goal is to make the job of FMs more efficient and less stressful.

Here are the three most important ways that AI is supporting the built environment now and into the future:

Improving human experience

The ultimate goal of AI is to better the human experience. That goes for all stakeholders, including facility managers, occupants and landlords.

The most direct way of doing that is to use AI to automate as many tasks as possible. Take something as simple as a stain on an office carpet. Without AI, getting that clean typically involves making phone calls or sending emails, waiting on responses, filling out paperwork, providing access to the site and filing invoices for payment.

With a system like Urbanise, that’s no longer necessary. Now a tenant can take a photo of the spill and the platform can determine what the issue is, automatically send a work order to a cleaner, use the GPS coordinates to inform the worker where the spill is, arrange access and sort the payment. Meanwhile, the facility manager is getting on with work that really matters.

By automating such tasks, facility managers will feel less stressed, less pressed for time and see their lifestyles improve in ways that aren’t possible without such support.

Reducing costs and waste

Like AlphaGo, the AI-driven program that beat a professional player at the complex board game Go, AI for the built environment is designed to think logically and strategically in ways most humans can’t. As a result, the cost savings it is capable of producing are, simply put, invaluable.

When a facility manager attempts to manually find ways to cut costs and waste across an asset, they often have to go by instinct, since they don’t have the building intelligence to make comprehensive decisions.

In contrast, a platform like Urbanise can determine how an asset is being used, forecast what will be needed to improve efficiency and reduce waste and optimise it accordingly. Anyone aiming for a sustainable future and a net zero emissions facility (as we all should be) must look to such a solution to consider how to reduce not just electricity, but water, gas, travel emissions and anything else that produces waste.

Enticing talent

Facility management is an industry founded on tradition, or at least that’s how it’s perceived. Unfortunately, that perception is not going to entice top-end talent.

An industry that embraces AI and other innovative technology, as well as the mindset that best encourages its use, will inspire talented people to consider it. The Urbanise platform is one example of the kind of technology that excites prospective talent. Offering strata, facility and utility management solutions underpinned by AI, the platform entirely redefines traditional industry methods.

This speaks to a younger generation that understands this technology and associates it with the future – a future in which they can establish a long-term career.

Preparing for the future of AI

Facility managers must prepare to make the most of AI as it continues to evolve and play a more prominent part in defining the built environment. The best way of doing so is through education.

I’m not talking about studying the technical aspects or learning to code. Instead, FMs must understand what AI is from a conceptual perspective, train on how to use it and figure out how they can make the most of systems like the Urbanise platform to improve their work and life.

In terms of incorporating AI into your asset today, it’s important to start small. Don’t begin with a big bang and millions of dollars. Find an aspect of your facility that can benefit from AI, incorporate it and take lessons from this to develop a long-term strategy.

The workplace is changing. The mindset of the occupant is changing. And those who don’t embrace the potential of AI to meet these changes are putting themselves at a significant disadvantage.

Ananth Selladoray is the solutions and analytics senior manager for Urbanise.


Image: Quintin Gellar via

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