Prabhu Ramachandran, founder and chief executive officer of Facilio, talks about building automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and how the company plans to offer better facilities management (FM) technology services in the region.
What are some of the major challenges concerning FM consultants and the owners association?
In the past, the basis of the relationship between FM service providers and commercial real estate owners (CREs) has been transactional, rather than strategic. In all honesty, this was befitting of the role that legacy FM services played in the industry. The traditional scope of facilities management was limited to the maintenance of physical assets and the management of certain associated workforces. In my opinion, this is a restricted view of the possibilities involved. Technology has created a space for FM to transform from being a passive cost center to a value addition for a CRE’s business model. In my estimation, leveraging this new and far more empowering version of FM is the major challenge for the partnership between FM consultants and CREs.
The tech-enabled model of FM, which has now become accessible through the implementation of enterprise-wide software platforms, holds the promise of reinventing the industry. Implementing such a unified management tool enables complete transparency into Operation and maintenance. Scaling it up to a portfolio-wide scope gives commercial real estate businesses access to optimal efficiencies, outstanding occupant experiences, brand differentiation and enhanced property value.
As you can see, this is a very different scenario to one of providing basic maintenance. This transformation empowers the entire business model and enables FMs to impact the profit of real estate businesses and evolve into a value added partner. The challenge for FMs is to get it right and for CREs it is to achieve this transition without disruptions and huge upfront or ongoing costs.
How is Facilio adopting technology for its services?
The vision we had at Facilio was to combine the kind of value additions and predictive operations that heavy industry is deriving from industrial IoT and AI analytics; with the real-time functionality of some of the most successful B2C service platforms, such as AirBnB and Uber. Creating optimized outcomes for the entire spectrum of stakeholders in commercial real estate requires a few different boxes to be ticked. It has to empower all the relationships involved. It needs to reconcile performance metrics as diverse as sustainability, asset performance, operational costs and occupant experiences. Lastly, it has to find a way to deliver these outcomes without imposing yet another major cost to the business and by simplifying operations, rather than adding another layer of complexity.
Buildings have had a huge reliance on automation for some time already. There are vast amounts of data that are going unutilized in legacy building operations. The Facilio solution uses IoT technology to collate this real-time performance data from all the automation sub-systems that a building hosts, using a network of sensors. It then subjects these information rich data-streams to AI based analysis, yielding actionable insights.
Our sophisticated Machine Learning algorithms gain a deep understanding of the entire portfolio, which is continually refined with each iteration, and our enterprise wide software platform acts as the ‘home-base’ that unifies this entire interconnected system. The fact that this solution leverages, rather than replaces, existing hardware makes it relatively low cost as a retrofit. That it is also vendor agnostic results in the system being simpler and more synergistic. Intuitive but powerful user interfaces and apps are the final piece of the puzzle, which give users the same easy accessibility to value that they are accustomed to in their favourite B2C digital solutions.
How is Facilio’s technology different from the conventional CAFM?
Conventional CAFM is limited in its scope, to the extent that it concentrates on providing traditional IT support to an FM operation. Administrative tools help businesses better organize their operations and this is certainly an advantage in comparison to not having such systems in place. However, we believe such an approach lacks the ambition to deliver all that digital technology has now made possible as CAFM is typically used as an operator tool and doesn’t engage with other stakeholders.
Facilio’s solution is designed to fit and engage and deliver value to all stakeholders from FM technicians, to managers, property owners and occupants. Facilio’s technology provides a granular view of all assets to the business, as well as real-time insights that can drive proactive and predictive operations. For instance, if a particular performance metric alerts me to the fact that an asset is underperforming, I can diagnose the issue in real-time, based on the insights provided. In a given case, such information could save the business from considerable loss, all while ensuring that the occupant experience and sustainability targets are seamlessly optimal throughout. There are a number of ways in which businesses can be far more productive and maintain impeccable brand perception, using the predictive model that our technology facilitates.
Since the Facilio technology works with data in terms of BMS or digital twin, who owns the data? And how is it secured?
In our model, customers own the data. We have designed our platform with highest level of data security, access control with appropriate standard measures.
How does Facilio train its employees to work with its technology?
We are lucky to have a highly motivated team that has taken ownership of the product and the services we provide. Despite the attention that we have garnered as a company, our team still retains the mindset of a startup that is out to change its industry. We are convinced that we have only scratched the surface of what an enterprise wide platform can deliver to the industry. So one of the most crucial differences in the way our employees interact with our technology is to look at new applications for it, which can unlock further avenues of value addition.
What are some of the major projects Facilio has been associated with currently?
Two of our most high profile projects in the recent past have been in the Middle East. Wasl Properties, a major player in the commercial real estate space in the GCC, and their ESCO partner engaged Facilio to deploy solutions that will upgrade the performance of a large set of their Dubai based properties. The client is already considering a further expansion of the services they want to monitor and optimize using our solution, as well as a wider deployment. Al Fajer, an FM company with more than 3000 employees and operations across the GCC region is another one of our recent clients. They are widely acknowledged as an industry leader and have more than 300 buildings under management in the UAE. They had a vision of embracing technology driven differentiation and have adopted our product to replace more conventional CAFM solutions that they relied on in the past.