Some call the physical facilities that a company owns or leases a “black hole of expense.” In tough budget years, facility expenses like rent, property taxes, etc., loom as large fixed costs. That means there is little you can do about them if you have to cut corners.
Then there are the discretionary expenses that aren't always wisely spent—like heat, air conditioning, keeping the lights on, etc. It doesn't help if all of these elements are operating, and the space, energy and labor committed to buildings are not fully optimized for use. As more companies become aware of these facility management challenges, some are even taking steps such as basing more employees in home offices to reduce the square footage of office space.
But now, geospatial technology is adding another dimension to facilities management that further improves how companies use and pay for their facilities and facility-related expenses.
“The real challenge for many companies when it comes to facilities is that they lack the data to optimize the space they manage,” says James Wu, CEO of Innerspace, which provides indoor geospatial technology.
The result is that companies often “fly blind” when it comes to making the best use of the facilities they own, rent or lease. Wu points to the use of janitorial services to maintain buildings as an example.
“Companies pay for janitorial services, but if they used a geospatial solution that tracked traffic patterns and identified areas of buildings that weren’t used at all, they could more efficiently deploy janitorial contractors in only the areas of buildings that are being used,” he says.
Tracking building traffic with the help of geospatial technology can also be used for other purposes, such as seeing which rooms in buildings are most heavily used and where the flow of employees is heaviest. When companies begin to get a handle on these traffic patterns, they are in a better position to identify space that is under- or over-utilized. They can redesign buildings to change traffic flows or even redesign business processes when it’s warranted.
“All of these uses come under what we like to term as a ‘smart building,’ because companies now have the information about their facilities that enable them to manage these assets better,” Wu says.
From a geospatial perspective, this building-related data can be captured in a point cloud and then layered with asset management, utility usage and other relevant data so a facility manager can have a total picture of what is going on. The information can also be used for purposes of building (and room) remodeling and configuration.
“The indoor geospatial tools can be integrated with virtually any system you want them integrated with,” Wu says. “If you want to integrate the tools with your business intelligence system, you can do so. Or, if you want to use it to automate workflows, it can be used for that.”
The foundational point cloud is capable of 3D modeling. This modeling can be of halls and rooms, but it can also be used on objects such as furniture. That means, users can pre-test proposed layouts before implementing them.
“There are many different use cases, whether it’s an insurance agency wanting to know about building occupancy, a facility manager wanting to reduce facility costs, or more efficiently managing labor costs such as janitorial services,” Wu says.
For companies that already employ professional geospatial personnel, there is an opportunity to branch out into an indoor geospatial application. It’s also possible for companies to provide their facility staff members with these tools since they’re user-friendly and don’t require years of geospatial training to operate them.
“Usability is the key,” Wu says. “We have found that companies can further develop their use of geospatial technology as they expand it to both non-geospatial and geospatial professionals, and as they extend it to solving both indoor and outdoor problems that relate to space management.”