Google is Using Big Data to Make Sure Facilities Keep Running Smoothly
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There are very few parts of our lives left for Google to exert some influence over. From its ubiquitous search engine to self-driving cars, the $110,855 million-dollar company is changing the world in both the digital and physical spaces.
A natural part of Google's business is in data and technology. After all, it's data which allows the Silicon Valley giant's search engine to index and rank websites. And now Google is looking to use its expertise to enter the facilities management sector and bring its operations in that market to an international audience.
"We are surrounded by a plethora of data and it's now up to the [facilities management] world to use that data and make it actionable," said Google's Director of Facilities Services, Real Estate, and Workplace Services, Darrell Smith.
Challenges of Technology Implementation
One of the main concerns leveled at the increased reliance on technology and automation is the likelihood of it leading to job losses. However, Google does not accept this concept as a potential future for the industry, considering technology to be something which empowers and enables businesses and the people who work within them, rather than a replacement for the human workforce.
Technology works to make people more efficient in Google's vision, not redundant.
New data platforms allow facilities management to bring the separate functions of its industry out of the silos they've existed in for years and increase efficiency and speed of operation. Big data and technology make this possible via business information modeling and automated building systems which can perform all manner of functions faster and more accurately than a human could alone.
"Business management systems are amazing tools, but they cannot tell you when systems are not running as designed, they can only tell you when components have failed or are about to malfunction," said Smith. "Google is fixated on the productivity of its employees and using data can help to mitigate several issues that can otherwise hamper the working environment. If nobody notices the building and the environment around them, it means we are doing our jobs well."
One of the biggest challenges facing any industry implementing facilities management technology is bringing together that tech with existing processes. In other words, getting the people existing within those facilities to use the technology. Without conquering this mountain, companies are just burning cash.
One area in which this challenge is clearer and more present than in any other is the assisted living facilities market. Nest, an arm of Google which develops and sells home automation products, has been in talks with several such facilities about bringing its devices into that space.
Nest wants to use its products to help older Americans remain independent for as long as possible. Innovations currently on the table include automatic lighting, which could assist senior citizens in getting to the bathroom in the middle of the night or using smart devices to notify people with memory problems to remember to drink enough water or take medication as scheduled.
More ambitious ideas involve using sensors to predict potentially life-threatening falls by monitoring changes in movement. Medical assistance could then be contacted promptly, increasing the chances of successful recovery from any injuries. Cameras and two-way communication devices could help senior citizens communicate with the outside world and reduce mental health issues related to isolation and loneliness.
"I see a lot of potential if that kind of device could interact every day, asking the person how they are doing, feeling, what their activity level is, how they are eating," said registered nurse who works with seniors in Pittsburgh, and resident fellow at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Victoria Kulli. "It's easy to see and identify deterioration quickly."
Senior citizens are one of the most resistant segments of society when it comes to change. Google is likely to face significant challenges getting people to accept and engage with the technology, a challenge which will be reflected to different degrees across all its facilities management services.
However, with the right technology, combined with Google's expertise in big data, there is no reason to think they can't lead the way in bringing new innovations to the facilities management industry.
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