fmME sits down with Al Shirawi FM’s Evie Boustantzi and Identigy’s Mat Birnbaum to discuss how smart technologies will evolve the FM market
Since the last edition of the annual FM EXPO, the region’s dedicated facilities management exhibition, the FM arm of the Al Shirawi Group has been hard at work, expanding its business and expertise.
Rather than resting on its laurels for achievements attained over 2015, which includes a high-profile IFM contract for the highly advanced and smart Dubai Design District (D3), Al Shirawi FM continues to break new ground across a number of different sectors.
“Al Shirawi FM has been focusing on commercial, retail, healthcare, residential, education and infrastructure projects during the past year,” comments Evie Boustantzi, director of special projects for the Engineering Services Group of the Al Shirawi Group, and general manager of Al Shirawi FM.
“We’ve had a number of great project wins over the last year including Matrix Tower, Windsor Manor, School of Research Science, as well as infrastructure work for both Nakheel and Tecom.”
Part of the Engineering Service Group (ESG), Al Shirawi FM has been active in the education sector, where it has been involved with projects such as The Arcadia Preparatory School and Ladybird Early Learning Centre. Working alongside the group’s Interiors division, the FM provider oversaw the fit out, furniture manufacturing, handover, testing and commissioning, as well as maintenance of both academic institutions. It has also been instrumental in aiding each schools’ bid to achieve LEED certification.
“Interiors is a part of ESG and forms part of the cycle that we cover, from shell and core building, to fit-out, and then hand over to the end-user and client… Throughout that process smart comes in as well, as does operating the facilities and maintenance,” explains Boustantzi.
“There is that continuity through our operation. At the Dubai Design District for example, we are handing over the buildings slowly and also doing fit out there as well. So it brings some piece of mind to the customer, because we take over the full process.”
Set to participate once again at the upcoming FM EXPO 2016, Al Shirawi FM is taking a different approach to its stand. Going even bigger and louder with an expanded booth, the company, alongside its technology partner Identigy, is set to unveil a new smart platform geared towards enhancing what Boustantzi described as the “user experience through a building”.
Open to pre-registered and invited visitors, as well as curious walk ups, participants will experience how different technologies react to their presence. Mimicking how an intelligent building would operate, the platform will utilise a user’s credential and personal preferences, to oversee functions such as access control, climate management and lighting.
“We will cover all the way through the cycle of a person showing up at a facility, entering, and then the facility reacting to that person, all the way until the time that they exit,” explains Mat Birnbaum, managing partner at Identigy.
As the regional arm of the US-based smart technology developer, Identigy’s team have previously worked closely with Al Shirawi FM on an IFM contract with the American School of Dubai. Identigy’s software platform is integrated with the school’s access control on all interior doors, perimeter security and parking.
Furthermore, the platform is also used to monitor class attendance of students, as well as managing cashless payments, such as the purchase of meals in the cafeteria. The entirety of the process is conducted through the use of a single ID, whether it that of a student, teacher, parent, or even extended community, such as nannies and drivers.
Explaining the intricacies of Identigy’s platform, Birnbaum shares: “At one end of that platform it is a closed-loop, stored value and credit, cashless payment system. At the other end it is a security platform that handles access control, geolocation and tracking, visitor management and privileges.
“In the middle is identity management, which is a way to recognise a person by a physical environment, and we have an unlimited number of ways to associate a unique identifier to a person. So that could be a biometric, Emirates ID, number plate, mobile phone, or ID card issued by a company.”
Taking it a step further, the approach set to be adopted by Al Shirawi FM, will combine Identigy’s platform with building management systems (BMS) in an effort to devise a number of intelligent building configurations.
For example, in buildings where motion sensors have been deployed as a means to manage lighting and climate control, Identigy would add an additional layer of detection to the process to aid identification.
Then, if the system detected the presence of a cleaner working the night shift, it would engage the lighting and air conditioning, but only at a fraction of its full power, since cleaning activities would only last for a brief period. This approach could reportedly save businesses an additional 30% in energy savings over traditional BMS configurations.
From a maintenance perspective, the health and status of hardware devices connected to a building’s network can also be monitored. In the case of mobile devices, operators can conduct analytics of the battery condition of their wireless devices.
Currently the majority of organisations utilise a blanket replacement policy, in which batteries are replaced every 18 months, regardless of usage. This can often lead to the replacement of otherwise healthy batteries. By instead adopting the use of small sensor metrics in conjunction with a computer aided facilities management (CAFM) system, users are able to identify voltage fluctuations, which is an early sign of a maintenance issue. Operators can then react accordingly.
Identigy’s platform also has implications outside of operation & maintenance. As Birnbaum explains: “there is also an opportunity to influence behaviour.”
“If the environment sees me and there is a service tailored for me, based on my proximity to something, a pushed offer might be sent to me,” asserts Birnbaum.
Using a passenger travelling on a metro as an example, if the system detects that the individual regularly drinks coffee, and is aware of a café at the person’s destination, a special offer is sent instantaneously to their mobile device in real-time.
“We also have a project right now where we are trying to make an entire district healthier, based on metrics and behaviours of the population that lives inside of it,” he adds.
Going back to Identigy’s earlier example of an intelligent building design reacting to an individual, the platform could be pre-programmed to accommodate personal preferences of a specific person. If the individual was a high-level executive, the moment the system identifies that person on the premises, it could begin to cool their office and even assign an elevator to transport them to their floor.
Identigy’s vice-president goes on to add that such a feature would also benefit operators, giving them the opportunity to rethink how they structure packages and rental programmes for their respective tenants. A premium service could be offered for example, that could be as simple as summoning an elevator ahead of the arrival of a particular building occupant or VIP.
Al Shirawi FM’s Boustantzi adds: “In terms of the type of clients that are asking for such an operation, it is typically residential towers — specifically luxury residential towers. They are looking for a more sophisticated experience.”
In buildings where such a service is part of the package, Al Shirawi’s team are trained to identify VIPs or high-level executives arriving on site. A message is then relayed over to reception, who call on a dedicated lift to ferry the individual and their party to their destination within the building.
“This could be automated and planned in advanced, through access or just by sensing their vehicle entering the perimeter. All this hassle to operate in a very specific manner could be done through technology without any errors,” says Boustantzi.
While the incorporation of technology into FM opens up numerous possibilities, Al Shirawi FM’s general manager is quick to warn that maintaining a high level of technical proficiency amongst staff will become an increasingly tough challenge.
She foresees that FM providers will need to not only expend resources in continuously improving the skillsets of employees, but will also need to become more selective in acquiring talent, as not everyone has the capacity to reach the level demanded.
“There is a need for more technically qualified people to maintain the properties. As smart becomes the standard, people need to acquire more sophisticated skills,” explains Boustantzi.
“The market is asking for smart applications. Now I’m not sure how fast we can train our people to look after those systems and environments, so training is an ongoing challenge. We are focusing on that. Whoever focuses on training, I don’t think they will lag behind.”