The Value of Automation and Touchless

The pandemic caused many things to stop or be pushed back for at least a year, but it caused even more habitual processes to immediately pivot how they were done. From following social distancing norms and keeping up with health and safety guidelines, the appeal of doing things in a new way became the new norm. Whether in terms of working remotely, going to school on Zoom, picking up take-out from restaurants, and getting groceries through delivery, the pandemic touched and is still touching many aspects of our lives.

The realm of building operations and facilities maintenance is no different. Real estate and the majority of buildings have been behind the curve in technology adoption as many saw no reason to change. Real estate sales were competitive and lucrative and buildings were becoming more energy efficient as required by legislation. Many of the occupant experience platforms were merely seen as a nice to have but not a need to have, especially as less technology-savvy generations still make up the majority of building teams. However, COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of technology throughout all aspects of buildings.

One of the first areas that quickly evolved from a luxury item to a requirement was automation. Facilities maintenance and management can be a redundant and time-consuming job when done manually, but that was the norm for many buildings. When large buildings were no longer open or operating under less than normal occupancy, the building could not simply go into hibernation, the stagnation could have expensive and long term effects on the building’s systems. However, potential exposure to COVID-19 during travel to and from these buildings was a risk for those team members keeping the buildings running. How could they do their hands-on jobs without being there?

For some buildings, the answer was simple – let technology automate some of the responsibilities while empowering workers to do their jobs better, more efficiently, and even from remote locations. If buildings had not jumped onto the idea of utilizing software platforms to integrate and manage their various building systems like BMS, lighting, occupancy data and more before, the need for this capability was now clear. 

Going forward, platforms that enable automation are going to be standard. The technology used to run every part of buildings from access control to HVAC to energy optimization and even hot-desking or room reservation systems creates a lot of data and this data needs to be understood to become actionable information. Each system has the potential to impact how other systems operate, too. For example, if a room reservation system knows that a previously unused conference room will be filled with 15 people for a late afternoon meeting, it could alert the HVAC system to start cooling the room a few degrees in preparation. If this alert never happened, the comfort and productivity of the room’s occupants could suffer while requiring the HVAC system to used unexpected energy. If the HVAC system knew from the day’s start to reduce heat to that one zone, then energy could be preserved. Best yet, this can all be done through automation and if this, then that protocols.

Another area that has been accelerated due to the pandemic and will change our experiences within buildings is technology that operates in a touchless manner. While access control has used touchfree or nearfield communication technology for many years in parking garages or hotel room key cards among many others, people now want to avoid touching as many shared surfaces as possible. The most commonly touched shared surface is the elevator as people on average hit two buttons every time they use it, one to call the elevator and one to select their floor. Elevators that use more intelligent technology through sensors can either interact directly with the user’s phone or integrate with visitor management or similar platforms. This can be taken a step further by grouping people going to the same floors within the same elevator and reducing the number of stops and energy used by each elevator car.

A touchless experience can also change how packages are delivered, how visitors are granted entry into a building, and how the comfort levels of shared spaces are modified, among many others. Through integration of hardware like sensors and BMS and accessibility through individual and authorized cell phones, building occupants whether visitors or regular inhabitants can have a much more seamless experience from the moment they walk up to a building. The phone has evolved into an extension of our person and it can now be the first step in many circumstances that may be encountered within a building.

The truth is that we will never fully return to the world before COVID-19. Fortunately, technology has made advancements in recent years that allow us to modify our lives without living in isolation or reducing business operations to a halt while protecting our health.

The key to this post-pandemic world is the integration of data. We can no longer afford to have individual building systems that operate in silos with no regard to anything else happening within the building. Sensors today are incredibly accurate and precise and impact budgets much less than they did just a few years ago.

We at Envio Systems know integrating systems can be overwhelming – there are a lot of options and many use the same buzzwords to explain what they do. However, we are experts who have built an affordable IoT control system for any building and we are proven, we have clients in 16 countries. Our affordable and intelligent solution solves comfort and energy issues in commercial buildings, while lowering overhead costs through easy-to-use technology.

Ready to learn more? Contact us.

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