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Listen to What Your Building Infrastructure Tells You

By Dale Klein

As a history buff, I was thrilled to tour France this summer on vacation. As we toured the chateaus, monuments and buildings that have stood as witnesses to thousands of years of history, I couldn’t help but wonder what these buildings could tell me if they could talk.

The same questions apply when I walk into buildings today. For today’s buildings, the question has to do more with what can the building’s infrastructure share about its safety and security, energy sustainability and occupancy usage.

Contemporary software based facilities systems produce a staggering amount of data, from surveillance and video analytics to access control, building automation, wireless networking and sensors. Infrastructure data can tell you where people are in the building, temperature in multiple locations and energy consumption at a varying levels within the facility. Sensors provide traffic and usage patterns, door access, room utilization, waiting room occupancy, and bandwidth usage patterns within the facility.

If you want to know it, you most likely just have to listen carefully.

Moving beyond legacy applications. Despite technology upgrades, many systems still operate in a legacy capacity— tracking one specific point of data and operating in a silo. For example, video surveillance is most often in place to review what happened after the fact — whether it’s a breach in security or a safety concern. However, integrated with video analysis and data from sensors, the system provides a much broader picture of what is happening in real-time and can trigger protocols or alert personnel of emerging situations. This allows organizations to take a proactive approach to issues that come up within the enterprise.

Listening at the enterprise level. A building infrastructure can tell you what happened in point situations but a connected building can prevent situations from developing at all. 

Beyond reacting to a specific event, the data points and video can analyze a business from both an operational and a people perspective. Not only can the data determine how the building is used but it can also improve safety and security, energy sustainability and occupancy usage.

The challenge is that your building infrastructure has a lot to say. Knowing how to aggregate the data to make the required business connection is the difficult part.

Adopting a problem/solution approach. My advice is to adopt a problem/solution approach rather than trying to tackle it all at once. By this I mean identify a business problem and determine what your infrastructure can tell you from various perspectives across the enterprise then develop a strategy to address these challenges.

Case in point: a large Midwestern healthcare facility wanted to reduce its number of patient falls. Not only did the falls have a negative financial impact on the hospital but they also influenced patient satisfaction. The hospital had long relied on constant attention from nurses, low-tech bed alarms, and nurse call systems to address fall risk. However, these systems were very reactive and couldn’t prevent falls. After listening to their systems, the hospital determined it needed a visual component that was less intrusive and more cost-effective than an in-room nurse monitoring the patient. Through the addition of video surveillance technology, the hospital now remotely monitors the activities of multiple high-risk patients from a central location on each floor which has reduced the number of patient falls dramatically.

Taken one step further, the hospital could incorporate video analytics to determine situations when a patient has moved beyond a specified area – like a bed or chair – or if they have left the room. Using analytics software tied into a hospital’s building infrastructure could trigger varying levels of actions – from staff members receiving alerts via alerts or intercom pages to security being called or access to/from the unit or floor automatically restricted.

Listening to your building infrastructure will give you the tools to learn more than just the state of your building. Your infrastructure holds the key to addressing real business problems and improving operations and productivity. All you have to do is listen.

Dale Klein is the president and owner of Parallel Technologies. He has more than two decades of experience in technology and business leadership. He transformed Parallel Technologies from a cabling services company into a high-growth technology company by helping clients with their reliable data center and intelligent building strategies.

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posted on 9/7/2016