The rise of the machines: transforming the way we manage and experience buildings

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Buildings are using new technology to gain a life of their own, from adjusting the environment to fit your needs to helping you find a parking space. We explore how automation and robotics are transforming the way we manage and experience buildings.

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The rise of the machines: transforming the way we manage and experience buildings

New technologies are bringing about a seismic shift towards better, people-centric, workplace tech. We are seeing more and more building owners and managers looking to intelligent building technology to meet the demands of employees.

“Modern workplace technologies can help companies give employees an interactive, enjoyable and comfortable experience and a sense of personalization” according to Maureen Ehrenberg, Executive Managing Director, Integrated Facility Management at JLL.

At JLL’s London headquarters we are exploring how sensors, building automation and IoT solutions can help facilities track the use of energy and space while also increasing the comfort and safety of staff.  At The Edge in Amsterdam, smart building controls famously get data from 28,000 sensors and automatically adjust the lighting and temperature just for you, while the espresso machine knows you prefer a double.

Transforming the occupant experience

Cognitive buildings like these may seem futuristic, but they are a sign of things to come and they’re already giving rise to new mobile applications that revolutionise the occupant experience. Ehrenberg says “an increasing number of companies are adopting smartphone apps for their employees, making it easier for them to reserve meeting rooms, find a parking space, order drinks or meals and control temperature and lighting in their workspaces.”

One example is @Work, a mobile app that provides a hub for multiple functions from finding a conference room to requesting a replacement lightbulb. Comfy is another – an app that adjusts the temperature and ventilation to each person’s individual preference, all at the click of a button. These solutions combine the convenience of today’s mobile devices with connected building features to give users a more personal and user-friendly experience.

Integrating robotics into the management of building facilities

While advances like these can certainly add a personal and even ‘human’ touch to the workplace, others may have the opposite effect. Many fear that the rise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and automation could dehumanise the workplace – some estimate that five million office jobs will be taken by robots over the next few years, while others say automation could affect almost half of all activities people are currently paid to perform. In many cases, job replacement is expected to be more partial than complete and companies will need strategies for integrating machines alongside people.

JLL is one of the first companies to trial the use of robots as receptionists / concierges to see how automation can assist office workflows, and how employees and clients respond to robots. Working as part of a fully automated visitor management solution, a robot called JiLL supports staff, visitors and couriers with a range of front of house tasks at JLL’s Carrington office in Sydney. JiLL, who stands at 57cm tall, has facial recognition software enabling it to meet and greet guests. It can also check people in for meetings, provide directions, contact hosts and record and report maintenance issues.

JLL’s team are watching closely to see how clients and visitors respond to JiLL. It’s hopeful that such insights will enable us to advise on how to integrate robotics into the management of building facilities. It’s part of a pilot and is one of a growing number of robotic, automation, machine and deep learning concepts being explored.

Article compiled by Emilija Emma and edited by Laura Jockers drawing on articles previously published on JLL Real Views, JLL’s global site providing expert insights on the trends and developments shaping real estate.

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