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Cloud AV to accelerate ROI and improve virtual meetings in the WFH era

The COVID-19 Pandemic, along with extreme weather conditions, civil unrest and other disruptive events are shaping how businesses operate and how people work on a global scale.

Employees need to be engaged and productive, from an office, meeting room, at home or out on the road, with connectivity between all employees throughout an organisation essential for future business gains.

Now, research carried out by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan for a new White Paper: ‘7 Steps To Improve Meetings In The New Era Of Work’, addresses the key factors for successful collaboration, including:

  • Prioritise Cloud Conferencing Service Adaption
  • Upgrade Meeting Room Technology for the New Era of Work
  • Improve Collaboration with Audio for All
  • Instil Confidence and Boost Productivity with Seamless Audio
  • Drive Meeting Room Effectiveness with Best-In-Class Audio
  • Adopt an Ecosystem Approach
  • Focus on Ownership, Experience, Standardisation and Interoperability

The report, augmented by global market leading audio manufacturer Shure’s ‘Future of Conferencing’ survey, reveals how IT and business leaders are future-proofing organisations, with technologies being replaced due to various factors within individual businesses:

  • Quality and reliability – 35%
  • Security concerns – 34%
  • Limited interoperability with 3rd party solutions – 26%
  • Lack of the latest features and capabilities – 25%

The world has shifted to flexible, cloud-based deployment and consumption models with richer functionality, with a broad range of communication applications to choose from.

However, without the foundation of any meeting, audio, no meeting can actually take place:

  • 95% of meeting rooms have minimal technology
  • 83% of professionals depend on technology to conduct meetings and collaborate.
  • 87% of professionals are frustrated and stressed due to technology failures in meeting rooms.

Expected proliferation of distributed work is among the top factors causing organisations to re-think their meeting rooms, with 82% of managers expecting flexible work from him polices post-pandemic.

Top Drivers for Technology Investments:

  • Improve teamwork – 35%
  • Improve information management – 32%
  • Improve customer experience – 31%
  • Improve operational cost – 29%
  • Improve marketing effectiveness – 29%
  • Boost creativity and innovation – 28%
  • Accelerate decision making – 26%

“Once offices reopen, health and well-being regulations will require employees to have minimal contact with shared surfaces. Therefore, there will be a great demand for touch-less conferencing,” explained Robert Arnold, Principal Analyst, Connected Work, Frost & Sullivan. “As enterprises build a robust conferencing ecosystem, the adoption of A/V technologies that aid simple deployment, intuitive operation, and seamless compatibility with leading collaboration platforms will experience significant growth.”

Jim Schanz, Vice President, Global Integrated Systems Sales at Shure, said, “To optimize audio performance in rooms connected to any conferencing service as well as to streamline room audio management, organizations must emphasize standardization of certified audio devices. As no meeting can be effective without quality audio, investing in a scalable infrastructure can position businesses of any size for greater success as they battle evolving market factors.”

Click here to read the full report.

Understand occupancy and adhere to social distancing with Genetec

Facilities managers will be at the forefront of social distancing compliance. Leveraging technology is the best way to achieve this – keeping people safe in an efficient and non-evasive manner.

Genetec makes this possible via its Occupancy Management Package , which includes analytics and reporting tools like no other. Users can easily count the number of people in a building, visualise data, and alert employees when occupancy limits are being reached. Facilities managers responsible for monitoring the situation can receive alerts on a mobile device, via email, or on their Security Center dashboard.

It even produces audit reports to demonstrate a business’s compliance with physical distancing regulations.

Click here to find out more.

New specialist law firm focuses on physical & digital infrastructure

A law firm that focuses solely on supporting companies at the intersection where the built environment, technology and people converge, has launched today. Conexus Law will work closely with clients in the connected world in both IT, telecommunications, infrastructure and datacentre construction and with engineering businesses delivering major infrastructure projects.

The company has been founded by Ed Cooke (pictured), a recognised expert in critical IT infrastructure, engineering, procurement and construction. He has previously been a partner in international law firms DLA Piper and Bird & Bird. Conexus Law is founded on the belief that its people can only deliver the best counsel if they have a strong understanding of the industry challenges and the underlying technology and processes, so every member of the team has specific industry expertise.

It will take a fresh and different approach to legal practice, in many ways mirroring the way its clients operate, using similar language and processes to enable seamless interaction, identifying key risks and creating flexible legal frameworks.

Ed Cooke, Founder at Conexus Law, said: “With growth continually outstripping predictions, the digital sector is facing major challenges around the unprecedented pace of change, lack of resources and an inability to predict what the future technology landscape will look like or demand. In addition, innovative technologists are pioneering emerging technology where there is often no legal precedent and the regulatory environment frustrates innovation. Conexus Law will deliver robust, creative and commercially pragmatic global solutions in this fast moving and unpredictable sector.”

How digital telecare poses an opportunity for facilities managers

Tim Barclay, Chief Executive Officer at Appello

There is a digital revolution taking place in the UK today, as the telecommunications infrastructure shifts from analogue to digital. By 2025, analogue telephony, which support vital capabilities like lift alarm lines or telecare systems, services will be switched off entirely. This poses certain challenges for facilities managers working with housing providers, but it will in turn offer huge opportunities too.

For example, warden call systems have seen no real innovation for 25 years and are unlikely to work well, if at all, after the migration by the nations telecoms providers to a digital IP network over the coming years.

This is causing facilities managers and housing providers to review the options to keep their customers safe and well, and in doing so take the opportunity to improve their lives.

The implementation of digital telecare equipment provides many opportunities to increase the wellbeing of residents in supported housing, as well the efficiency of a facilities manager. That’s because those roles often revolve around three main points which the best digitals systems can really help with – how to improve safety, security, and social inclusion for residents – how to improve safety, security, and social inclusion for residents.

Safety

With digital systems the safety benefit is two-fold. Firstly, on an analogue system you can only put one call through at a time, so if someone requires entry at a front door and a resident pulls their cord in an emergency situation at the same time, they’ll be put in a queue until the door entry is completed. Digital systems can accept multiple calls so there’s no queuing, meaning emergency calls will be picked up right away. Secondly, the response time is a lot faster – current connection times for analogue telecare systems are around 60 – 90 seconds for the call to be connected, for digital it’s only 3 seconds. This significant improvement can mean the difference between life and death in a critical situation.

Maintenance

From a continuity of service point of view, digital systems provide a much greater insight into the health of the system. They are constantly monitored with a heartbeat from the system produced every few seconds to confirm that its performing. Whereas analogue systems leave you in the dark as to how they are performing, it may not be until and an emergency that you realise the system isn’t working properly.

This also puts the maintenance onus on the manufacturer, instead of relying on site staff to detect and report issues. Digital systems allow for remote diagnostics and repairs, resulting in greater efficiencies in maintenance – roughly 60 per cent of faults can be repaired this way – and problems are often rectified within minutes.

Greater system insight from digital systems to site staff can also improve the efficiency of the service as many digital systems integrate with a real-time platform for the management of the on-site equipment. This shows the health of every piece of equipment in the system, including the battery life of personal alarms which can be monitored, so facilities managers have an early warning to change them.

Social inclusion

Modern digital systems are also easy for residents use, and some include a wall mounted tablet that allows residents to access a myriad of digital services and video communications. This offers a new opportunity for housing providers and facilities staff to add value through increased social inclusion at the touch of a button.

Currently, most housing providers offering sheltered accommodation to older people, only provide internet access in communal areas. However, some digital telecare systems now offer a built in Wi-Fi router, meaning residents have internet access in their rooms, and are able to use the internet as they please – increasing feelings of social inclusion.

Security

Digital systems offer video door entry, offering peace of mind for the resident as they will be able to visually identify every caller before they enter the property. This can also be used by staff on site, so if an unknown pedestrian tries to get through the gate, they can be identified, and prevented from entering if needed, all via a video link.

Do I need to do this right away?

Whether providers are ready or not, the switch is already happening. In October last year, the Telecare Services Association (TSA) released a white paper: A Digital Future for Technology Enabled Care, warning of the disruption that the replacement of the current Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) networks with Internet Protocol (IP) telephony would cause amongst technology enabled care (TEC) providers, stakeholders and the 1.7 million vulnerable people who rely on telecare in the UK. The TSA commented, “Technology enabled care, particularly telecare and telehealth, plays an increasingly important role in health and care. Yet it is threatened by disruption as UK telecommunications shift from analogue to digital.” Despite the difficulties we are presented with, could it be better to instead rise to the challenge?

Digital is inevitable and taking steps now to review your equipment is essential to staying ahead of the curve and keeping residents safe. It’s worth enquiring with your telecare provider about their plans for delivering the safety and wellbeing benefits described above.

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

$1.5 trillion global economy boost from ‘smart factories’

Smartfactories could add at least $1.5 trillion to the global economy through productivity gains, improvements in quality and market share, along with customer services.

However, two-thirds of this overall value is still to be realized: efficiency by design and operational excellence through closed- loop operations will make equal contributions.

According to new data from the Capgemini Research Institute, China, Germany and Japan are the top three countries in smartfactory adoption, closely followed by South Korea, United States and France.

The report entitled Smart Factories @ Scale, identified the two main challenges to scaling up: the IT-OT convergence and the range of skills and capabilities required to drive the transformation including cross-functional capabilities and soft skills in addition to digital talent.

The report also highlights how the technology led-disruption, towards an ‘Intelligent Industry’, is an opportunity for manufacturers striving to find new ways to create business value, optimize their operations and innovate for a sustainable future.

Key findings of the study, which surveyed over 1000 industrial company executives across 13 countries, include:

Organizations are showing an increasing appetite and aptitude for smart factories: compared to two years ago, more organizations are progressing with their smart initiatives today and one-third of factories have already been transformed into smart facilities. Manufacturers now plan to create 40% more smart factories in the next five years and increase their annual investments by 1.7x compared to the last three years. 

The potential value add from smart factories is bigger than ever: based on this potential for growth, Capgemini estimates that smart factories can add anywhere between $1.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion to the global economy over the next five years. In 2017 Capgemini found that 43% of organizations had ongoing smart factory projects; which has shown a promising increase to 68% in two years. 5G is set to become a key enabler as its features would provide manufacturers the opportunity to introduce or enhance a variety of real-time and highly reliable applications.

Scaling up is the next challenge for Industry 4.0: despite this positive outlook, manufacturers say success is hard to come by, with just 14% characterizing their existing initiatives as ‘successful’ and nearly 60% of organizations saying that they are struggling to scale.

The two main challenges to scale up are:

·       The IT-OT convergence – including digital platforms deployment and integration, data readiness and cybersecurity – which will be critical to ensure digital continuity and enable collaboration. Agnostic and secure multilayer architectures will allow a progressive convergence.

·       In addition to digital talent, a range of skills and capabilities will be required to drive smart factory transformation including cross-functional profiles, such as engineering-manufacturing, manufacturing-maintenance, and safety-security. While soft skills, such as problem solving and collaborative skills will also be critical.

According to the report, organizations need to learn from high performers (10% of the total sample) that make significant investments in the foundations – digital platforms, data readiness, cybersecurity, talent, governance – and well-balanced “efficiency by design” and “effectiveness in operations” approach, leveraging the power of data and collaboration.

Jean-Pierre Petit, Director of Digital Manufacturing at Capgemini said: “A factory is a complex and living ecosystem where production systems efficiency is the next frontier rather than labor productivity. Secure data, real- time interactions and virtual-physical loopbacks will make the difference. To unlock the promise of the smart factory, organizations need to design and implement a strong governance program and develop a culture of data-driven operations.” 

“The move to an Intelligent Industry is a strategic opportunity for global manufacturers to leverage the convergence of Information Technology and Operational Technology, in order to change the way their industries will operate and be future ready,” he further added.

The report also details that PLM, MES / SCADA and robotics are key components of industrial architecture. However, the main areas of investment for at-scale deployments are IoT and AI, which support data-driven operations, as well as remote and mobile capabilities.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

The advantages of using smart technologies in commercial buildings

As the UK Government pledges to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the urge for sustainable buildings is stronger than ever.

According to the UK Green Building Council, an estimated 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint is attributed to the built environment, half of which comes from energy used in building. Heating alone created 10% of the country’s carbon footprint. 

Yet sustainability is still out of reach for many property owners and managers. Old buildings, small budgets, tenants’ varying needs – there are many factors that make it hard for a property manager to truly measure the sustainability of a building and to act upon any findings.

Considering this, Frankie Bryon, Sustainability Surveyor at LSH discusses why smart technology can help buildings improve on sustainability as well introduce other benefits that include promoting health and wellbeing and enable agile working…

Smart is sustainable
Firms’ sustainability strategies have been a major driver of the rollout of smart technology. By providing more efficient controls over energy usage, it can deliver significant reductions in energy consumption.

It is no coincidence that some of the smartest office buildings in the world are also rated by BREEAM as among the greenest. Smart systems allow lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation to be monitored and adjusted according to a building’s usage and occupation. Energy wastage can be minimised by turning off heating and lighting when an office is unoccupied. Intelligent building facades may also be used to control the heat and light entering the building in response to changing weather conditions.

The next generation of energy efficient smart buildings have their own sources of power generation and some are even able to generate more energy than they consume, with surplus energy going back to the grid.

Workplace wellbeing
Smart technology is increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in promoting health and wellbeing. It can help to create environments that support alert, energised workforce. 

Sensors can monitor air and water quality, light, temperature and noise levels. Issues known to affect workers’ concentration levels such as poor air quality or a lack of natural light can thus be detected and fixed.

More advanced smart office technology can also make use of data from wearable biometric devices monitoring the health and comfort of workers. In fact, research by Instant Offices shows 45% of the UK workforce would feel comfortable with sharing information via wearable devices for the purpose of protecting their health and wellbeing. 

Ambient conditions can be adjusted when workers show signs of discomfort, or an individual’s immediate working environment can be changed according to their personal preferences.

Work smarter

Sensors, smartphones or wearable devices may collect data monitoring environmental factors such as temperature, light, air quality and noise, as well as data on employees’ usage of the building.

The data collected can deliver building managers with actionable insights on how to improve a building’s performance, or it may feed through to automated systems controlling the office environment. With smart technology continually evolving, it is being used to support an increasingly wide range of applications, providing multiple benefits to building owners, investors, occupiers and employees.

Enabling agile working
Smart technology is providing occupiers with a better understanding of who uses the office at any given time, how they work and with whom they collaborate. These insights can enable increasingly agile, flexible working.

Some of the newest generation of smart buildings have fewer desks than workers. Instead, employees may reserve a workspace using an app, with a choice of spaces depending on whether they would prefer a collaborative workspace, private meeting area or a quiet space.

Smart systems may thus facilitate a move away from the convention of employees ‘owning’ a desk, which then goes unused for periods when they are out of the office. Flexible workspaces can be used more efficiently and may be continually adapted to changing employee demand and new work styles.

Improving workplace experiences
As well as enabling desk and room bookings, workplace apps can also be used to order food and drink, book gym sessions or reserve parking spaces. They may allow employees to control ambient settings, as well as providing new ways of connecting and collaborating with colleagues.

Workplace apps are thus developing as important interfaces between employees and office buildings, giving individuals greater control over their office experience. This will help to align the modern office with the expectations of a younger workforce for whom smart technology already plays an integral part of their lifestyles outside of work.

The benefits of being smart
Overall the advantages that smart offices offer are in terms of the following:

  • Sustainability
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Agile working 
  • Workplace experience

Smart offices also aid talent attraction and retention, by creating spaces in which people want to work, while appealing to workers’ environmental values. Modern, sustainable offices can help to reinforce a company’s brand values and define a progressive, forward-thinking corporate culture.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

IOSH study: Apps can ensure safer buildings

Digital apps can help construction project designers create safer buildings by improving their knowledge of hazards during the design phase.

That’s according to new research funded by IOSH and conducted by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University.

It found that the use of a multimedia digital tool can help to educate designers on typical design-related hazards and assist them in designing safety into construction projects more effectively. 

The study asserts that many professional design institutions have been gradually withdrawing the requirement for architects and civil engineers to spend prolonged periods of time on construction sites.

In turn, this has meant many designers do not have the construction knowledge needed to understand how their designs could impact occupational safety and health and often results in contractors taking on the responsibility for building designs.

However, the IOSH research shows up to half of construction accidents in the UK have a connection to the design of the building, highlighting the importance of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards and designing safety into developments from the outset of projects.

Professor Billy Hare, Deputy Director of the BEAM Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “A key factor for this research was the visual nature of the digital tool’s content, which seemed to work best with new graduates.

“But its real potential lies in being able to capture tacit knowledge from more experienced designers for the next generation to counter the age-old problem of organisational memory loss and prevent the same old mistakes that cause accidents and ill health from being repeated.

“We are now looking for partners to develop the prototype digital tool for full-scale industry use.”

As part of the study, a sample of 40 (20 novices and 20 experienced) designers from two typical industry groups of architects and civil engineers were recruited.

The designers were randomly assigned to multimedia user (experimental) and non-user (control) groups, who were permitted to use the internet for help. Participants were asked to review a set of computer-aided design (CAD) drawings in these sessions, identify hazards and make decisions about designing for OSH.

The experiment tested the multimedia digital tool against general internet searches and examined the designers’ ability to foresee OSH hazards in designs by measuring both the quantity of specific hazards identified and the quality of design outcomes.

Using the tool, the designers identified hazards a total of 599 times, with architects identifying over three times the number of hazards as those not using the tool. For civil engineers the figure was five times as large.

In both cases the scope of hazards identified was double that of the group not using the multimedia tool, suggesting it was an effective way of improving designers’ knowledge of hazards. This knowledge could help to create safer buildings by factoring a greater number of hazards into the planning and design of construction sites.

Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “Everyone would agree that it’s always best to prevent an accident from taking place in the first place, rather than reduce the injury.

“In today’s age of technology, being able to utilise digital training resources to help designers do just that is great. Such tools can make a real difference in upskilling professionals, irrespective of their level of experience. Architects and civil engineers can identify hazards and come up with better controls when developing and reviewing designs. Ultimately, this will reduce injuries and save lives.

“I hope that this research and the findings are welcomed by the design community in particular, including establishments with an educational or training interest, so that the learnings can contribute to improved industry practice.”

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay 

GUEST BLOG: The future builders will be programmers

As software continues to pave the way to more advanced and complex buildings, the question arises over the shift in skills our future builders will need. Potentially, we will require builders with more technological skills than practical skills, especially as artificial intelligence continues to develop enough to be able to take over basic labour tasks. In this article, building design software experts Oasys explores the matter further… 

Worrying about technology and jobs 

It’s a common concern, that one day all our jobs will be done quicker and cheaper by machines. Technology will not steal our jobs, but just replace us as we shift roles. But how will this impact the construction industry? 

It’s important to understand the numbers behind predictions like this. Boston Consulting Group has said that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by smart software or robots. This includes a range of professions, from factory workers to doctors, and even journalists. However, a study carried out by Oxford University has said that 35% of existing jobs in Britain are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

Whether or not we will see a reduction in physical workers is yet to be seen. However, this can be challenged if we start preparing early and encourage current and future workers to adapt to the changes. This could include advancing their own skillset with a focus on how they can do their job better with the use of technology.

Less replacing, more changing 

Of course, even if the workforce is replaced with mechanical workers, someone will need to manage this technology. It’s also left unmentioned that workers will need to use technology, and that leads us to the decision that in the construction industry, builders of the future will become programmers. Over the years, we have seen constant changes in the way we work, and the construction sector has been very accepting to new and innovative methods to make jobs easier. From hammers to nail guns, shovels to diggers — and now practical labour to programming.

This won’t be a quick change. Programming is a topic that schools around the UK should be looking to implement into their curriculums as a core subject to keep up with the demand of jobs and to keep up with the constant changes in technology. If we’re teaching young people old ways, they will be useless when it comes to doing the work and there might not even be jobs available that match their skillsets. With the constant growth in technology surrounding construction, young people need to be prepared with the skills and this shouldn’t be up for debate. Like the studies discussed earlier, more jobs are at risk of being lost due to smart software and robots. Workers need to be as good as the technology.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a common technology used in the industry that is hugely beneficial. This technology allows the appropriate people to access all of the information about a project in one place. It can look at key stages of a project across the lifecycle of a job and provide the information that is needed. This can save both time and money for any construction company and allows builders to have a clear oversight. BIM can help illustrate the entire building, from starting processes to its demolition, and can even show how materials can be reused. 

As with any industry, the trick is to stay ahead of the game and learn these new techniques required of technology in order to adapt. 

Sources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33327659

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/19/robot-based-economy-san-francisco

Technology ‘crucial’ in the battle for greater service sector productivity

Technology is a ‘crucial’ factor towards greater productivity and employee satisfaction, helping the services sector run more effectively as a result.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by Kronos, Empowering the Employee: How Technology Will Play its Part in Creating a More Efficient Workforce in the Services Sector, which outlines the challenges currently being faced by the FM sector, such as Brexit, the skills shortage and underperformance, with the direct result creating squeezed profits and an air of uncertainty for providers.

The report addresses these issues and suggests the service providers should embrace technology and help stimulate working practices and operations.

However, it claims that the services sector has yet to understand the full potential of technology advancements, such as robotics and workforce management tools.

“The services industry is up against it when it comes to delivering in the face of current market pressures,” commented Gavin England, EMEA industry marketing manager Kronos.

 “Skills shortages mean that businesses are struggling to efficiently move goods and fulfil orders, and the potential impact of Brexit means that there needs to be a major focus on improving operational efficiencies and streamlining core processes, while keeping staff morale high.

“The pressure to increase bottom-line profitability in the face of such challenges is very real, and one of the most effective ways that this can be done is by empowering managers and employees to do their jobs more effectively with the resources they currently have.”

FM must digitalise to increase productivity, says JLL…

A recent report from the professional services and investment management company, JLL predicts that companies will continue to implement and embrace a digital facilities management approach; with new technologies changing how businesses handle workforce and facility operations becoming more available.

As workplaces progress to deliver additional flexibility, the ‘Reinventing Facilities Management for the Digital World report warns the FM sector must become a ‘digital business’ to meet rising expectations and demands – focusing on employees as ‘end-users of space’ and distributing an experience that is consistent to increase productivity and attract and retain the best talent.
To find out more and access the full report, click here