Interview: Building with IoT

FacilioIn his first interview since the launch of Facilio, a greentech startup firm with pilot projects in the UAE, Prabhu Ramachandran who is the founder and CEO, speaks exclusively with Technical Review Middle East on the need to build a unified suite of facilities and energy management software to manage buildings efficiently and sustainably

Technical Review Middle East (TRME): How would you describe Facilio in one sentence?

Prabhu Ramachandran (PR): Facilio is a unified suite of facilities management (FM) software that harnesses IoT and machine learning to manage building operations, maintenance and sustainability performance, in real-time, and across an entire portfolio.

TRME: What exactly does Facilio do for the built environment?

PR: Facilio connects and unifies your teams, systems, and equipment across multiple facilities. Facilities today have a diverse set of solutions for diverse functions – apps for maintenance, traditional building management systems, environmental sensors at server rooms, systems for security and a lot more. But, typically, these tools were designed to operate independently – which made it difficult for buildings to achieve portfolio-wide positive performance.

Our objective is to allow building owners and FM companies to centrally gain control and visibility, and manage everyday building operations efficiently, and sustainably. In short, it is Facilities on Autopilot, or Buildings on Autopilot.

To set the context – these unstructured and disparate systems spread across multiple buildings limit the integration and flexibility, and lead to various operational efficiencies. In fact, the lack of portfolio-wide transparency can increase energy costs by almost 30 per cent and maintenance expenses by nearly 15 per cent.

Additionally, the legacy software that is currently being used to manage buildings is not designed to meet real-time operational and sustainability expectations, which leads to issues like delayed response times.

With Facilio, we are offering a Unified Facilities and Sustainability management suite that helps owners and FMs to operate a portfolio of buildings centrally. And we are using IoT to connect all existing systems seamlessly and derive value out of the data already existing on those systems.

TRME: Why is now the right time for a company like Facilio?

PR: There are several drivers for it.

Despite billions of dollars worth of investments in automation of buildings, they continue to perform at sub-optimal levels. This is because they are not optimising their benefits from this automation and instead end up being inefficient. A pure software-driven solution that can make use of existing systems and help customers operate buildings efficiently is something that customers are already looking for.

Secondly, there is a dire need for innovation to drive a continuous flow of efficiency in building management. Operating a portfolio of buildings centrally leads to significant economies of scale. Take the example of Henry Ford’s assembly line automation for cars. It not only revolutionised the industry but also greatly reduced costs and production time. A software-led solution like Facilio is bringing in similar assembly-line innovation for buildings, by providing a centralized system for a continued flow of efficiency.

Thirdly, sustainability, despite becoming increasingly critical everyday, especially in the built environment given its high energy consumption, has seen no major shift in the past several years to become mainstream. Once again, a software-driven solution that can help customers involve every stakeholder in the sustainability dialogue, like owners, facility managers (FMs), tenants etc., is the need of the hour.

Against this backdrop, the market has a compelling need for a solution that addresses these challenges, without breaking the bank. And Facilio’s IoT and ML-based software provides exactly that – an integrated solution for all these challenges, allowing you to address the health of your building portfolio in one single dashboard, by optimising existing systems.

TRME: The market is flooded with IoT providers and smart building automation systems. What is it that Facilio does differently?

PR: It is important that we put strategic objective at the core of the smart building business. And this is what Facilio does. We look at solving the most basic set of challenges that rank high on the agenda of customers using IoT as an enabler technology, and not the other way around.

Many IoT solutions today come bundled with a proprietary set of sensors that only adds to the existing siloed environment and already heavy total cost of ownership (TCO). The value in IoT for smart buildings will not be in the addition of many new connected sensors, but in tech-driven applications that use existing data to improve efficiency multi-fold. And it is this value that differentiates Facilio – our solution integrates with existing building systems without having to uproot expensive infrastructure or add any new sensor. By acquiring, analysing and contextualising data into real-time actionable insights, Facilio enables all stakeholders to make better organisational decisions continuously, and provide the best occupant experience.

Facilio helps customers operate at scale across their portfolio and manage building operations, maintenance and sustainability performance, in real-time, by harnessing the power of IoT. This way, we truly help transform the facilities experience.

TRME: Despite the hype and mindshare surrounding sustainability, adoption has been slow. How can Facilio help?

PR: When we talk about sustainability in the built environment, it is important to remember that we need to look at it along with the entire building operations and not in isolation as a yearly audit process. Facilio can help customers take a phased approach to sustainability, and use existing investment. (There is a massive amount of data already available within existing building systems)

Also, for sustainability to be sustainable, it needs to become a daily habit. Facilio’s solution involves all stakeholders into the sustainability drive – FMs, building owners, occupants – beyond the ’technician only’ mindset. This helps ‘everyday sustainability’ become a reality.

We also work on real-time data and help customers fix issues on energy and water as part of their existing facilities process.

TRME: To conclude, what would you say are the top three benefits for building owners and/or facility managers to consider a software-enabled building management solutions like Facilio?

PR: A lot of money is being spent on blindfold, separate tools with multiple interfaces and different pricing. A solution like Facilio provides an integrated approach.

Secondly, current systems lack efficiency in managing buildings, which is far more significant to an occupant. With Facilio, end-user facility experience can be enhanced.

And thirdly, a software-enabled solution like Facilio is creating a new industry benchmark of real-time data across the portfolio of buildings.

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