When we hear about “IoT” and “data”, it all still sounds very abstract. Does it really work? Will we measure everything with IoT? Will customers notice the difference? Isn’t “it” only for big companies, who can invest in cutting-edge technology? We decided to demystify all the doubts about IoT with the help of several experts who use it in their daily life in Maintenance and Facility Management. 

Our guests bring us real examples of IoT applications in Maintenance and Facility Management, unravel the implementation of IoT applications and even venture some predictions for the future. We remind you once again that all talks are available in full on our Youtube channel.

1. Will we measure everything with IoT?

IoT allows you to measure almost everything, but it’s better not to scatter. Guilherme Azevedo, from the Brazilian company Sigmais – which specialises in IoT solutions – considers that the first step is to know exactly what you want to measure. “Nowadays, we can measure and automate a lot, but you need to define the data that generates value.” Otherwise, you won’t get a return on investment.

Having a data culture, contrary to what one might imagine, is not a prerequisite. However, Guilherme Azevedo warns that “companies that already have a culture of turning data into knowledge will enjoy IoT much faster than those who still use spreadsheets” and adds that if “you’re not on spreadsheets yet, start now!”

2. Is quantity quality?

Xabier Crespo, from Galician SC Robotics, agrees with Guilherme Azevedo: the most important thing is to know what you want. The company manufactures customised sensors for each client, depending on the type of data to be monitored, the connection they want to configure with the maintenance platform, and the power source (solar energy, AC/DC, etc).

Since all sensors are customised, producing small quantities is not the most economical option. Most companies they work with, Xabier explains, order sensors “in the hundreds or thousands” to generate an economy of scale.

However, if they have their goals straight, they can make strategic use of the technology and achieve a return on investment quickly, even with a small number of sensors. To solve this historical dilemma, let’s look at the example of Viña Costeira winery, which uses sensors in the lids of the wooden barrels.

The sensors allow controlling, in real time, parameters such as temperature or humidity. Thus, they allow better monitoring of conservation conditions – every time a barrel is wasted, 500 to 1000 litres of wine are lost – whilst improving the wine’s quality.

3. Does IoT really allow us to improve preventive and predictive maintenance? 

“In industrial maintenance, predicting when equipment will break down has been a dream since the 19th century,” says Guilherme Azevedo between laughs. “In larger motors, many things are already automatic. But what about the smaller ones? How do I control a factory with 5,000 motors?”

Before evolving to predictive maintenance, condition monitoring through IoT can already be very useful to improve maintenance plans. With traditional methods, 30% of preventive maintenance is overdone, while McKinsey warns that condition-based maintenance can help to cut costs by up to 30%.

Miguel Iacumussi from Vivante, a Brazilian company with over 5500 employees working with hospitals, shopping malls, universities, factories, and even airlines, recalls that they were working on quarterly plans for a set of pumps.

When they installed sensors in the facility, they realised that none of them was reaching the working hour limit indicated by the manufacturer. Maintenance became annual, which freed up the technicians for other tasks and saved them from replacing parts that, after all, were still within their useful life.

👉 Is predictive maintenance really cost-effective?

4. Do service providers also save with IoT?

The evolution to real-time data collection allows us to optimise processes and “manage the contract in the limit”, concludes Guilherme Azevedo. “When we manage a maintenance or Facility Management contract, we always want to have some margin.” But by being able to employ resources more precisely, “we are able to ‘operate on the edge,’ achieve savings, and the customer remains satisfied.

For example, inside a shopping mall, you can estimate the number of people on site by the amount of C02 in the air. From here, you can calculate the ventilation flows and activate the air exchanges, or even better predict the amount of materials and time that will be needed for the next day’s cleaning, among other services.

As a matter of fact, the cleaning issue – by force of circumstance – has become an unavoidable priority for FM. Miguel Iacumussi suggests “triggering a work order every time 50 people go to the bathroom and automatically fulfilling the SLA” instead of defining a fixed frequency, in order to represent the variability throughout the week and the hours of the day.

5. Can only big companies invest in IoT?

Not anymore. It’s true that, for many companies, the price of investing in IoT used to be prohibitive. But there are new business models that can dilute that barrier and help SMEs enter the fray. Like software-as-a-service, “hardware-as-a-service avoids the initial investment“, suggests Guilherme Azevedo.

Sometimes it is more resistance to innovation and the fear of investing in the wrong solution that exists. “For many years, the focus was on selling hardware – which in some cases was very good – but which companies ended up not using or enjoying. Then these systems became obsolete, were never reused, and now there is a natural fear”, theorises Diogo Drummond, Managing Partner at DTWay, which specialises in digitalising buildings.

For Miguel Iacomussi, all these fears can be overcome through success stories. The cultural change takes place as the entire staff absorbs new knowledge, because “they realise the positive and significant impact” of IoT.

Critical Software’s Miguel Valério’s advice is to “start small” and see how it works. Then, he recommends “choose wisely”, favouring a “flexible and integrable” platform, as well as “open hardware” that works with any platform. That way you keep all your options open and don’t compromise on changes you may need in the future. 

6. Is the Internet of Things the Integration of Things?

In line with Miguel Valério, Diogo Drummond advises “companies to be careful if they are offered a closed system. Open, highly integrable software is less likely to become stagnant over time.”

PRIAC’s Jose Correia agrees that integration with other software is decisive. “Integrations lead to operational improvements, greater efficiency, greater reliability and even more reliability and transparency, with cost savings in both equipment and Human Resources.”

7. So why don’t we have autonomous cars and machines yet? Is 5G missing?

First, we need to realise that not all IoT is equal. Leandro Nunes, IoT manager at American Tower, explains that there are two distinct types of IoT: massive IoT and critical IoT.

Now, we associate IoT with smart buildings, smart cities, and automation in industry and logistics. This is the “massive IoT” – it has a low cost, low power consumption and aggregates huge volumes of devices. It already has all the advantages we have seen so far, but more is possible.

Thanks to new types of networking, such as LoRa, we are moving toward “critical IoT”. This IoT is even more reliable, with high percentages of availability and very low latency. This provides for high-precision automation, which in turn enables autonomous cars, remote surgeries, and other advances that have been in the pipeline for years.  

8. What will the future of Facility Management look like with IoT?

The prediction of Miguel Iacomussi, who has worked in the sector for 34 years and has witnessed all these advances, is that “Facility Management will no longer be human. All facilities will have telemetry centres, which allow remote control and free up technicians for more productive activities.

Nuno Gonçalves, from Emitu, goes in the same direction. The application of long-range wireless sensors – which need LoRa-type networks – allows the monitoring of all kinds of indicators in real time. “There will be no need for technicians to make rounds, nor does anyone need to report the malfunction because you notice it right away.”

In addition, Iacomussi foresees an “uberisation of the technician.” “Facilities companies will need to apply deep learning, machine learning, all that. Otherwise, how can a facilities company manage thousands of work orders a year?”