IoT drives the transition to a smarter world

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By Robert White, head of technology and innovation, ENGIE Solutions Middle East.

We are approaching a future when all building assets will be connected, making traditional facilities management processes obsolete. Therefore, real estate companies should put together a proper transition plan to ensure a smooth switch with minimal effect on service delivery.

Such a transition may seem overly complex and costly to building owners initially, but it shouldn’t be. A lot of installed equipment is already integrated, and owners are unknowingly sitting on top of thousands of useful data points. By adding IoT sensors, owners can bridge the gap by collecting additional information from existing assets.

The decreasing cost of IoT technology also makes it cheaper than ever to deploy advanced technology. According to a Statista report, average sensor prices dropped more than 300% between 2004 and 2020.

Further cost and performance optimisation can be realised by choosing integrated solutions providers. Combining operations, sector-based processes, smart technology, energy management, and alternative energy solutions provide much value to clients.

Outsourcing offers another excellent value proposition for clients. Outsourcing allows companies to concentrate on their core business, whilst service providers bring their knowledge and expertise to keep things running in the background with minimal disruption. Clients see the benefit of combining services and utilising global standards and best practices.

Many GCC clients have a diverse property portfolio across the region; therefore, they must ensure solutions are scalable and adaptable to all property types when choosing service and technology providers. At a time of unprecedented travel disruptions, technology can enable significant savings in cost, travel time, and service standards.

While there’s a learning curve to getting personnel IoT-ready, deploying technology within the workforce has become easier thanks to a younger digital-native population. Resistance to change is much less of a problem than it was five or ten years ago.

In the region, governments have ambitious digital transformation goals. For instance, the UAE Government wants to ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment and achieve an ideal balance between economic and social development as part of Vision 2021. IoT and automation allow businesses to align with government objectives while contributing to national decarbonisation efforts as responsible corporate citizens.

As with any disruptive technology, the biggest challenge is market adaptation. This can be overcome by educating clients and demonstrating regional case studies. At ENGIE Solutions, we can demonstrate our solutions through a client portfolio that includes marquee real estate projects across the region, such as Masdar City, King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), and Qatar Foundation.

The market continues to grow with advanced technology, however, it’s important to remember that hardware and software alone do not provide value. Partnering with the right organisation for digital transformation is key to realising value.

As the marketplace for energy within ENGIE Solutions, we make our clients benefit from expertise built on over 20 years of managing one of the world’s most extensive and most diverse energy portfolios, including power, gas, and environmental solutions. We have demonstrated that the deployment of IoT technology has a sufficient return on investment for operations and maintenance. The key is deploying the right level of required technology.

Size is important when selecting a service provider so that clients can benefit from economies of scale.

ENGIE Solutions’ smart platform automatically collects and analyses energy, asset, and facilities management data from over 200 buildings in the UAE, 300 buildings in the GCC and leverage data from over 8,000 ENGIE clients worldwide.

Data is collected up to every 1 to 15 minutes, depending on the criticality of the project, and is used to drive sustainable energy and operational savings for our clients.

Our Smart solution is both owned and developed by ENGIE Solutions. It is not a white-label product like other providers offer in the region. Essentially, the platform has been developed and improved over many years by energy managers for energy managers across our global network of 110,000 colleagues who work in energy efficiency. Therefore, the analytics and measurement & verification aspects are unrivalled compared to other platforms.

ENGIE Solutions also has an Operations Control Centre (OCC) called the Integrated Centre for Engineering & Environment (iCEE) operating out of our office in Dubai. iCEE improves energy and asset performance visibility and control across our clients’ portfolios. We employ smart IoT platforms from the OCC that include artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify savings and issues automatically. The iCEE is staffed by some of the region’s brightest young data scientists, engineers, and measurement and verification professionals.

The real estate industry is one of the most important economic sectors for GCC countries. Therefore, the sector has an oversized role in driving sustainability milestones in the region. IoT is crucial in accelerating the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally friendly solutions. Implementing IoT devices, such as motion sensors for lights and automated temperature controls, enables more energy usage and management visibility.

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