Tech Talk – Sensors – How Sensor Technology is Changing Facilities.

I recently read an article from American City and County where the author Jean Clark discusses how procurement can help Chief Information Officers (CIO’s) in the public sector improve the cost and quality of service.

Clark talks specifically about how the increasing demand for, “digital infrastructure that can facilitate data-centric “business” models” is driving the need for an “advanced digital infrastructure

Clark goes on to directly correlate procurement best practices as a vehicle for facilitating these advancements.

As I read this article, I could not help but think about the future of data in construction and how all of us in construction (not just procurement) can drive our buildings towards an Internet of Things (IoT) reality.

In June of this year I was the featured guest on a webinar with Procurious where we discussed Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Technologies.  During that webinar, we briefly touched on the topic of IoT and discussed how sensor technologies are  revolutionizing the built environment.

Today I want to list some of those technologies with the hopes of further motivating you to bring forward these technologies into your buildings.

Radio-frequency Identification (Rfid)

One of the simplest forms of sensor technologies are RfID tags.  These devices emit a low grade radio frequency that transmits electronically stored information.  These tags make quick work of inventory and equipment identification.  With a quick sweep with an RfID reader a single person can take an inventory of hundreds of items or receive detailed data on a single item in less than a second.

RfID tags are very inexpensive.  You can get 100 tags for $20 on Amazon, so implementing RfID technology is not cost prohibitive.  The time savings is well worth the effort of setting up RfID technology.

This technology can be used to track the location of items in inventory such as tools and can be used to digitally label major equipment.  Imagine tagging every piece of equipment in a building and being able to collect it’s in service date, capacity, make, model, and service information by simply pointing and clicking an RfID reader.

iBeacons – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Devices

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are the latest form of sensor technology for buildings.  These devices use low grade Bluetooth sensors to detect the proximity of any Bluetooth sensor (such as your phone).  This technology can detect where you are and how long you linger in a specific location.

BLE devices have great potential for a variety of applications.  For example retailers can use this technology to measure in real time whether certain displays attract the level of attention they desire.  The same technology can be used to customize digital billboards in real world environment as you pass by (think Minority Report without lights flashing in your eye).

These proximity readers can be used to track individuals around a building.  In a post GDPR society, that notion may raise some eyebrows, but think about how granting access to this kind of technology to fire and life safety could save lives.

I also think of how office environments have changed and how iBeacons could be used to have hoteling stations instantly adjust to your pre-determined preferences.  This would give end-users a consistent feel regardless of where they sit.

Smart Equipment and Building Management Systems

The lifeblood of every facility is it’s building systems.  Building systems require constant maintenance and repair.  Monitoring the performance of building systems is key to extending the life and performance of these systems.  The top equipment manufacturers in the world are now embedding sensor technology into their equipment.

These sensors capture constant streams of data to monitor temperature, vibration, rotations, and other key metrics that reveal performance issues well before a system fails.  This kind of technology allows facilities to reduce down-time, extend the life of equipment, and perform routine maintenance ahead of equipment failures.

Facilities that incorporate smart equipment (or add sensors to existing equipment) will be poised to eliminate replacement costs and reduce down-times.  They can also benefit from enhanced data that can help them eliminate even more costs and predictably maintain equipment.


These are just a few of the IoT sensors currently available and in development.  In the near future, many more will become available and will become widely used.  The age of big data is truly upon us.  Those who change with technology will reap the rewards while those who don’t will stagnate.

Tell me about all the ways your company is using sensors.  Are you using the sensors mentioned here?  Are there other sensors I have not mentioned?  Tell me your stories.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.

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