The ThinkFM Conference 2017 explored how technology impacts the role of the Facilities Manager and, indeed, the entire workforce. There is no doubt that connectivity and wireless technology in its many incarnations – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is making it easier to monitor buildings and equipment as well as anticipate faults. This improves preventative maintenance and many workplace services dramatically. Much more interesting to me was how much may be achieved by monitoring people as well! We are already familiar with occupancy monitors and wearable technology that can assess our steps, posture and heart rate. How much further will this go – and will we accept it?
We all recognise that Google and others simplify our lives by giving us ready access to information (although Google still can’t help when I ask it where I put my car keys!). We also understand that there is a quid pro quo of surrendering data about ourselves in order to improve the experience and information available to us. Whilst I am delighted and entertained by what technology can do for us, I am increasingly agitated by the dichotomy that exists between the benefits and the intrusion.
In his opening address at ThinkFM, BIFM Chairman Stephen Roots listed the New Generation of Robots as one of the top ten trends impacting the workplace. The loss of jobs to automation is widely discussed and a genuine cause for concern in the medium term. Are we all accelerating that outcome by volunteering the data that will make it possible? Uber may not be a company we look to for management inspiration but it is certainly one to watch for technological innovation. They are actively exploring driverless vehicles, whilst their existing drivers are allocated jobs by sophisticated software. One might argue that this is already management by algorithm.
Ben Waber, the keynote speaker at ThinkFM, provided a brilliant explanation of how his company, Humanyze, uses behavioural analytics to improve productivity. The impact of interventions by Humanyze was stunning and I am certain we shall be hearing much more about his company in the future. However, whilst the rigour of their work and the robust research on which it is based look impeccable, I still find myself a little uncomfortable about the individual data being collected.
I do not think I am paranoid and I am sure, to some degree, this cynicism is generational. I am not even suggesting we should be fighting against any of this technology. I just feel we should give more thought to the privacy we are surrendering! I have just read Stewart Mitchell’s article (PC Pro magazine 274/pp14-15) which explores what Amazon Echo, Google Home and others might be hearing that we are unaware of. The answer is quite a lot. Without question, the article reinforces my view that unethical applications can and have been exploited and I do not want this sort of technology in my home.
I realise that, whereas my blogs usually raise questions and suggest answers, this article simply raises a lot of questions! Am I paranoid? Do you agree? Is all this technology ultimately a force for good – or not? As always, any feedback is very welcome.