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The net-working of facilities managers

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This week's column is one of three on related possibilities of the mobile Internet. Two weeks ago there were ideas around mobile interpretation centres. Last week there were aids to help users understand and control buildings; this week, a facilities management perspective.

The government has just announced the expansion of PFI for facilities management of schools. Contracts may cover a range of neighbouring authorities. PFI could move cost-in-use up the agenda and with it investment in the design of refurbishments and the monitoring of building performance.

Take energy monitoring. With adequate building metering, the Internet provides a relatively low cost infrastructure for centralised monitoring and problem finding. A few schemes already exist over various networks; the Web should simplify implementation. The same may apply to fault monitoring. Again a few networked examples exist, such as Otis' Remote Elevator Monitoring, which constantly monitors lift service and might even call out engineers. The Internet may facilitate remote monitoring and diagnosis more simply.

Another variation is security surveillance, both within buildings and externally.The Internet bandwidth is coming to handle real-time low-fi digital video surveillance centrally, providing much more thorough coverage of many buildings than the man-in-the-white-van.

Indoors, the Web-phone used as a smart zapper for local control of building services, is of use to the responsive facilities manager as well as the user. Having controls and sensors that respond locally could also aid more effective commissioning.

Facilities management need is the driver of change.But the Internet's relatively low cost and increasingly widespread and smart infrastructure suggests new options and questions existing practices.

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