Emerging Information Technologies for Facilities Owners
Mr. Eric Teicholz of Graphic Systems, Incorporated, reviewed the migration of computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) applications to the Internet. Dr. Donald P.Greenberg of Cornell University outlined emerging trends in computing, person-machine interfaces, and display technologies. Mr. Paul Doherty of The Digit Group discussed how extranets are changing design, construction, and facilities management.
COMPUTER-AIDED FACILITIES MANAGEMENT AND THE INTERNET
Summary of a Presentation by Eric Teicholz President, Graphic Systems, Inc.
The history of computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) dates back to the early 1960s when space forecasting and inventory applications were first run on expensive mainframe computers by people writing their own programming code. As time went on, architectural planning and construction project management were added to the suite of applications running on the systems, as shown in Figure 1.
The number of people writing their own code based on office automation software (e.g., spreadsheets and database management systems) increased dramatically with the advent of smaller computers. “Islands of automation” began to appear in offices. During the 1970s and 1980s, CAFM began to be used for such additional applications as furniture inventory, asset management, lease management, and building cost accounting.
Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) applications, such as maintenance management, telecommunications, cable management, and security began to appear during late 1980s and 1990s as the enterprise client-server
Eric Teicholz is the president and founder of Graphic Systems, Inc., and has a 25-year history of consulting, education, and writing in facilities management and technology. He lectures internationally, is a contributing editor at Facilities Design & Management and Commercial Buildings magazines, and is the author of hundreds of articles and several books on computer graphics, facility management, computer-aided design and architecture, computer-aided facilities management, and geographic information systems technology. He is a member of the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment at the National Research Council and the Advisory Board for Facilities Management at A/E/C SYSTEMS.
environment became dominant. More recently, document management and workflow have been added to this list of CAFM applications. Now all of the traditional CAFM applications are migrating to the Internet, where they will be joined by new applications, such as energy management, e-commerce, and assessment of facilities for portfolio management. Full functional computer-aided drawing (CAD) is still not purely Internet-based, although Bentley, AutoCAD, and Visio are all promising pure Internet solutions coming online within the next year to year-and-a half.
Since 1997 there have been three trends in Internet CAFM products: “brochure ware,” or static and dynamic Web pages and Web-enabled applications; e-commerce, including portals, marketplaces, and application service providers (ASPs); and information integration, including emerging e-business and e-process applications.
CAFM applications being offered by ASP vendors represent the current industry goals. With ASPs, users access the software product with their browsers. Telecommunications are provided by the ASP vendor. Front-end hardware costs disappear for users. Within 12 months most FM products and services are going to be available in some kind of ASP mode. The cost/benefit financial models have not been well worked out, and there are not very many profitable ASPs at this time. There are, however, some very real advantages to moving to the ASP model.
The trend now emerging is e-business and e-process applications that incorporate work flow and commerce. There are not many FM examples of this on the World Wide Web at present. But that clearly is how FM vendors
and portals are evolving. Interest in developing portals and other products and services associated with construction is high because the potential market is so large. There is as much as $1 billion in venture capital invested or seeking investments in this marketplace, most of it focused on the development of portals serving the construction market. However, the e-business marketplace is in a state of extraordinary flux, with several vendors discontinuing service in recent months as they run out of venture investments.
Adding to the complexity of selecting an e-business or ASP vendor are the application vendor partnerships that go with each choice. The ASP partner typically provides the FM applications, but the partners, whether they are commerce partners or Web-hosting partners, are usually other third parties. Determinations of costs are very different in the e-business world than they are in the traditional design and construction market.
Users surveyed by Graphic Systems believe that the Internet has very strong and compelling benefits. Most of the application developers will be moving products and services to the Internet, although there are some very real impediments. Some of the portals are in serious financial trouble, and as mentioned, several have shut down their Web sites.
Users say that unquestionably the largest factor limiting their use of the Internet for e-business or ASP service is data security. Physical steps, such as firewalls, will not make this issue go away. What users object to is the storing of common project information on the same server as their competitors and the potential for unauthorized access to that information.
To effectively use e-commerce, you must think differently about business processes, procurement, and supply chain management. There is a need to redefine business processes, but getting companies to change the way they do business is always difficult. Using the new information technologies is going to require different management skills from facility and property managers and from the educational institutions that train them.
Graphic Systems maintains a list of two hundred or so facility management and real estate application vendors moving into the e-business market in seven main categories:
space and asset management;
real estate and property management;
maintenance and operations;
building systems energy management;
computer-aided design and construction; and
support functions (see Figure 2).
In recent months Graphic Systems has selected vendor examples from these categories and developed case studies to illustrate the state of Internet technology in major CAFM categories.
In the space and asset management category Graphics Systems selected for its case study applications developed by Facility Information Systems, Inc. (FIS), a venture-capital-backed firm with offices in Camarillo, California (www.fisinc.com). FIS was unique in that it uses Oracle 8i for its backend database, which means that as long as database standards are supported their entire application can automatically be offered over the Internet. FIS is also progressive in that its software integrates CAFM and geographic information systems technology, which allows spatial queries of the data. FIS had developed links through an application program interface with partners in the world of space and asset management. In the computerized maintenance management world, the primary link is with Maximo software. In human resources and other enterprise applications FIS links readily with leading enterprise solutions by PeopleSoft and SAP. FIS is beginning to add linkages with enterprise resource portal solutions being offered by SAP, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.
With software like that offered by FIS and its competitors, one can query entities like a virtual room, and ask who’s in the room? What assets are in the room? It can indicate moves, generate various move scenarios, analyze the cost for a relocation, and tie the move to a schedule of other events occurring over time.
Graphic Systems estimates that the one-year cost of using FIS software for a user with a portfolio of 125 buildings totaling 10 million square feet would be around $105,000. That would provide 10 concurrent licenses
working in either a client-server environment or with Internet browsers, Web access for 35 users, and training. Management would have access through browsers to graphics-based reports, queries, floor plans, and planning tools. Entering inventory data, CAD, and drawings could result in significant additional first-year costs.
In the building system and energy management category the example selected is Silicon Energy Corporation, a venture-capital-backed firm with headquarters in Alameda, California. The company has developed a collection of integrated software modules that enable enterprises and energy service providers to efficiently manage consumption, procurement, and distributed energy assets in a deregulated environment (www.siliconenergy.com).
Silicon Energy has developed energy demand models that take into account energy use data measured at meter points and monitored over the Internet. They then go to energy providers in a number of states with the customer’s energy profile and get real-time bids.
The Silicon Energy software enables asset managers to answer such questions as: How closely does peak energy consumption correspond with energy rates? Which meter points contribute the most to peak consumption hours? How do sites compare in terms of energy and demand intensity levels? The company has linked its software with CAFM systems offered by developers such as Peregrine Systems, Inc., of San Diego, California, so that energy use can be modeled inside the CAFM system; it is now developing the capacity to control energy subsystems such as lighting and mechanical over the Internet through software that will be provided by Silicon Energy.
The example for the computer-aided design and construction category is Bricsnet. Through its Web portal Bricsnet integrates the technology, services, and information that professionals can use to design a building, manage a geographically dispersed project team, bid on and procure building materials and services, access building product specifications from manufacturers, and manage completed facilities. Bricsnet maintains corporate headquarters in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and Ghent, Belgium. The company went public during the stock market’s peak. It therefore has the resources and will to deploy an infrastructure to support a broad range of applications (www.bricsnet.com).
One of the companies Bricsnet has acquired is RELMS (Real Estate Lifecycle Management Services), a real estate application for property management, lease management, work order management, and even a limited procurement component that works inside its site. The RELMS system can be used for lease and property management and occupancy analysis. It rolls up those data into projects, and the projects can issue work orders. Work orders have work flow that can be triggered, for example, by a lease abstract. The day the lease comes up, it will automatically notify the appropriate person and take a series of escalated actions if that person does not respond.
Bricsnet intends to establish itself as the link between the design world, the construction world, as-built drawings, and facility management needs. That’s an important start and not many companies are trying to realize such an ambitious goal.
Bricsnet told us that the cost of using RELMS as an ASP is on the order of $60,000 to $180,000 per year or two to six cents per square foot of building being managed. The cost of data creation, conversion, maintenance, training, and other implementation costs would be on the order of three times the ASP cost. Data from Bricsnet and other vendors suggest that users will recover their investment in about two years if they choose to buy their hardware and software instead of subscribing to an ASP.
Because of their subscription cost structure—project extranets like Bricsnet or Buzzsaw most often charge by the gigabit of storage—the cost of putting whole portfolios of buildings on the system can be almost prohibitive. The users surveyed said that they had been able to negotiate lower fees than those posted on the Web site.
The facility assessment example is VFA (formerly known as Vanderweil Facility Advisors) of Boston, Massachusetts. This software, and other similar systems, was developed to help architects and engineers report on the different subsystems that make up a building, such as accessibility, aesthetics, building integrity, code compliance, energy, functionality, and hazardous materials (www.vfa.com).
Developing databases for a building is the first step in the process. In the end, this often leads to procurements and the process is facilitated by the many databases that can estimate time and materials needed to correct deficiencies. This is a labor intensive, expensive process. VFA and the General Services Administration are now
working on a project in which artificial intelligence is used to reduce the labor needed to develop databases. Vendors such as VFA are linking the development of the databases to CMMS or even CAFM systems. They are starting to provide ASP services on the Internet.
For maintenance and operations, the example is a CMMS vendor called Datastream MP2, which has developed middleware for an event-driven application offered as an ASP (www.dstm.com). Building managers using this service might, for example, be notified when their inventory of motors for a particular kind of compressor reached a certain threshold. The service would automatically come up with several options from its catalog, which has hundreds of thousands of items. On the basis of customer profiles the service might tell managers that they have bought this motor in the past and they work, and it might add that Datastream has a sale on this motor from this company.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES: AN OUTLOOK
Summary of a Presentation by Donald Greenberg Director, Computer Graphics Program, Cornell University
Moore’s law holds that the density of microprocessors doubles every 18 months, leading to a doubling of processing power in the same period. The semiconductor industry has already done testing on the types and size of micro features needed to continue advancing the technology at the rate described by Moore’s law until 2011 or 2013. This means that in 2015 microprocessors are going to have a million times the power they have today. The same holds true for memory and more so for communications bandwidth.
Mass storage is advancing at an even faster rate, as is graphics processing technology. Sony’s Playstation 2, which came to the market in October 2000 and sells for $299, has three processors. One has five times the floating-point processing power of the fastest current Pentium III chip. Soon, processing, memory, storage, and bandwidth will be essentially free. So what are we going to do with it? Assuming that it is free and assuming that we are going to deal with things pictorially, what is missing and how will the system grow?
Donald P.Greenberg has been researching and teaching in the field of computer graphics since 1966. During the last 15 years, he has been concerned primarily with research advancing the state of the art in computer graphics and with using these techniques in a variety of disciplines. He is the author of many articles on computer graphics and has lectured extensively on the uses of computer graphics techniques in research applications. He is the director of the program of Computer Graphics and is the originator and former director of the Computer Aided Design Instructional Facility at Cornell University. Dr. Greenberg was involved with the design of numerous building projects, including the St. Louis Arch, New York State Theater of the Dance at Lincoln Center, and Madison Square Garden.
Many changes in the near- to midterm will come from novel ways for entering and displaying data under development in laboratories. Advances in imaging are of particular interest to design professionals. Current generation digital cameras take pictures; the next generation is going to collect data. If we take two pictures from closely related spots and there is some kind of gyroscope or tracking device on each camera (so we know exactly where we are in space and in which direction the camera is oriented) we will capture images and record the geometric information. This will allow a designer working in an urban environment to take pictures of all the surrounding buildings and have that information automatically become the database the designer uses to design in context.
Dramatic changes are on the way to improve display resolution. Texas Instruments has developed a device that uses 16- by 16-micron mirrors to reflect light from a source to individual pixels on a display. The mirror can be switched so that its pixel is either illuminated or not illuminated. The display has much better resolution and is much brighter than CRT displays. Plus, today we can get theater projection quality over a large screen at the cost of a chip plus a projection system. Soon, all home entertainment centers more than 30 inches diagonal will be
either this type of technology or a similar technology using liquid crystals. I have three projection systems of this type in my classroom, and students use them to immerse themselves in the space they are designing. NASA Ames will be using the technology in its flight control center. The trend has started.
Advances in processing speeds and new display technologies will enable designers to dramatically change from modeling and then rendering to rendering while modeling. Doing this accurately and predictively is a complex problem. If I had 100,000 points in this room, I have to find a relationship between each one and every other one and then solve the matrix, which is 100,000 by 100,000. And I want to solve it in real time. I then want to take the physics and run it through a model of the visual system such that I am creating a picture on the screen that basically tells your brain that what you are seeing is the same thing you would see if you were in the real world.
To do this, Cornell is developing parallel rendering techniques that include all the interactions between reflective surfaces. For real time, these calculations will take a 107 increase in processing power. A major sponsor of Cornell in this effort is Intel Corporation. Currently, the university has 32 processors running in parallel to support the effort and can perform sub-second renderings on moderately complex scenes.
Another major effort under way is designing software that architects can use intuitively. If I had a dream, it would be to sit in a nice soft chair in the woods, possibly with some classical music playing, with a sketch pad and charcoal pen or a Pentel and tracing paper and doodle and sketch. That’s where I can do my most creative thinking. I would like to have those ideas transformed into preliminary drawings and simulations that can be reviewed and ultimately turned into working drawings and construction documentation. When the project is being built, I would like to have an automated system show changes made in the field and actually create construction documents.
The way architects actually work is to use all sorts of pictures and props for ideas. They build crude and abstract models. They like to doodle and sketch the preliminary design ideas.
Why can’t computer-aided design do this? Do you want to be stuck with the types of hardcopy line drawing that we currently use in all systems that are available for CAD? There is no creativity in that mode. What I want to do is develop tools to put greater creativity in the hands of the architects so that in fact we might improve the built environment for the future. A new type of drafting software being developed at Cornell facilitates this ideal process. Instead of a mouse it uses a wireless pen that can be used to sketch in three dimensions. This information should then automatically be translated into CAD data. It should be ready for use in five years.
EXTRANETS FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND COLLABORATION
Summary of a Presentation by Paul Doherty Principal, The Digit Group
The large investment in Internet firms serving the A-E-C industry during the past two to three years is forcing a fundamental change in the way people view collaboration. There has been an explosion in the world of extranets (e.g., the project management and project-specific Web sites).
In the past, children in our culture were trained to hoard information from the time they entered elementary school. We are not supposed to share. After all, when I share, then I am diminished in what I know. I do not get the higher grade in school, the promotion at work, the title or the extra money, because when I hoard my information I am important. People want to come to me. What extranets have done is to explode this myth into an idealistic notion of interdependence, flexibility, and partnership: the essence of knowledge management.
Paul Doherty, AIA, is a registered architect and one of the industry’s lead consultants and integrators of information technology and the Net economy. He is the principal partner of The Digit Group, a management consulting and information technology firm based in Memphis, Tennessee. He is an author, educator, analyst, and consultant to Fortune 500 organizations, government agencies, prominent institutions, and architectural, engineering, and construction firms around the world. He is the author of multiple sections of the AIA Handbook of Professional Practice and the author of three books, including Cyberplaces, The Internet Guide for Architects, Engineers and Contractors, and Cyberplaces 2.0.
Largely because of the $3.2 billion invested in A-E-C information technology ventures since 1997, people in the industry now have the tools and the incentive to ask: What if information were shared throughout the life cycle of a facility?
We are moving from this whole idea of ownership—It is mine. If I own it, I can maintain it, I can control it—to an Internet world where everything is shared. That is a relationship issue rather than a technological one. Any technology will show a bad process 10 to 100 times worse than it really is, so it is like putting a slide under a microscope. It will show good processes. There is no gray area. We are now reexamining what these project extranets are bringing to the forefront. And they are allowing us to think beyond documents, like schematic designs, to information.
With a data flow comes the possibility to change the industry. When you are in design and construction, architects, engineers, or contractors should be feeding a database every time they submit a document. If documents are feeding a database you are creating “digital DNA” that is attached to the facility and the property for its life. There are many applications for this information.
One powerful use is to provide the information to the real estate finance industry for use in its due diligence. In the private sector numerous buildings are built because of Wall Street. Certain design and construction information now is going to be driving the secondary paper market because of very simple tools, like electronic closings online that capture due diligence reports, environmental Phase I reports, record documents, past tenants, and utility use.
The developers of the world are starting to take a look at design and construction in a much different way because they do not have to hire out another person for due diligence. It is already done. The documents themselves will not go away any time soon, for legal reasons among others, but the data will be more readily available.
Project extranets are now in the early adoption phase. The first generation is so embryonic and so pioneering that I would be very careful about what you choose. Attention has to be paid to a host of issues ranging from security to process, with relationships being particularly important.
The Internet and extranets are starting to reassess where the value is, and it starts with a three-tiered architecture, meaning browsers. These are not browsers like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer but Palm Pilots and cell phones. Browser mentality says you do not need central processing units or RAM in the device because all you are doing is requesting information. Now these applications can reside on your computer or be outsourced to an application service provider. Data generated by wireless data links with the field is an important development that is going to allow these project extranets to thrive. If you are considering a project extranet that does not have a mobility function built into it, run quickly, because it will not serve you well.
The most important element of the three-tiered architecture is a database that can be continually updated by the application you buy or subscribe to. For people who manage multiple projects, one of the biggest frustrations is people working in individual “data silos.” The group that figures out how to build horizontal tools that report progress, show performance—like “How many change orders did I have last week on a project”—for one project manager, and allow you to evaluate performances measured with a mouse click is going to win the market. Certain groups are developing these types of tools. The breakthrough will happen when we start moving from design and construction into seamless facilities management and operations.
The information system developed for 3-Com (the manufacturer of the popular Palm pilots) for its Santa Clara, California, manufacturing complex allows employees to use global positioning systems to bring up location information about employees and facilities within the plant and find out where they are within the complex. The system routinely instructs security employees on what rounds they should make and what tasks they should perform while making their rounds. They also use it to file incident reports. So they are looking at a new way to push information out into facilities management and operations.
For organizations looking to use extranets, I suggest that they consider the following:
Do their online services link into legacy software systems like AutoCAD or Primavera?
Do they provide trusted content?
Do they allow for customized and personalized interfaces?
Do they have customer support 24 hours a day, every day of the year, that resolves issues?