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CIO Interview: Mitie’s IoT program is leveraging building data at scale

Tue 4 Feb 2020 | Cijo Joseph

Ahead of Smart IoT London, Mitie CIO, Cijo Joseph, guides us through the company’s IoT-enabled transformation

IoT is one of the key ways of sourcing data about how buildings and facilities are being used. That’s why over the last few years, Mitie, the UK’s largest facilities management company, has embarked on a journey to evolve from a manpower-driven business to a technology-driven business — with IoT as the key enabler.

Mitie is one of the largest strategic outsourcing firms in the UK, employing 50,000 across facilities management and professional services. IoT now serves all of the group’s business units, but the group’s energy management and mechanical and electrical maintenance clients have felt the most benefits.

“IoT has become the game-changer and key data source for our Connected Workspace service,” CIO Cijo Joseph explains. “We achieve this through automation of alarms, remote management of equipment, data analytics, machine learning and enabling our customer interaction through AI.”

Common knowledge

The Connected Workspace is a platform that gives Mitie a clear picture of its clients’ buildings. Connected to Mitie’s hub are thousands of sensors, allowing the company to remotely monitor energy and space utilisation. Joseph says he has lost count of the number of sensors the company has installed. Those plugged into building management systems are “pulling back over six million data points a year.”

Join Cijo at Smart IoT London, 11-12 March, ExCeL London

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“During this initial phase, we have resolved 48 percent of reactive work orders remotely, minimising disruption and call-out times for the customer. Most importantly, our clients have benefited from the reduction of their energy consumption or optimisation of their office spaces, including reducing cost by releasing office spaces/buildings which were not optimally utilised.”

Interestingly, 5000 sensors are being used to track employee wellbeing at client sites — which Mitie gauges from lighting and temperature factors and wearable devices that transmit stress levels and productivity. While this might sound Orwellian, there are academic grounds for such monitoring. Many workers suffer in silence and feel pressurised to keep bad conditions to themselves – with these systems Mitie can detect how gloomy or noisy spaces are adversely affecting performance.

First things first

In many ways, IoT was the perfect match for Mitie, which manages a sprawling portfolio of buildings across the UK. “We knew that by combining data from different business functions, the opportunities to improve processes and systems would be revealed,” Joseph says. “Everything Mitie does is at scale. When you deal with big data sources you have to use the power of IoT to help to develop and land solutions.”

The company knew they had to act fast: “Collecting the data meant embracing IoT, and that meant getting to grips with an emerging technology, quickly.” Helpfully, the program dovetailed with the digital transformation programmes its clients were embarking on themselves, with many clients asking Mitie “how IoT could benefit their built assets and workplaces.”

There were several steps on the journey to IoT-powered monitoring and control. Mitie first worked with each of its largest customers to “understand their business problems” via a series of workshops and discussions. “The first step to designing a solution is to understand the problem you are trying to fix,” explains Joseph.

Armed with the knowledge of the problems, Mitie then set about understanding the business benefits and impact on costs. The company quickly recognised that developing “agile yet robust solutions” was a key component to enabling ROI. In practice, this means solutions that can “change in line with market conditions.” Thanks to a continuous stream of data from its office spaces in its Shard HQ and Bracknell  Mitie Service Operations Centre, the company is constantly learning and refining its services.

One of the biggest challenges Mitie encountered during the roll-out of these solutions was tailoring them to its clients’ needs. Each client has its own “controls strategy,” which means there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Another issue it faced was harmonising operations and IT teams, two departments that IoT programs necessarily overlap. Mitie soon realised that getting both teams on the table was key.

“Most of these initiatives were led by the client operations team and IT was often the last to find out. This often caused delays but was overcome by forming cross-functional working groups that included IT from the outset.”

Can IoT help you?

For Mitie, one of the chief benefits of its client-wide IoT roll-out is that it’s now in a position to advise companies of all stripes and in all sectors about how to capture IoT’s benefits. Questions Mitie advises clients to ask themselves are whether IoT projects “actually matter.” In other words, if there is a real business need and a clear business case.

Companies also need to identify the data they need to deliver and assess if they have the human resource to deliver it. If a project is a success, Mitie also advises companies to evaluate how it can be adapted to fit other business needs. Lastly, it’s vital that “all those involved are aware of the need to be patient.” It can take a while for a great project to deliver results. “Always make sure you have security and ethical use of data as your core principles for any IoT journey,” adds Joseph.

In line with its own advice, Mitie is already planning how the next-generation of emerging technologies can elevate its IoT platform.

Naturally, AI and machine learning are top of the list, which will be deployed to improve predictive maintenance. Augmented reality and wearables are also on the agenda, with a new service that equips field engineers with smart glasses, allowing them to be supported in real-time by remote engineers. And of course, there’s 5G. The primary aid of the next-gen network will be the enabling of “real-time, to-the-second monitoring of everything you want to track in a building, whether it’s people or assets.”

To learn more about Mitie’s IoT journey, don’t miss CIO Cijo Joseph’s Keynote session at Smart IoT London. Registration Free.

Experts featured:

Cijo Joseph

Chief Information Officer


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