Big FM Data: Help Wanted

Whether the numbers involve energy consumption, equipment performance or occupancy patterns, buildings are a rich source of data. But getting the value from Big Data, like mining gold from a lode buried deep in the earth, takes some doing.

One person whose help you’ll need is a data scientist. That’s the person who can figure out how to crunch the stream of data available from sensors and building systems so that the numbers can be turned into useful information.

Facility departments won’t be hiring data scientists any time soon, if ever. But that’s not a problem. Data science is being built into a wide range of building products and services. Let’s say you’re in a position to acquire data-science expertise in the form of fault detection and diagnostics software. To get the value from that investment, you’ll also need to fill a role known as the data translator. A data translator does everything from making sure that the right data is being provided — in this case, the right FDD tool selected — to ensuring that data is actually used.

While the name is new, the need for data translators isn’t. Building automation systems have long been able to provide data that most facility departments haven’t taken advantage of. But for a data translator to be effective, the facility department and the organization as a whole have to appreciate the opportunity that facility data presents. That’s where a data champion or data evangelist comes in. That person has to sell the value of data, be aware of options for getting data, identify places to start, justify resources, push to get projects done — get the ball rolling and keep it moving. Data champions and data translators aren’t so much jobs within the facility department as functions that need to be performed by someone, regardless of title.

With the proliferation of connected building devices and systems, the volume of data and the opportunity for action will grow. At some point, responsibility for data will be a bullet point in every job description within the facility department. But for now it’s probably a good idea to ensure that data is an important responsibility for at least one person on the staff.