Automation Education

Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and the Changing Role of Building Managers

Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and the Changing Role of Building Managers

Examining the future of facilities management in an automated world. Building automation systems have been common for decades, providing comfort and achieving energy efficiency by managing HVAC, lighting, and other systems. These on- premise technologies have made facility management a more productive, effective and enjoyable job.

SwissCognitiveMoreover, automation in buildings provides capabilities that aren’t feasible for a human to perform effectively. This was true when Warren Johnson (founder of Johnson Controls) patented the thermostat in 1883. Johnson didn’t like the disruptions in his classroom when janitors and other staff came in to check the temperature.

Across the broader economy, there continues to be concern that advanced automation technologies destroy jobs. Among other key trends, many point to the “great decoupling,” a term coined by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT, which refers to the deviation of productivity and wage growth. Until the 1980s, these two metrics grew hand-in-hard. Now, productivity continues to rise while wages are stagnant. Many believe technology and automation are to blame.

Since I wrote my last article on automation in buildings , which argued that these technologies would be a job creator in buildings, there have been a number of interesting papers on the broader topic of automation and jobs.

First, Gartner highlighted the significant benefits of augmentation — humans working with technology. Gartner notes that the impact is nonlinear: “Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation and will likely follow this route.”

Deloitte published a white paper that analyzed job changes in England and Wales over the past 144 years (since 1871) and the impact of technology. Deloitte’s high level findings are that technology has created many more jobs than it destroyed, saved Britons from “dull, repetitive, and dangerous work,” and has “lowered the cost of essentials, raising disposable incomes and creating new demand and jobs.” […]

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