Buildings will be heated and cleaned by robots

Property management services will become more and more automated in the upcoming years as houses are getting smarter and smarter, which will contribute to saving energy and cut down on labour expenses – is the opinion of the leaders of Stell, a property management company.

Stell has been operating under this name since January 2020; before, it had been a part of ISS, a group of companies which provides cleaning and property services. “In 2019, our company’s owner changed, which also implied that our IT infrastructure had to be disconnected from that of the group, and a local infrastructure needed to be built,” said Kaur Õllek, the financial director of the company. As the enterprise had had a long-term positive experience of cooperating with Telia, the latter was called in for assistance in developing the new system.

There are some things in which robots are still inferior to humans

The company had already had the software for client management and maintenance operations, so it did not need new developments right away. “We use client management software to distribute and forward tasks to the service units and provide feedback to the clients. Today, automated solutions cover recording the client’s requests, task closure notifications, reminders about tasks, scheduled of planned operations and all kinds of notifications related to changes in client contracts,”  Margus Välling, member of the board of the company, said.

Wider implementation of automation will imply cutting down the positions filled with people. Stell can already boast a rather effective system for the management of the tasks received from its clients. Namely, Stell employs one person who schedules the technical tasks of nearly 500 clients and promptly sends the information directly to technicians’ smartphones. “the desk of our technical operations scheduler has several displays, one of which shows the online GPS map with the technicians’ locations, the other shows scheduled tasks, and the third displays current information about the tasks which have been registered,” Välling described. The client management software is used to forward the tasks to the right technician whose location is the nearest to the client’s, and all information is recorded and archived. “Of course, in the future, we could see machines doing the scheduling of technical operations. Just imagine a single AI environment which receives various types of data from the sensors in the buildings as well as the technicians’ smart devices in real time. For instance, the IA will record a fault in the plumbing system after analysing the parameters it has received from the sensors and will dispatch the nearest technician to repair the fault,” Välling added.

What is still one weakness of complete automation at the moment is that when the client themselves provides the description of the problem, for the machine to make the right decision, a large amount of detailed data needs to be entered. This is why human schedulers or client managers are still more effective as they can make the appropriate decision on the basis of the brief description provided by the client.

5G boosts IoT services

The world of cleaning and management services is one of the spheres that will face dramatic changes when the 5G technology has been taken into use, which will, in its turn, give a great boost to IoT services. For example, the use of remotely controlled mopping robots in large office buildings will require larger amounts of data to be moved than it is currently possible. Välling described how they tested the use of robots for efficiency. While an area might have needed four cleaners earlier, for example, one robot and two cleaners would be able to do the same job. “However, the employee giving orders to the robot must be present on the site in person,” Välling noted.

Õllek says that IoT helps optimise cleaning and management services. For example, public toilets in shopping centres must be tended to several times a day for cleaning, as well as adding paper and detergents.  It would be reasonable to create a system of sensors in such buildings which would report a shortage of paper or significant traffic of users and the resulting need for cleaning the room promptly. The system would also register which toilets have had very few visitors and do not need personnel to come in and clean again. “We have developed such a solution for one large shopping centre, but, unfortunately, its implementation has been suspended because of the virus outbreak hitting Estonia,” Õllek said.

“The key phrase of the future will certainly be remote property management,” Välling said. “We can already monitor smart houses rather efficiently and, for instance, change ventilation schemes if we see that CO2 values are wrong. While smart houses can be mainly found among newly constructed buildings at the moment, the retrofitting of older ones with such systems if highly likely to start soon.”

Välling believes that another central topic is energy and how to save it. “Energy will inevitably become more and more expensive every day, which means that buildings must be energy-efficient. This means indoor and outdoor temperature must be monitored constantly, and a range of parameters must be analysed,” Välling explained. He elaborated that weather data could be directly sent to the AI software by weather stations so that the AI could devise heating schedules for the nearest days on the basis of these data.

Despite all the automation and development, there are no IT management employees in Stell headquarters as the company outsources this service to Telia. “We outsource the services in which we do not need to be experts ourselves, following our own advice to clients as far as outsourcing property management services goes,” Margus Välling, the sales and purchases director, explained.

To conclude, Kaur Õllek, the financial director of Stell, said that the healthcare crisis had slowed down the planned implementation of technologies in the company. During the crisis, the enterprise focused on Stell being able to contribute to preventing the spread of the virus and on creating a safe working environment for its and the clients’ employees. Nevertheless, in the second half of the year, the company is planning to continue the implementation of the technological solutions which was not completed in the first half of the year.

The same article has been published on the 17th of June 2020 on the portal https://digitark.ee/stell-maju-hakkavad-kutma-ja-koristama-robotid/