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Sat 30 Sep 2006 08:00 PM

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Getting the best out of IT

An increasing number of FMs are adopting radio frequency identification solutions to monitor assets.

Most FMs use some kind of technology in their day-to-day tasks.

Whether it be email, a helpdesk software package, a building management system (BMS) or a database, to name a few.

But for best practice in IT to work, it’s imperative that FMs keep up to date with the fast advancements in today’s technology world.

In FM today, technology is seen as taking a bigger role in the everyday support of services to people and the workplace.

What’s more, the interest in workplace design and the mobile workforce is also creating a stir in the world of IT.

As previously talked about in the technology feature, it is also essential for the FM and IT departments to communicate with each other on a frequent basis.

This will ensure both parties understand the needs and requirements of both departments.

Some of the newest forms of technology could well be used to implement best practice and for those companies who already have best practice implemented, carry on adhering to it.

Driving the development of these new technologies are things like: information system development, organisational governance and compliance, accounting systems, globalisation, decision processes, organisational learning, ethics of information, organisational communication and culture, training and ongoing life long learning.

These developments in the Middle East will contribute to providing cheaper, faster and more efficient ways of handling information.

They will also allow clients and customers to have greater control over maintaining their own personal space.

Today’s FM will be able stretch technology to its entirety, helping them deal with daily tactical decision making.

But for it to work effectively, technology needs to be understood and used correctly if FMs are to support the future of their organisation.

Most buildings have an access control system to prevent unwanted people from entering.

Those who have approved access are given a security card, this may be a swipe or touch card.

This card also acts as a device to limit access and track where people are within a building.

One such technological advancement is an access control card that can do considerably more than just security control.

 Smart cards and RFIDFirst of all, it’s important to understand what RFID is.

Secondly, you need to know what it does.

And thirdly, how it can help a business and the benefits it can bring.

RFID stands for radio frequency identification and is used as an automatic identification method that relies on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

These tags can be attached to an object, animal or person for the purpose of identification/tracking using radio waves.

RFID cards are also known as proximity or proxy cards and come in three general varieties – passive, semi-passive and active.

All of these varieties are of use to the FM but here the concentration is on active cards.

The cards are used a little like an inventory and are compatible with many other software/systems used making them multi-functional.

This allows the business to make sure employees and visitors get the best possible service.

Coupling a smart card with RFID can have up to eight lines of information that can be linked to various technologies.

For example, car park entry, access control, log onto IT system, order food in restaurant, pay for food or drink from vending machine, use of photocopier to charge back costs by employee number, log library books taken and returned etc.

Even though the initial cost is a little more, it is worth looking into as the improvements in service, communication and the other benefits it can bring could outweigh the cost.

It is advisable to consult a professional RFID specialist before embarking on any kind of implementation.Access controlIt has been argued that implementing RFID into existing buildings could cause problems due to it not being compatible with the other technologies that have already been put in place.

But with many new buildings being constructed, especially in Dubai, everything is being build, implemented, designed and maintained from scratch.

This is a perfect opportunity to look into using RFID.

Access control is a perfect example of best practice with these cards.

For example: All employees have been given RFID proximity cards.

When approaching the access gate to the car park, the system will automatically know who the person is and whether or not they should be allowed entry.

If the person works at the building, they will be able to access the car park.

As they get near to the door of the building, the proximity reader will identify the employee and open the door.

If an unfamiliar face approaches the access point, the visitor camera will identify them in the face recognition system.

Each card can be customised to the individual employee and visitor meaning access throughout the building can be restricted.Asset trackingOne of the many jobs FMs have within their remit is the management of the company’s assets.

This can be done in a number of ways and there are many different technologies available in the market place that will help FMs do this effectively and efficiently.

For example, a company has embraced the hot desking mentality and the FM has been tasked to work along side the IT department to supply a certain amount of employees with a laptop.

These laptops need to be logged and accounted for and it is the FMs responsibility to make sure the company knows which employees have been issued with the laptops.

A simple RFID tag will work along side the asset management software to enable the FM to do all this.

It will track the asset in real time and works as a great inventory system.

These tags can be used on fixed and mobile assets and will track them all over the building.

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