Integrated OT Q&A with Cam Exley

Why Integrated Operational Technology is helping to streamline building maintenance, with Syntric’s Cameron Exley

What is Integrated Operational Technology? Facilities Management sits down with Cameron Exley from Syntric to talk about how integrating technology into the facility can be a long-term cost effective solution.

What is Operational Technology (OT)?

Often confused with Information Technology, OT focuses on the behaviours and outcomes. Most control systems employed across industrial and manufacturing installations in the past weren’t networked. The result? Siloed specialised devices, each electronic, but lacking the ability to communicate or share information with one another. This results in human operators to bridge these gaps.

But, Exley confirms there’s a better way to go about it.

FM: Tell us a bit about what your role is?

CE: I’m Head of Technology Commercialisation. My role is helping customers working in facilities management to solve different tech challenges and differences within their operational technology environments. In short, I help to streamline these technologies and make sure that they are talking to one another.

How do you get these technologies to talk to one another?

It’s so important for these technologies to be able to read one another. This is done by aligning different resources in-house with traditional service lines. Combining teams to bring in the right players at the right time, we solve a problem. We look at the best solution as opposed to always needing to implement or purchase another product. We want to make sure that businesses and organisations know that it’s not always a tech upgrade.

Let’s start with the basics, what is Integrated Operational Technology? This feels like a rather new term.

Traditionally the OT environment has been sold as individual products. This includes CCTV systems, air conditioning and purifying, lighting, the list goes on. It was individual things that helped the operations of the building. But, with the tech advances, it’s turning into an interesting space. The whole concept of Master Systems Integrator (MSI) was born and is starting to mature.

So, to look at an example, we have been looking at air quality sensors a lot recently. With the pandemic and less bodies in the office, air quality became important, in addition to air and temperature. OT will help with this: air quality sensors will talk to the air conditioner and improve comfort of efficiency, it will then measure the air quality, including particulate matter including VOCs and CO2 levels among others, in the air and report back on the air quality.

Customers are looking for things to operate holistically, and this is where we can assist. My role is to make sure that we create a single environment of technology.

What are your aims for your role and those that you work with?

At Syntric, we focus on four outcomes for our tenants. These are at the forefront of everything that I’m set out to achieve for my clients. These are:

1. Reduce risk. This is top of the funnel of importance. Whether the health and safety of the building’s tenants or to operational continuity of the building’s assets. We need to assess failures, look at the commercial uses of the buildings. We are always wanting to improve the tenant comfort conditions. But, it’s about so much more than this. Part of risk reduction is looking at cyber risks. Cyber risks have become such a major player in people’s setup, huge companies have fallen victim to cyber breaches – we want to provide assurance that people’s cyber safety is the best it can be.

2. Reduce expenditure. This is something we really want to help out our clients with. This might be showing them that a one time cost can mean huge savings over a period of time. Office places and commercial spaces are so different to what they once were, with less people coming in and out, more hybrid work. Maybe less lighting needs to be used, maybe an air conditioner needs to understand how many bodies there are in one room at a time, and minimise the power. These are the sort of things we need to focus on and in the end, the differences in expenditure will be felt by those who we work with.

3. Improve environmental stance. Sustainability is so important these days. And, we’ve got technology that allows us to monitor in much greater detail the energy usage in a building. We actually had to invent a system that would detail this, pre smart metres. Now we have live data of energy usage. We want to eliminate bill surprise and make sure that the carbon footprints are decreasing. We can say with certainty that there is nobody in this space and we are able to work with incumbent suppliers and ensure that this feedback loop is telling the story of energy usage.

4. Reduce complaints. We want to make sure our tenant comfort is not just being met, but exceeded.

For my role, these four outcomes are what I focus on in every part of what I’m doing. Everything comes back to ensuring that these needs are being met.

When going out to tenants and potential customers, are there hesitations when it comes to integrating technology?

There has always been some hesitation when it comes to adopting new technology. However, we see this hesitation changing. The technology is coming down to an affordable price point now – customers are able to see this as an affordable and worthwhile investment. There used to be no data to prove that there were savings to be had, but now we have been able to prove that retroactively fitting things can (and will) be cost effective.

The industry is becoming more technology forward, and this is the way of the future.

Cameron Exley is the Head of Technology Commercialisation at Syntric.

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