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Zorba Manolopoulos of Facebook Talks About Next Gen Occupant Experience

Zorba Manolopoulos is the Global Program Manager over Smart Campuses at Facebook. His group is responsible for developing and executing the Smart Building/Campus strategy. They are charged with incubating ideas and leading development of solutions for Facebook’s world-wide portfolio and pushing forward the Smart Campus vision to bridge the gap of current product offerings. Their goal is to deliver comprehensive Real Estate solutions supporting the Occupant Experience while benefiting teams in Facility Management, Workplace Design, and Construction.

Tell us a little about your role within your organization.
I lead a team to explore new methods on how to design, build and operate our corporate campuses to make them more intuitive and adaptive to the occupant. This includes Real Estate planning, Facility Operations, Culinary, Transportation and Security. We’re empowering employees on one side and optimizing operations on the other. It is a balance, as the best service may not necessarily be the fastest service.

We work with other engineering teams across the company and leverage their designs, products and experience to provide the best solutions for our employees. I am looking for solutions that will help make our buildings and facilities connect with the occupant. It’s not about leveraging the mobile phone, or Bluetooth, or some other technology—we are really trying to make the building adapt. The employee experience has to drive the technology or initiative; we want to improve their journey. We are driving operations to be smarter by moving beyond analytics and focusing on actions and decisions.

What major technology projects has Facebook been working on recently?
Our goal is to increase employee productivity by two percent by the removal of wasted time. We’re looking at measurable ways to do that through automation, whether it’s elevator wait time, waiting in lines to get food, adjusting temperature, closing blinds or transportation between buildings. Removing and reducing non-productive activities removes hurdles for employees.

We are starting with Operational Smart Building, which is reviewing all processes for FacOps and providing improvements to streamline the process. This includes the ROI of our buildings, to review cost impact over the total life of the building. From operational efficiencies to energy consumption. We want to work smarter and lower our energy even while we grow. With operational smart buildings, we look at the process first. We have lots of different buildings and the processes in each may be a bit different. We look at the process from point of complaint to resolution; noting the different steps required to resolve, then optimizing that process with better data. Within various buildings, a process that’s cost efficient for one may not be for another. Our campuses are in various stages, with remodels, redevelopments and new construction. The remodels or retrofits are the current focus: making existing facilities smarter. At the same time we want to ensure that the new construction is smart long-term.

What are your highest priority technology initiatives in 2019 and what are the drivers behind them?
Continuing our efforts with Operational Smart Building is number one; we have also done a lot of work on lighting configurations and systems, and will continue to improve on those.

Additionally, we are doing a major redesign of our mobile app for ease of use and to take advantage of the smarter campus. We have about 25 sub-apps combined into our Employee App. It includes our Eats app for dining, our Ride app to move employees from place to place, and our Wayfinder app to help them navigate the building. However, it isn't just about having a mobile app; mobile apps solve a lot of problems, that's why it's easy to start there. But it’s really about understanding that your employees are mobile, and to be adaptive to their location. How does service change based upon their location, and how is the employee impacted in a different location? Essentially, we're looking at a day in the life of our employee and the experiences they have; then tie them together seamlessly.

We have many other projects in 2019: optimizing bus routes, improved parking, space utilization, Digital Models, AR/VR, corrective/preventative actions, space planning tools, café ordering systems, BMS migrations, and establishing data pipelines.


What technology, automation or innovation trends do you see having the most impact on the industry over the next three years?
Technology for real estate is maturing and the need for cybersecurity in IoT and Real Estate is increasing. The good news is that operators are taking attacks more seriously and the building systems are getting more secure. We do have more to do. We're so used to talking about security on IP networks and then realizing that when you come into the real estate world, not everything is IP based—so now what does security look like? It’s wonderful to see more focus around cybersecurity, and that is going to improve our buildings.

Another is sharing data between systems. This is probably going to have a larger impact on Smart Buildings than security. All the systems—not just lights or HVAC—have to understand each other to be able to share data. Everybody wants the same piece of data but can't share across systems because they can't talk to each other. We need a standard interface, a common language, a common data format and structure to communicate all this information about buildings. All of that data together as inputs helps create a smarter building. We are building middleware to translate between APIs of different building systems. Instead of asking if a sensor has picked up motion in a room, we want to ask the room if it detects people.

How we interpret the data needs to start changing as well. What we infer from data needs to be carefully planned out—just because a room’s motion detector detects a motion doesn’t mean someone is in the room. It just means that motion was detected. We may find correlations between data, but perhaps it’s the wrong data sets and the wrong correlations; then your subsequent action may not be the optimum choice.

And finally, cause and effect. We’ve been using basic triggers to provide better service: people walk into a room and a sensor turns on the lights. But beyond the trigger is the question: why? We just assume if they enter the room they want the lights on. We talk a lot about the occupant experience, but what is better for them? Lights going on is configured automated action, a contrived cause and effect. But what if we wanted to find out if an employee is happy? Are they happy because the food was good today, they have a great office, they are comfortable or because they just got a job offer at another company? Technology is working on a lot of correlations and deep connections—but we still are not at the point to understand the causality or even true intent.

Why do you attend Realcomm/IBcon?
A big imperative for me in 2019 is to help other people grow. I see a strong collaboration in our industry around Real Estate and Technology. This is an incredible trend and we can move forward together. Participating in the Realcomm | IBcon conference is a great example; sharing how we're doing and what we're doing, best known methods, having open discussions, collaborating with others. We believe by helping other people grow, it's going to help us as well.

Realcomm | IBcon 2019 will be held in Nashville, TN on June 13 & 14. (Pre-Con, Golf and Tech Tours June 11-12). There is still time to register!

Realcomm Staff
Realcomm Conference Group LLC is the leading research and educational institution that produces annual conferences and expositions on technology, automated business solutions and intelligent buildings strategies for executives in commercial, corporate, government and institutional real estate. Realcomm was founded in 1999 with the goal of bringing industry leaders together each year to discuss, demonstrate and debate the latest innovations that impact the industry.

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