2006-02-22

The Future from an FM Perspective

I was just looking up an old article from my LUG archives, and came across a Special Edition with speculations on the future (originally published to the Gateway AUG in September of 2004) and saw this article that I'd written about what I'd like to see happen in my field in the future.


The Future from an FM Perspective - by Melanie Stone

The future can sometimes be a scary contemplation for a person working in a field whose every upgrade brings new headaches and a steep learning curve.
Others prefer to romanticize the future, optimistic that at some point, not so long from now, all bugs shall be removed from all systems and programs, and everything shall work as we would like it to.

I must confess that I tend to ascribe to the latter school of thought in this matter. I can’t help being a technological optimist. My lifetime has seen the rapid advancement in every aspect of computing technology; I’ve come to expect it to continue at the same speedy pace.
Just ten short years ago, I started drafting in high school using a T-square and board, then a drafting machine (which was NOT made for the lefty, by the way), then, finally, CAD.

I first picked up my mouse with release 10. I thought it was the coolest thing. No more eraser clumps streaking my working space, no one would have to know how many mistakes I’d made during the course of my design, and I didn’t have to redraw the same thing multiple times, I could just copy it and modify as-needed! Wow! I didn’t think it could get any better!

As we saw in the Release History Overview (GAUG Newsletter Volume 1, Number 2 – April 2004), many things have changed over the years; such as when dimensioning was offered as an add-on to version 1.2, and paperspace was developed for release 14, and all of the things in between.

What will change next, the software we work with? The input devices we use? I have envisioned the day when I will draft using a VR headset and gloves, perusing a virtual lumber store (say good-bye to non-standard material and sizes!) and lifting up virtual ceiling tiles to measure airflow in a virtual duct. Maybe it will happen, maybe not, but I prefer to think that it will.

I see technology, of course, as to how it relates to my field, Facilities Management, and I might have different applications for certain technologies than other fields.
Take 3D measuring, for example. Mark Roberts wants to measure a machined part to exacting standards (see CMM article on pages 7-9), whereas; I might just want to know the approximate square footage of a given area. I recently attended a demonstration for a 3D-laser scanner, which measures countless points, and records them for input into a CAD program. As this technology (mainly the interface between the measuring device and the CAD program) matures, I foresee countless applications in EVERY field.
The hospital campus that I work on has buildings dating back to 1912. So, in order to provide useful information for the maintenance staff and our contractors, I have to sort through 75,000 blueprints and over 60,000 CAD files, and determine which is most applicable for each project. While a detailed database containing hyperlinks to associated key plans has made these tasks much easier, no one wants to compile information from dozens of blueprints and a handful of CAD files.
BUT! If I had a 3d laser measuring device, I could scan information, put it into a 3d model of the building and accurately determine current conditions. By measuring the objects, and comparing to project documents, I could insert specific information into a program like Building Systems, which would automatically calculate load, etc. Then, my contractors could take my files, and be able to easily determine which projects will require an additional electrical panel or air handling unit, drastically reducing change orders and budget overruns.

While I know that a comprehensive working system for this process doesn’t fully exist yet, I have hope. Ten years ago, I might not have believed you if you’d told me that today I would be doing field verification with a measuring device which can automatically insert measured entities into a drawing on a PDA, but, I here I am. Sure, it is still a little bit of a pain, dangling a cable from the Disto to the PDA (Lieca does now have a wireless version available), hauling it around, converting the drawing to PocketCAD format, then back to DWG again, but... it sure beats the way I used to do it: With a measuring tape, a piece of paper, and a lot of eyeballing.

We are bringing you this special issue of our newsletter, so that you can learn about some of our members’ views on how their field has changed recently, and directions that they think future technology will take us. Also, scattered throughout this edition, there will be links to sites where you can read more about emerging techonolgies. I’m sure we will be revisiting some or all of these topics again soon, so feel free to contact me with any ideas or opinions that you have on the way that you think things will evolve.
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