We are pleased to announce the updated findings of our recent survey and should like to thank all those who gave their opinions on the impact of artificial intelligence on the facilities management (FM) and real estate sectors (RE). For practical purposes, artificial intelligence (AI) covers developments in software and hardware that include, but which are not limited to, smart applications, cognitive frameworks, robotics, actroids and drones. A summary of the findings is outlined below.
Respondents’ positions and age
88% of respondents described themselves as either part of top management (42%) or senior managers (46%), split equally between business development and technical functions, including FM and RE. The age distribution of respondents placed 52% in the 51-67 age group, with 32% in the 36-50 age group and 8% in the 26-35 age group.
Impact of AI on FM and RE
Our first question asked for an opinion on the impact that AI will have had on the FM and RE sectors 5 years from now. 84% thought that there would either be some (38%) or significant impact (46%). 12% thought that it would be transformational. Just 4% considered that the impact would be negligible.
When the question was repeated with a time horizon of 10 years from now, 50% thought that the impact of the FM and RE sectors would be transformational. 35% felt that it would be significant and just 15% indicated some impact. The swing to transformational in the period 5 to 10 years from now is noteworthy.
Nature of the impact of AI
Our third question concerned the nature of the impact, as degrees to which it was thought to be positive or negative. 69% thought that the impact would be more positive than negative with 27% indicating that it would be all positive or mostly positive 5 years from now. Just 4% thought that the impact would be more negative than positive. We interpret this finding as suggesting a mostly positive impact from AI in FM and RE.
Effects of AI upon people
Our fourth and fifth questions concerned the effects of AI upon people in the FM and RE sectors 5 years from now. The former looked at managerial, supervisory and technical positions and the latter at operative positions.
There is a marked difference between the two categories, with operative positions felt to be more affected than managerial, supervisory and technical positions. 53% thought that there would be a less than 10% reduction, or no impact, on the number of managerial, supervisory and technical positions. A significant impact – more than 10% but less than 50% – was indicated by 23% of respondents. In terms of operative positions, 46% thought there would be a reduction in numbers by less than 10%, with 19% of respondents indicating a reduction in numbers of between 20% and 50%.
Impact on operating costs
Our sixth question concerned the impact that AI will have on the operating costs of services providers 5 years from now. 38% thought that there would be some decrease, whilst an almost similar percentage (35%) thought there would be some increase: 8% thought there would be a significant increase. Taking these results together, it would seem that respondents are more or less split on the question of impact on operating costs.
Impact on profit margins
Our seventh question concerned the profit margins of service providers 5 years from now. 46% thought there would be some increase with another 12% predicting a significant increase, which was counterbalanced by a negligible increase predicted by 15% of respondents. 19% thought there would be either some decrease or a negligible decrease. There is a moderate negative correlation between a predicted decrease in operating costs and an increase in profit margins, suggesting that AI might be seen as a way of both reducing operating costs and boosting profit margins.
Driving force behind AI
Our eighth question concerned the drivers for the introduction of AI and whether this would come from the client side or the supply chain. 50% thought it would be a mix of clients and the supply chain driving AI, with another 39% seeing it as mainly supply chain driven. Just 11% thought it would be mainly client driven.
Opportunities for increased profit margins
Our ninth question asked if the introduction of AI would be an opportunity to increase margins in general for which 65% thought this would be the case. 12% disagreed and 19% neither agreed nor disagreed.
Responsibilities for monitoring and acting upon AI
Our tenth question concerned the position within the organisation where responsibility rested for monitoring and acting upon developments in AI. 42% indicated that it was, or would be, top management defined as the CEO, CIO or CTO. 46% thought it would be a senior manager, split equally between business development and technical, including FM and RE. No respondent indicated that the facility manager or estates manager would have responsibility, which raises important questions for future education, training and continuing professional development. 12% ascribed responsibility to a range of other roles.
Most useful sources of help on AI
Our eleventh question concerned the sources of information as most helpful in keeping abreast of developments in AI in FM and RE. Digital media was the most popular at 27%, followed by specialist websites at 18%, with the professional institutions at 14% and personal attendance at an event and discussion groups or online communities both at 11%. Print media was rated the least popular at 2%, reflecting a trend seen elsewhere in the move towards digital, online services.
Overall, we regard these findings as interesting and confirming an awareness of AI and the potential for change in the FM and RE sectors. It is hoped the findings will stimulate further interest and discussion. We propose to repeat this survey in a year or two to measure changes in opinions and to introduce additional questions suggested by our respondents to this survey. Meanwhile, we shall continue to monitor and report on developments in AI as they affect the FM and RE sectors.
Our findings have been analysed from the responses received from 33 individuals to our open invitation to complete an online questionnaire. No claims are made as to the statistical significance of these findings, which are based on a convenience (non-probability) sample. Readers should not, therefore, draw any inferences for the FM or RE sectors as whole. Our findings are offered in the hope that they might be of use to you and on the basis that AIinFM cannot accept responsibility for any actions, losses or other consequences arising from their use or misuse.