Artificial Intelligence is a concept that is swiftly evolving as facilities management continues to be overhauled by developing technologies. I sat down with Sung W. J. Park, Founder & Director of Maple AI who explained how AI can change building management from a reactive process to a proactive one.
ND: In BWT tradition, please start by giving me the Maple AI elevator pitch.
SP: Maple AI is a platform to stream real-time audit details of the building, then applying artificial intelligence extrapolate future problems to prevent failures from happening. Our aim is to understand the in-depth “health” of the assets, predict & resolve problems before they become a big issue. We aim to sustain the appreciating value of the property by extending the life cycle of individual capital assets/facilities whilst significantly reducing the cost of sustainability.
ND: How is technology changing the way landlords manage their properties?
SP: Landlords currently do not have any oversight on the problems that they face in the property they own. They are almost blindfolded once the units are handed over to the tenants and expect tenants to keep the state of property as it is from the moment that it was rented out. This often causes disputes at the end of misaligned expectations and currently, our solution resolves this problem as everything is evidence-based and the building’s audit details are recorded and stored on a progressive basis for future comparison. That is just one part of the many problems we are solving.
Auditing the building isn’t just useful for managing tenants and facilities. It can also be used to understand the behaviour of the assets. Once we have the audit details, we can calculate how much revenue is coming in versus the cost of maintenance, which gives an insight into optimising the profit. Allowing landlords to understand the property demographics, giving them clear insights in real time basis of the value the property is bringing in.
ND: How was Maple founded?
SP: The team at Maple AI was initially building out an autonomous fleet management solution out of a garage in Menlo Park, California. However, we learnt that the house that we were staying had issues with maintenance, accessibility of contractors was hard and expensive and there was no past maintenance history to track back. So we decided to automate the maintenance of property instead of fleets.
We had an opportunity to work with Far East Organization (FEO) which has a fleet of engineers to maintain their properties across Singapore. We worked closely with FEO to centralise and standardise the workforce and make sure we can audit the issue detail of buildings in real time basis. By testing out our solution across most of their properties ranging from residential, commercial, retail malls and hotels, we were able to leverage off a technology that would manage and escalate issues effectively then reduce the resolution time by matching the right technician at the right time.
ND: How is facilities management changing as machine learning, data and analytics technologies come to the fore? Can you give me some examples?
SP: Old ways of doing facility management (FM) were static. FM consultants would go into the building to audit initially, then use those audit details to identify problems and then start backtracking the past problems to prevent future problems from happening. This was a manual process that would look things back at retrospective and more of a recovery basis of how to make sure it can prolong the decommission of the building.
With new technologies, the way we deal with FM is changing. Sensors are now collecting multiple data points of the buildings which can be streamed on a real time basis. This means that auditing of the building is no longer retrospective, which means the decision-making process will be quicker and the focus will be on the future of “good health”, which would completely change the job scope of facility managers.
AI in FM can be used for the meaningful analysis of the property. Using this data, we can also pick out the anomalies which then can be further analysed to give an early warning system, which prompts the right people. This itself will completely change how the FM work is dealt with in the future.
ND: How can facility managers leverage AI technologies?
SP: Facility managers leveraging off AI technologies would actually become more proactive than reactive. A lot of “fire fighting” jobs would become obsolete, instead, FM managers can focus on future failures and how to act upon “prediction", then "prevent” from happening. If we call the facility managers a "doctor" to the properties, the future facility managers leveraging AI technologies would become "therapist"; in other words, the facility managers leveraging off AI technologies can actually make sure that the state of the facilities are maintained consistently at a good level so that the risk of building going wrong can be reduced and cost of maintenance can be controlled.
The overall effect will be that both costs of a replacement would go down as well as the life span of properties would go up, which the appreciating value of assets can be justified with the evidence.
ND: What's been your funding model so far, and are you currently raising capital?
SP: We have not raised any capital so far and are making 6-figure revenue per year. We are currently building an ecosystem by on-boarding as many contractors as we can to our integrated maintenance management solution. We are also actively seeking out to onboard property owners, building an ecosystem of property data and seeking out growth capital to establish these ecosystems.
ND: What's the next big step in terms of growth?
SP: Our next stage of growth would be establishing the ecosystem where we bring in all the fragmented parties in facilities management into one integrated maintenance management, being assisted by smart sensors & data points that Maple AI will aggregate, followed by analytics and AI decisions that Maple AI platform would perform.
Maple AI was a Featured Technology of BWT Asia 2019.
Interview conducted by Neall de Beer, Director, Built World Technology Alliance..