May 2014
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Creating  Efficiencies

Using Speech-to-Text in Facilities Management

Josh Susser
Josh Susser
Senior Account Manager
BuiltSpace Technologies Corporation


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Text-to-speech (TTS) is a type of speech synthesis application used to create a spoken audible version of text in a computer document, such as a help file or a Web page. TTS enables the reading of computer display information for the visually challenged person, or may simply be used to augment the reading of a text message.  Inversely, TTS is also used to create text representations of the spoken word. This aspect of TTS is quickly becoming more functional and useful in everyday life with the rapid development of software and mobile technology
 
The first fully functional voice synthesizer, Homer Dudley's VODER (Voice Operating Demonstrator), was shown at the 1939 World's Fair. The Vocoder (Voice Operated reCorDER) and Voder (Voice Operation DEmonstratoR)) developed by the research physicist Homer Dudley, was invented as a result of research into compression techniques for telephone voice encryption at Bell Laboratories, New Jersey USA and was the first successful attempt at analyzing and resynthesizing the human voice.
 
Modern day devices like computers, smart phones or tablets capture speech with a sound-responsive element in a microphone that converts variable sound pressure into equivalent variations of an electrical signal, i.e. current or voltage. This analog signal is then sampled and quantized into a digital bit stream (format).  Current TTS applications include voice enabled email and text messaging. Today this feature is ubiquitous to any person who owns a smart phone or tablet computer.
 
How can we apply TTS to managing and organizing information around and in buildings better?
 
TTS can help us by creating efficiencies such as reducing the time it takes to collect data in the field resulting in faster operational processes and reporting. 

Here are a few examples:

Preventive Maintenance Inspections

Completing Preventative Maintenance inspection forms with the ability to record work done is a clear winner. Quickly completing data entry while an activity is in process and the details are fresh in your mind is best time to capture accurate information.  The ability to automatically create a follow-up task and other workflow is ideal.  In your world, how many work reports are filled out after the fact when important details are lost or forgotten?

Preventive Maintenance Inspections

Service Requests

What if you your maintenance staff or building occupants could submit a service request by scanning a QR code to identify location of the issue and speaking into their phone?  QR codes placed throughout a building on fixed assets (equipment) and spaces can provide location specific identifiers. Building occupants or service technicians only need to scan a code to identify the location of an issue then speak into their device using TTS to add specific detail.   

Service Requests

Work orders and Sales Quotes

Completing sales quotes or work orders while in the field speeds up turn-around time and gets information into the hands of managers and decision makers to get the authorization to move forward.  “Ground Truth” is a military term for distinguishing what is actually happening in the field compared to what is known by management. It is an apt metaphor for discussing buildings. What is actually happening at the equipment level on the ground is often different from design intent or even operations management perspective.  Using TTS to rapidly convert a description of a technical problem into text that can be transferred to multiple stakeholders with different levels of understanding. 

Work orders and Sales Quotes

Audits and Inspections

Reliable ControlsRapid audits and inspections of equipment and location detail is another ideal application. How much detail can truly be captured with a pen and paper in 12 minutes per-room? “Not much” is the correct answer. Combining digital photographs with TTS will allow for rapid data collection in the field. The key to this process is having an appropriate system for tracking and organizing the data as it is captured.

All of the above examples are based on one simple truth. Data entry in the field is cumbersome and time consuming and does not fit well within existing work practices. TTS incorporated into a well-conceived process will benefit building service professionals immensely.


About the Author

Josh Susser is the Senior Account Manager BuiltSpace Technologies Corporation, Vancouver BC, Canada.  He has over 16 years developing and marketing complex technology and web-marketing offerings.  Find him on LinkedIN at  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=11618122&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

BuiltSpace provides building information management, integration and related services to the facilities and construction industry.   The company launched the industry’s first integrated, collaboration FM platform in  January of 2012.  For more information please visit our web site at http://www.builtspace.com or blog at http://blog.builtspace.com


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