Isn’t it funny how quickly science fiction can become reality in today’s world?
In 1966, Star Trek first showed us the ‘communicator’, then, in 1973, Martin Cooper made the first phone call on a portable cell phone. In 1870, Captain Nemo travelled on the Nautilus, a submarine, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and in the 1960s, The Jetsons used robotic vacuum cleaners.
We first started talking about the idea of smart devices in 1982; the first internet-connected device was a modified coke machine. How many internet-connected devices have you got within a five-meter radius of you now?
The IoT discussion has gathered some serious momentum in recent years, so what exactly does this mean, and what could it mean for the future of field service?
What is the Internet of Things?
Need a quick refresher on the IoT (Internet of Things)? Well, the IoT refers to machine-to-machine communication, but it’s more than just devices talking to like devices.
It’s the internetworking of ‘things’ (i.e physical devices, buildings, vehicles), that, with software, sensors, network connectivity, and more, are able to collect, interpret and exchange data to enable intelligent, automated, real-time responses.
On your smartphone, for example, you have many instances of this convergence of technologies and sensory data.
Your smartphone has the capacity to tell you when you need to leave your house to arrive on time for a meeting. This takes machine learning data in the form of interpretation and pattern recognition from historical traffic information sensory data to merge that with real-time traffic data, weather information (rain, snow, etc. can have an impact on your travel time), pulling information from your calendar, routing algorithms to try to determine the route you are going to take to get there, and so on.
Essentially, the IoT is a whole lot of disparate data and technology communicating to offer something really quite useful. I’m not just talking about a fridge in your kitchen that will automatically order your milk. (Well, not really… do we actually want that?)
The IoT in field service
Think about the IoT in terms of field service applications.
Say, for example, you have an accelerometer fitted to the cooling tower on top of a building that could take vibration readings, log them to your database, and alert you when the vibrations fall out of a range.
Or, you have sensors in the fire detection or sprinkler systems all constantly monitoring and reporting back the current state of the equipment they are tasked to keep an eye on.
Then, when an event occurs that falls outside of a tolerable range for that piece of equipment, a notification is raised, a job is created to investigate, or an alert is sent to your customer. How could this impact your SLAs, or your costs, for that matter?
Perhaps a simple visual inspection could even be carried out by drones?
Now, what if there’s nothing overtly wrong with a piece of equipment, but through using machine learning based on data from your peers working on similar equipment, you could know if something is about to go awry before it does?
And based on what is likely to go wrong, what if a quote to rectify the defect is raised for your customer automatically for your approval and dispatch?
What will your customers think about this – your ability to log, report and respond to potential defects before they even can tell something is wrong, and in between maintenance cycles?
IoT projects have now moved well beyond the initial trials and high-end proof of concepts, and are being actively rolled out by leading service companies and manufacturers eager to get in on the action worldwide.
IoT technology is converting our cities into smart cities, buildings into smart buildings and devices into smart devices. All connected, all talking to each other, and all able to be adopted by field service companies to improve their service delivery, considerably cut costs, and deliver an improved customer experience.
So, what’s your strategy for leveraging this opportunity?