IoT. Artificial Intelligence. Big data. These are technology buzz words that can make a real world impact on field service operations and change the entire field services industry.
As IoT devices increasingly proliferate around the world and as global IoT markets become dominated by smart cities, industrial IoT, and connected health segments, field services organizations need to understand the IoT ecosystem or they will watch their competitors get ahead of them. So what steps can field service management professionals take to utilize IoT in a way that delivers value and cost savings for both their organizations and their customers?
Step 1: Understand the ecosystem
A complete approach to IoT encompasses more than many organizations understand: determining the types of data each “smart” installed asset makes available, picking and installing the appropriate device sensors, connecting these devices to a network so that data can be passed back from the field, and then using this data to take action or to make informed decisions. Without a step by step approach to each of these areas, field service organizations may spend a lot on their IoT infrastructure, but won’t see results that can drive down costs or demonstrate the extra value this new “intelligence” adds for their customers.
Step 2: Solve the nuts and bolts challenges
Retrieving data from installed equipment isn’t as simple as it might seem. The technical challenges of choosing and connecting the IoT device to a secure network, picking a data backhaul method and partner, storing the possibly large volume of new data, and incorporating this data into an organization’s field service management software all present challenges that need to be overcome. But, they are solvable if a company understands each step and partners with knowledgeable companies to leverage their experiences.
Step 3: Define the value proposition
An IoT infrastructure only adds value if an organization successfully leverages it: prevents a service outage from occurring or fixes one more quickly, predicts outages before they happen or delays unnecessary preventative maintenance. Figuring out how IoT data can be used to add extra value and create a cost savings benefit for everyone involved, both the field service management organization and their customers, is therefore critical. On the low end of the value spectrum, reducing service truck rolls and sending the correct technician the first time are easy measurable benefits. Helping customers reduce operating costs by offering proactive field maintenance contracts based on IoT field data creeps up the customer value spectrum but requires more complex data rules. World-class IoT data-driven field service organizations are already beginning to offer customers proactive maintenance contracts that drive significant long term value and cost savings using the most intelligence and complex IoT architectures available.
Step 4: Start small
Every organization hears how IoT Artificial Intelligence analyzing data lakes can change their business, but for most organizations it will lead to early disappointment and failure. The key to success is to start small and grow an organization’s IoT capability and value proposition over time. Starting with a simple reactive break-fix model and correct technician assignment, then adding in intelligent and more complex data rules to support predictive maintenance is a realistic plan for most organizations. Artificial Intelligence can be added to model proactive maintenance, but it is best left as a final step to growing an organization’s IoT capabilities.
All new technologies are highly hyped and IoT is no exception. But going slow, becoming educated on the entire ecosystem, and starting small to grow the organization’s IoT knowledge and capability over time is the approach that we at Astea have seen our clients be the most successful with.
To learn more about how to best integrate IoT into your organization, view Astea’s webinar: “A Practical Approach to IoT in Field Service“.