See why the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the biggest buss words in the business press today, particularly relevant to any discussion about the future of Field Service Management (FSM) software. By Steve Scott, Managing Director, Astea APAC
Fundamentally, IoT is about devices being connected to the internet to allow remote monitoring. In a sense, there is nothing very new about this. For many years now, it has been possible to remotely monitor IT infrastructure such as servers and printers. What’s new now is that even the smallest devices down to individual light bulbs and sensors can have network and internet connectivity, allowing entire systems to be monitored in great detail. Implementing IoT and accessing data could be challenging for most service organisation, however, when combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, the potential impact on technology service industries is massive, more than justifying the hype.
A recent article by Gartner “Explore the Internet of Things’ potential for CRM” discusses five layers that define the capabilities of IoT:
- The device Layer: The ‘things’ connected to the Internet.
- The communication layer: Communication protocols, networks and the Internet.
- The information layer: The software systems that capture and store the data.
- The functional layer: The software systems that analyse and interpret the data.
- The process layer: The business processes that use the analysis and interpretation of the data to deliver benefit.
Manufacturers of the technology systems typically address the functional layer. Some of industry examples include Schneider’s Building Management System that monitors a buildings HVAC, environmental and fire safety systems or Ricoh’s @Remote software that monitors Ricoh multi-function office products.
FSM clearly plays a role in this layer. Field service management software needs to communicate with the system software and provide functionality that uses the information provided by these systems to provide advanced service capabilities. One obvious case that leaps to mind is when a system detects a device failure, sending an alert to the FSM software causing a reactive service ticket to be raised. However, this is just the most basic case which does little to improve upon traditional service offerings.
The real value comes from preventing system failures.
This involves the use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence. At the functional layer, software systems utilise the data provided by the connected devices to identify points of potential failure, then sending alerts to the FSM software which can then be used to enhance and supplement planned maintenance programs. This in turn prompts field engineers to test suspect components and complete preventative maintenance.
At the point of maintenance, IoT can go even further, giving the service engineer access to diagnostic data in real time, either while on site or performing remote service. The role that FSM will play in this is to quickly and easily link from the service ticket to the data available about the device or system in question.
Once predictive maintenance becomes part of the mix, the commercial model for the service engagement may also need to change.
If the customer is expected to pay for a device to be repaired or replaced because it is predicted to fail, how can they be sure of the validity of that prediction? However, if the repair is to be provided at no additional cost under the terms of the maintenance contract, what motivation does the service provider have to provide the service before it’s proven to be necessary?
The answer: an increase in ‘outcomes- based’ compensation for maintenance contracts.
One example may be that a HVAC company has maintenance contracts with their customers that include penalties for events where the environment conditions within the building fall agreed parameters (such as temperature or humidity levels) or where power consumption exceeds set limits.
Another example would be ‘usage-based’ maintenance contracts. Again, this is a long standing practice within the copy/print industry where maintenance contracts are billed based on copy/print volumes utilising counters within the device itself. However, with IoT and related monitoring software, it becomes possible to record usage volumes on a much wider range of devices such as medical devices, production line equipment and many others.
In situations like these, the FSM software used by the service provider must have the capability to manage such pricing algorithms within its contract management functionality. It will become crucial to be able to provide the customer with reliable reporting on the factors that impact the billing.
You may feel that your customer is not ready for these changes but what technological advances make possible tends to drive what customers expect of their service providers.
Watch our on-demand webinar « A Practical Approach to IoT in Field Service » featuring Astea’s Director of Technology Michael Glaser to learn more about best practices for integrating IoT with FSM software and better understand IoT infrastructure.
To learn more about how Astea can help your company integrate emerging technologies, like IoT, with your field service management solution, click here.