The Internet of Things and field service - A match made in heaven?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been one of the most talked about topics in tech this year but it’s perhaps also one of the least understood. It’s easy to see why on both counts – it’s exciting because it offers so many possibilities, but for similar reasons (because it is so broad) it can also be confusing.

In this blog I’ll introduce the Internet of Things and attempt to demonstrate its potential in field service, showing how the two could be a match made in heaven.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to everyday objects having internet connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data without human interaction. In this sense, it is similar to machine-to-machine (M2M) technology; the distinction is that while M2M refers to only machines connecting with computers or the cloud, IoT refers to connections between objects and people, objects and systems, and between the objects themselves.

If that seems confusing, then just remember that the basic premise of the IoT is that any object, person or even animal could be connected to the internet and able send and receive data.

Consider this real-life example – smart thermostats. They’re internet-connected thermostats that allow you to control your heating from remote locations using your smartphone, tablet or computer. A few of the best-known ones are Hive and tado. They also provide detailed information about energy consumption and some can even ‘learn’ and adapt to your behaviour (and adjust your heating automatically based on this). This is an example of an IoT-connected device and really is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be possible.

IoT in field service

The Internet of Things has undoubted potential in field service. Its breadth means that almost any company could probably find a use for it.

At the top level, IoT should enable quicker resolution of problems. Assets would be able to report errors themselves and could even allow off-site technicians to query, config and update the connected devices remotely. Detailed information such as the exact fault and parts required to fix it could also be provided to field service engineers. The result? Improved first-time fix rates, increased profitability and delighted customers!

Better preventative maintenance could also be possible with IoT-connected assets. The sensors in machines could provide information which may predict a future machine failure, thereby enabling a fix before a failure. Superfluous preventative visits would be reduced, as would unplanned reactive visits.

To provide a more specific example, consider how the ‘connected home’ of the future could lead to huge improvements in the way property maintenance companies and housing associations undertake work.

Properties could be monitored constantly – not in a ‘Big Brother’ way, I should add – but in a way that would really benefit the people living there. Let’s say the boiler in a house suddenly has a fault – it could immediately alert the homeowner, or even the company responsible for servicing it, and provide full details of the fault. If the servicing company is alerted directly, they could then proactively arrange an appointment to fix it. The resident/homeowner would not have to go through the hassle of discovering there is an issue, potentially even having to diagnose it, and then arranging a call out themselves.

This is the future, but it’s also the now

I could go on for a lot longer about the ways in which the Internet of Things could be applied in field service, but I’ll leave some of the imagination to you.

Although you may think some of what I’ve written is not yet relevant, there is no doubt that IoT is a reality. Just check out this link to see some of the ways it is already being used.

The Internet of Things is undoubtedly worth monitoring, even if you think it isn’t relevant to your company yet. It could prove a real boon for field service organisations in the future, in the same way that mobile technology has helped transform the way many companies work already.

Oneserve and IoT

The Internet of Things (and machine-to-machine technology) is particularly interesting to us here at Oneserve. It’s something we’re keeping a keen eye on and are well positioned to work with.

Our open web service architecture allows us to take full advantage of the advances in M2M and IoT, and could allow service visits for reactive and preventative work to be triggered automatically. In fact, we’re currently exploring the the ways in which machine-to-machine technology could be integrated with our service management system for our customers so it’s very much a current topic for us.