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Field Service and the Internet of Things (IoT)

If you still think the Internet of Things (IoT) is just another inflated buzzword thrown around in every Forbes and Wired article, think again. The term goes well beyond its futuristic face-value and is currently offering meaningful impacts and providing practical value to many consumers.

The IoT is rapidly growing, in fact, Gartner, Inc. forecasts that there will be 20.8 billion smart devices by 2020, up 30% from 2015. Because of the growing amount, we’ve decided to put a few thoughts together for how it will affect the field service industry.

(If you’re still grasping what the IoT is, here’s an example. If you don’t need a refresher, please skip down to the next section)

How Can the IoT be Useful?

If you’re a homeowner, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you in the dead of winter?

Your boiler breaks.

Not breaks as in “breaking down,” but breaks as in not working at all.  The issue here is that it most likely broke because of the cold, which means that other boilers are likely broken too, causing an influx of calls to your local technician.

You finally get in contact with the contractor and they tell you that they can’t come for 3 days because of the high demand. Brutal…

This is a typical situation for people living in colder climates, and you know what?… It’s a pain to deal with.

If your boiler was “smart,” meaning it was connected to the internet and was constantly transmitting data, it could have alerted you and the technician that it needed fixing before it broke.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get an email from your boiler notifying you that it needed fixing before it broke? Wouldn’t it be nice if your boiler sent a notification to your local technician letting them know it was breaking? Wouldn’t this be great?

Of course, it would!

That’s the IoT…machines having the ability to communicate with each other to improve efficiency and help you become effectively preventative, not urgently reactive.

The best-in-class companies who use the IoT for preventative maintenance will provide high-quality and memorable customer experiences that at the end of the day get remembered.

“If you ask somebody a year later about their experience staying at a hotel they are not going to be able to tell you how much that hotel cost. That is not a very important part of the brand but if they mentioned what it felt like to stay there what it felt like to check-in, those are going to be the things they talk about when they talk about the brand and their opinion of the brand.”  – Kristen Craft

As a disclaimer, instead of having an exhaustive list, we decided to share a couple of ways the IoT will help field service companies. (More articles on this are to come.)

Actionable Data

Data is only valuable if it can provide actionable information that can create meaningful change. This matters because smart devices give companies the ability to collect vast amounts of data, that if properly analyzed, can provide actionable insights. And by 2020 it’s predicted that there will be over 20 billion devices with smart capabilities which will drastically affect the three V’s of data: variety, velocity, and volume.

As data pours in from these “smart” sensors, the opportunity to deduce trends can give meaningful direction for companies who are looking to refine customer experience, streamline their dispatch protocol, or enhance their NPS score…big data and predictive analytics play a huge role in creating actionable feedback that can prevent your business from chasing projects down the rabbit hole.

As mentioned by Brian Bell Jr. from episode 7 of In The Know, “It’s the combination of deep domain knowledge and machine learning that can provide some amazing insights and results for companies.”

The companies that analyze this data and use it to its full potential will be the ones that get ahead and win.

Preventative Maintenance: Signals from the sensors

After a business has a substantial amount of qualified and clean data they can begin making predictive decisions based on that data. Ask any data scientist and they’ll agree.  With enough data and the right domain knowledge, a company can extrapolate meaningful insights. When this data is combined with smart devices, amazing things take place.

When smart machines are coupled with the right amount of historical data, the application within the machine can become preventative…otherwise known as “smart.”  Imagine a world where things never break.  Imagine living in a world where machines generate tickets to the field service management system that creates a work order for maintenance before the machine breaks? Smart devices paired with customer experience platforms automatically assign, schedule, and dispatch the job to the right technician with the right skillset. It’s seamless, simple, and memorable way of getting work done.

On a larger scale, the data collected by the IoT can help prioritize machine upkeep in other ways. With a strong field service experience platform, you can help sniff out the parallels that showcase the need for preventative work. Take this for example, if a refrigerator breaks after 2 years of use, and enough data is collected by all fridges in the IoT network, then theoretically the machines should be able to detect, prevent, and take care of fixes before they become a problem.  A service request can then be placed to solve this reoccurring issue.

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