The Promise of an Interconnected World: The Impact and Challenges of IoT on Field Service Organizations

Sometimes a thing—an invention—changes the way we live, work, communicate, or do business. It’s not always easy to take the leap and adopt leading edge technology when the fear of change takes hold. Other times, an invention so revolutionary comes along that makes delaying the inevitable adoption an even greater risk. At this moment, and in the current environment of rapid technological change, that “thing” is the Internet of Things (IoT).

The promise and anticipation of an interconnected world is palpable. The time is now to begin the digital transformation evolution.

But what is the impact of IoT on field service organizations? Read on for a breakdown of the impact IoT will have on field service organizations and key challenges to be aware of when adopting IoT.

How IoT Will Help Field Service Organizations

It’s truly astonishing how far technology has come over the last ten years, even just the last five years. The thought of connecting everything in your home or office was the stuff of science fiction movies. In the field service space, we often talk with organizations that have gone further today, connecting disparate equipment, parts and systems, to gather key performance data in order to take action faster. The ultimate goal is a predictive, proactive response.

In asset-intensive industries like oil and gas, utilities and telecommunications, sensor data can tell a story about the health of an asset and what’s considered an acceptable range. In fact, being able to act quickly to bring an asset back in range is a situation where every second counts. The promise of the IoT is the ability to connect the many disparate systems in a unified solution, whereby field service organizations may reap the most value.

Responding to Emergency Situations
Field service organizations know what it takes to respond to an emergency situation; they do it every day and no industry is immune. When a cell tower goes down or an oil and gas pipeline hinges on the verge of a pressure burst, the old adage “time is of the essence” is an understatement. “Now” is too late.

IoT opens the door for proactive and even remote response to emergency field service work order requests. Take, for instance, an alarm that indicates the failure of a piece of equipment that triggers automated scheduling and assignment of an emergency work order to a technician.

Capturing Sensor Data
Another example of IoT in the field service space relates to sensor data capture. As most field service organizations understand, tracking sensor data is paramount to ensuring equipment or parts and facilities are working properly. The data may even help you track a lemon. With the promise of the IoT, the field worker has access to real-time sensor information from all the equipment they service right from their mobile device. Taking action means clicking a button or walking through pre-planned steps to remediate the issue.

Employing Augmented Reality and Digital Twins
A third and final example relates to data captured in the field that could be augmented with the aforementioned sensor data. If certain temperature and pressure readings lack sensors to capture that data, the field worker captures the information. By combining the two, it creates a true representation of the state of the equipment in the field. Through an integration, the data is fed into the same analytics platform as the sensor data and an “artificial twin” simulation determines when the equipment will likely fail based on the readings.

Through the help of IoT, all these things can be done today in the right field service management platform.

Key Challenges of IoT for Field Service Organizations

It would be the stuff of science fiction if I said everything could be connected today, persistently and continuously. The world is not there yet, but it’s only a matter of time. There are a couple key challenges to be aware of when it comes to IoT and field service organizations.

Integrating IoT Technology with Field Service Management Software
First, are you currently using a field service management solution that integrates with IoT technologies? It’s one thing to leverage IoT solutions and another entirely to be able to integrate those systems and technologies with your field service management solution.

Given the sheer number of disparate back-office systems and tools the average field service organization uses (i.e., cloud applications, CRM, geographic information systems (GIS), ERP, HR/payroll tools, OMS, AI/data analytics tools, support ticketing solutions) it would take forever to manually update information in each system, which is why integrating is vitally important. Not only does integrating save time, but significantly increases data accuracy.

Gathering Business Intelligence to Make Informed Decisions
Second, do you have access to IoT-related field service analytics and business intelligence for reporting and analyzing operational efficiency gains? So, you’ve adopted IoT and now you need to report on the efficiency gains your organization has realized since the implementation. How do you do that? Can you easily connect your field service work order, asset and/or scheduling data with your IoT solution and report against it?

Unless you’ve integrated the two systems, as stated in the first challenge to be aware of, chances are high that you won’t be able to quickly and easily generate performance related analytics.

All in all, the future of IoT and field organizations is a very interesting one that we can’t wait to see how it develops. The interest we’ve seen in our customers makes us even more excited to adapt to their needs by expanding our field service management automation platform.

Looking for more? Read our blog that covers How Augmented Reality Will Change Field Service Operations.

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