The Internet of Things (IoT) will open a whole frontier of new ways for people and machines to communicate, and a new intimacy in the way people relate to the things around them. As the number of potential IP addresses increases by the new coding systems being developed, experts are predicting that the enlarged capability of IP version 6 (IPv6) will make it possible for IoT to include some 26 billion devices by 2020. It’s estimated that the Internet of Things could add tens of trillions of dollars to the economy over the next 15 years. So when we visualize a realistic Internet of Things, we should focus on local control of the "smart" things around us that connect inside our own private gateways. This kind of IoT is already with us and can be of great importance for service industries.
The near future will see a range of new internet-driven payment systems using smart devices in a cashless society. In service industries, fare management systems are already in the current pipeline. Big data-based services are using the data generated by connected objects to enhance their products. Data collected has been helping service providers target their products more specifically. As we see the development of smarter devices, we need to connect our tools and devices to each other and to ourselves via global and local digital networks. Devices will be able to make decisions themselves based on input from other devices.
Here are some other ways IoT can work for service industries:
Customer experience and customer service are key for field service businesses nowadays. How many times have you had a worker come to your house or place of business that stated they were from a certain company, but they had no way of verifying their identity? Well, one company has found a way to use IoT to fix this problem. Connecticut Water emails the customer with the technician’s name and photo prior to the service appointment. So the customer feels assured that this service employee is from the agreed company. This saves the technician from having to prove who they are when arriving at the appointment and allows them to immediately get to work.
IoT partners well with predictive maintenance. If your equipment is fitted with IoT sensors, it can alert your field service technicians when a piece of machinery is about to break down. Once this alert has gone out, a service call can be requested, a replacement part ordered, and the service call scheduled for a date after the part arrives in the inventory. And thanks to IoT, each of these steps can be automated.
Manage Workers’ Field Time
Even though mobile workforce management and IoT make field service engineers’ lives a bit easier and help them be more productive, sometimes the technicians don’t want to follow the automatically planned service schedule that is generated for them. They may think they know a city better than the automated system. Florida Power and Light used IoT to combat this problem by only revealing the day’s schedule in sections to technicians, so that throughout the day they would have to follow the automated schedule since it provided the most efficient way for traveling from job to job.
Since IoT allows for self-diagnostics and sensors that send reports back to engineers, having to send technicians out to inspect equipment manually is not always necessary anymore. Technicians can log on and see how a machine is performing remotely.
Jasper Technologies, a company that helps other companies stay connected to their machinery, gives the example of an oil pipeline that uses IBM’s IoT Foundation to send data over from sensors to determine whether a machine is malfunctioning or not. Perhaps the sensor is supposed to report once a week, but starts to report every day. Thanks to having an IoT setup in place, field service technicians would be alerted that there’s a problem and could remotely restart the machine.
Smarter Inventory Management
When you drive into automated mall parking garages, you’re greeted with a sign that shows you how many available parking spaces there are on a given floor. Above each parking space in the garage there’s a sensor that flashes red or green—red for taken, green for available—and the system automatically updates whenever cars move into or out of a parking space.
Now imagine this sort of system in your inventory warehouse. IoT can give you a similar kind of functionality. If parts in the warehouse are connected to IoT sensors, you can see exactly how many parts you have in-stock, and receive an alert when parts need to be restocked. This helps you keep your inventory at the levels you need, and also helps dispatchers know when to schedule a service call to achieve a higher first-time fix rate, since technicians will be able to take available parts with them to the call instead of heading out to a call when the part is not in stock.