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The Internet of Things (IoT) and Field Service

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is changing the landscape of field service. IoT is a network of connected devices covering a huge spectrum of hardware, ranging from cars, refrigerators, and HVAC systems all the way down to pill bottles and speakers. By 2020, Gartner is predicting that there will be over 20 billion connected devices. Other estimates place this number as high as 50 billion. Not all of these devices have a field service component to them, but many do.

Internet of Things Units Installed Base by Category (Millions of Units)

Category2014201520162020
Consumer2,2773,0234,02413,509
Business: Cross-Industry6328151,0924,408
Business: Vertical-Specific8981,0651,2762,880
Grand Total3,8074,9026,39220,797

Source: Gartner (November 2015)

Devices are becoming smarter, and huge shifts in how we service these devices will occur. Currently, in the HVAC world, preventative inspections and maintenance occur at timed intervals. With IoT equipment, we can identify when equipment is operating outside of the desired parameters and request service. PM Inspections can occur based on actual hours of usage or wear within the equipment rather than at arbitrarily timed intervals that have no relation to actual usage. This move to predictive rather than preventative maintenance requires that software systems be capable of receiving notifications from these devices and processing them accordingly.

With IoT, when devices fail, they cInternet-of-Things Image.pngan send messages to the field service system, or technicians can connect to the device over the internet and see things like diagnostic reports, the details of the problem, error codes, and a list of failed parts. The alarm generated by the equipment can be subscribed to by the field service system, and it can generate a work order with all the information provided. By looking up all the registered devices, we can know the location, warranty or contract status, and service entitlement of that piece of equipment. This information can be seamlessly routed to the correct technician based on skills needed, location, etc. Technicians now show up to the site with all the information they need, along with any parts based on detailed diagnostic information rather than basic problem description provided by a customer.

Whatever industry you are in, it’s evident that IoT is going to mean big changes for how your company performs field service, and these changes are coming fast.