If the Internet of Things (IoT) lives up to its billing it has the potential to change the way the field service industry operates entirely. In this exclusive articele for Field Service News, Philipp Emmenegger, CEO of coresystems AG looks at what companies can do today to prep for the Internet of Things to come…
When it comes to “hot” buzzwords in tech, the “Internet of Things,” (and its acronym – IoT) may just be the hottest. A steady stream of headlines tout the latest in “smart” gadgets, internet-connected devices that keep us informed on the devices’ workings, our interaction with them, or our behaviour as we use them. We now have smart fire alarms, smart thermostats, smart fitness monitors and even smart bicycle locks. Appliance companies have been especially interested in the possibilities of Internet of Things, and for years now, we’ve been tantalised with the idea that our refrigerators will one day not only know when we are running low of groceries, but know which ones, and even place an order for more. When search giant Google bought smart home devices company Nest in January this year, it only cemented the notion that IoT is the future.
IoT: An Evolution, not A Revolution
But as fun as it is to imagine what might happen when IoT is in full force, it’s becoming abundantly clear that many challenges must be surmounted to get to this point. Tech research and consulting firm Gartner has identified no less than seven potential challenges that the big data generated from IoT devices and systems.
Security and consumer privacy are the two that tend to dominate headlines. As Gartner so rightly points out in their recent report on IoT, the challenge of security is in sheer “multitudes” of devices expected to eventually run in an automated fashion across a vast number of IT systems. Moreover, the amount of data that IoT systems will collect on consumers – and more importantly, on consumer behaviour – is another major area of concern. While the sort of information that IoT devices and gadgets will generate is key to helping companies develop better services, one security slip-up can be very damaging to market confidence.
IoT security issues will have a knock-on effect throughout a company’s IT systems. As the number of Internet-connected devices rises, and security complexity increases, availability requirements will also be impacted, putting real-time processes at risk. How do companies store the vast amounts of consumer data and enterprise data that IoT is expected to generate? How will it impact storage infrastructure and what will inevitably be an increased demand for more storage capacity? How will this impact server technologies and how will this effect data centre networks?
With these complex challenges ahead, it’s no wonder coresystems board member Elgar Fleisch, well-known IoT expert and Zurich ETH tech professor, says, “IoT is an evolution, not a revolution.”
The Pre-Cursor of the Internet of Things to Come
But what Fleisch also likes to say is, “It’s only a revolution when you miss it.”
So how can companies prepare for IoT before it’s truly operable? Smart devices are the precursor to completely automated gadgets. These still require human intervention to set them in motion and often to maintain them, but they are the first steps toward IoT.
We know, for instance, that IoT has the ability to transform customer service and field service. Imagine the day when IoT is fully operational. Your washing machine breaks down, or a sensor detects that a part is close to its breaking point, or isn’t functioning. Your washing machine sends the information to the manufacturer, who then sends an alert to the consumer and on the consumer’s approval immediately dispatches an engineer to fix the problem. What’s currently missing is the automated ability for machines to talk to customer service systems without any intervention on the owner’s part.
What can be done today? Using the humble QR code affixed to the product – for example, on your washing machine – a customer can request service and manage the repair process. At coresystems, our product coresuite companion lets consumers scan a product’s QR code, which then opens up (or downloads if this is the first attempt) the company’s branded mobile app to request service.
Of course, it means the consumer must manually scan the code and tap in their request. It does, however, give them a level of control and transparency that improves their customer service experience. For companies, it’s not only a way to let customers start self-managing the service process, buts it’s also a good warm up for how they will manage these requests within their IT systems. After all if they can’t manage them when consumers are manually requesting service, how will they manage the much faster process of multiple machines sending automated requests?
m-way, the Swiss e-mobility specialists, best known for their electric bicycles, have been trialling coresuite companion for its bicycles. As m-way marketing head Mario Klaus tells us, the combination of QR code and branded app will help them improve long-term customer retention and is a way they can start to examine a more automated process of service.
We believe that IoT will one day be a reality, but we recognize the complex challenges that lie ahead. Smart devices or smart connections to products can help companies prepare for the inevitable revolution.