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Top Ten Technology Trends for the Field Service Industry in 2015 – Part Two: IoT, Big Data & Cyber Security

Jan 15 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 10506 Views • No Comments on Top Ten Technology Trends for the Field Service Industry in 2015 – Part Two: IoT, Big Data & Cyber Security

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Technology and field service are now almost inherently intertwined such is the rapid evolution of field service industry. As we enter the New Year Field Service News continues to take a look at some of the key technologies that we believe will have a significant impact on the way field service will continue to evolve.

In the first part of this series we looked at wearables, NFC and the Cloud. Now we turn our attention to the Internet of Things, Big Data and Cyber Security…

The Internet of Things will start becoming an integral part of field service…

Ahh Gartner’s Hype-Cycle. The “peak of inflated expectations”, the “trough of despair” and the brilliant “plateau of productivity” – every-time I look at it I conjure up images of a Jules Verne –esque mysterious lost island where herds of wild analysts and ferrel consultants roam wild, free and happy. I may well be alone in this, but I’m certainly not alone in keeping an eye on where emerging tech is on the cycle.

Every-time I look at it I conjure up images of a Jules Verne –esque mysterious lost island where herds of wild analysts and ferrel consultants roam wild, free and happy.

They may not always get it right, but to be fair to the good folk at Gartner, their usually pretty close.

So it was with interest last August that I looked at the latest hype cycle and saw that Internet of Things had just superseded Big Data at the top of the tree where the “hyperbole has hit hyperdrive” (If anyone at Gartner’s paying attention you can have that one for free!). I found this particularly interesting for two reasons.

Firstly whilst it may like some kind of earth shattering tragedy for all those data scientists who were being treated like geek-royalty what seems like ten minutes ago, the reality is that Big Data slipping into the trough of despair just means that we are starting to think about it in grown up terms (see below) rather than the Chuck Norris of technology.

I would go as far as to say that this time Gartner have got it wrong and the Internet of Things is perhaps just past the top of the peak and starting to stare down into the trough.

The second and perhaps most important part is that whilst according to Gartner IoT may now have officially the most over inflated expectations, the reality is that in field service at least it is already being actively used far more openly than Big Data was when it was on the same point of the Hype Cycle. In fact I would go as far as to say that this time Gartner have got it wrong and the Internet of Things is perhaps just past the top of the peak and starting to stare down into the trough.

Maybe it’s a distorted view in the field service industry, but I genuinely feel that whilst it may be a minority, there is a decent amount of companies that have implemented some form of IoT control or monitoring into their Field Service operations. In some corners it’s not even that new, heck, medical device manufacturer Elekta have been building connection into their devices for twenty odd years – they even used to ship their devices with 56K modems of their own back in the day.

As we roll into 2015, connected devices are booming, from thermostats to thermonuclear power generators, and the ability to remotely monitor, diagnose and even repair device faults is such a no brainer for field service companies that they cannot afford to miss the IoT revolution.

BigData in field service will get past those awkward teen years and get to work…

So back to Big Data then.

One of my favourite phrases I’ve heard about Big Data was from Dave Hart at ServiceMax when he said Big Data is like teenage sex, everyone’s talking about it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it but no one actually knows how to actually do it.

Big Data is like teenage sex, everyone’s talking about it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it but no one actually knows how to actually do it.

This I think is why Gartner may have their timings a bit backwards when it comes to Big Data and IoT.

For whilst I can see Big Data languishing within the ‘Trough’ as we mere mortals spend time still trying to define exactly what Big Data is (how many V’s are we up to now?) and reluctantly turning to those mystic shaman we call Data Scientists to try and get some sense out it all, I see IoT racing by to it’s own little place in the ‘plateau’.

Why? because IoT is pretty much results in tangible outcomes and combines two factors we are already comfortable with, that is ‘Internet’ and ‘Things’. And I’m not trying to be flippant when I say that either, it’s just IoT is that much easier to get.

So back to Big Data then (again?) where does this leave us in field service?

Well hopefully with a much more mature, sensible mindset because there is no denying the sheer power of Big Data to revolutionise a business and there is also no denying that as field service companies have access to huge, vast swathes of data – they perhaps more than any other industry segment could benefit from the true application of Big Data.

there is no denying the sheer power of Big Data to revolutionise a business and there is also no denying that as field service companies have access to huge, vast swathes of data

However, what Big Data is not is adding a new module to a field service management software with a few convertible dashboards and hey presto the board can tick off that pesky little box empty box on their to do list.

Let’s think about this for a moment, when in our lives has anything that is billed to be powerful enough to reshape the way we do business been as easy as buying a new module. This is where Big Data got lost to the hyperbole. In some quarters it was the magic bullet that would cure all evils. As we all know magic bullets don’t really work. However, hard-work combined with a clear strategy and intelligent implementation does.

Big Data is reliant on investment.

Investment in technology, investment in personel with new skill sets unique to the task and investment in time to devise and implement a Big Data strategy. However, once it is succesfully implemented that investment could yield a phenomenal return on investment both financially and also in our understanding of both our business and our customers.

I believe 2015 could be the year that field service companies will start to see through the hyperbole that just scratches the surface of Big Data and see it’s true game changing potential. However, for that to happen we need to treat it with the respect it deserves.

We need to re-adjust our thinking around risk management and cyber security…

Given the two points above this third point of the article is a bit of a given. So we won’t dwell to long here.

There are two simple facts here; Firstly Data is essentially becoming a new form of currency, and I’m not referring to crypto-currencies here but to the fact that the information available to be mined from data is inherently valuable.

Secondly,as we turn more and more of our functions across to the cloud including data storage, the more it will become a place of interest for twenty first century criminals.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the Cloud is any less secure than on premise data centres. It just means that we must realign our thinking to ensure we are protected.

According to Cloud Security experts Trend Micro the three key best security practices for 2015 are to:

  • Develop and implement an overall risk management strategy
  • Secure and regularly maintain web infrastructure
  • Enforce stricter mobile device and data management policies

Lets take a quick look at each of these in turn…

Firstly, whilst it is of course recommended to turn to a cyber security specialist in devising your security strategies, a

When it comes to risk management, much like insurance it can be disastrous if you cut corners and opt for the cheapest package. And often we only realise this when it’s too late.

quick, easy off the shelf solution is simply not going to cut the mustard. A robust cyber defence should be custom built to meet the requirements of your company. When it comes to risk management, much like insurance it can be disastrous if you cut corners and opt for the cheapest package. And often we only realise this when it’s too late.

With regards to point two, last years exposure to Shellshock and Heartbleed identified significant vulnerabilities and this should serve as a warning to companies that they need to keep software regularly updated and patched. Heuristic scanning and sandbox technologies are two of the key technologies that Trend Micro recommend here.

And as we look at the final point we also enter the world of HR as well as technology.

In field service in particular, where our workforce is becoming ever more reliant on mobile devices, we really need to consider the introduction of mobile safety policies to safeguard your data – even more so if you are operating a BYOD policy, whilst of course IT administrators must address mobile device management concerns to protect work related apps and data.

As mentioned above, today’s world of the internet, cloud and mobile is not necessarily any less secure than days gone by. It is just with new methods come new security concerns, so we must remain vigilant and I think 2015 will see us to further improve in this area once more.

Look out for the final part of this series where we complete our look at technology trends we believe we will see in field service across 2015.

 

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