Or what if the field service professionals managing air conditioning in your office kept running throughout a hot summer because maintenance took place before a breakdown could happen? The Internet of Things is making these possibilities a reality. The proliferation of smart devices that can connect to the internet and other devices has given rise to the Internet of Things (IoT). From thermostats that learn your preferences and can be controlled from a smartphone, to household assistants like the Amazon Echo, to complex machines supporting businesses that can?t afford even a minute of downtime, the IoT has opened a world of possibilities for improving field service. But can it deliver on that promise? Simply put, yes. As soon as an everyday piece of technology is given network connectivity, it becomes IoT-enabled, which allows machines and devices from washing machines to HVAC to relay information and intelligence to field service engineers. The engineers themselves, equipped with wearable technology such as smart glasses, will become much more self-sufficient when it comes to maintenance and preventing failures. Ready access to work history and information from previous site visits will further ensure the engineer is equipped with the vital information they need, both before and during a field service visit. In this sense, IoT has the power to unlock a more predictive approach to field service management, and most industry commentators would concur that the adoption of IoT in a field service context is expected to become more and more commonplace over the next few years. In fact, a recent ClickSoftware survey, which polled both consumers and suppliers of field service offerings around the world, identified that technological development is expected to play the biggest role in improving supplier agility and responsiveness over the next five years. Rather tellingly, 51 per cent of respondents specified that the Internet of Things will be a key component of these technological developments, allowing for stronger long-term competitive advantage across the field service industry. Beyond improvements in the field and on the job, the IoT also provides unprecedented data about devices and their use. Armed with artificial intelligence (AI) based solutions, providers of field service can collect and turn all that data into real business insight, and actionable steps toward improvement. With solutions sophisticated enough, the resulting optimisation of field service delivery can happen seamlessly, without customer or employee intervention. As the IoT is still in its infancy with much more growth and advancement still to come, the potential for continually improving field service operations is endless. Once the IoT becomes an everyday essential for field service engineers, they will be able to proactively stop issues from arising, rather than simply acting in a repair role. That?s truly predictive and opens the door to altogether greater opportunities in both a customer experience and business context. So, while we?re in agreement that the IoT spells good news for the field service industry, it?s important to note that its use in any advanced context will need a lot more work and refining before it is perfected. This is just a matter of time however, and witnessing the success that other industries are already reaping from IoT, those of us in the field service industry are undoubtedly set on a course for continual improvement that will enhance customer experience, improve customer retention and boost business performance for the long term. Paul Whitelam is group VP of product marketing at ClickSoftwareImage: Shutterstock
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