The Services Opportunity in the Industrial Internet of Things

The proliferation of smart, connected devices in businesses is called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and it’s being heralded as the next industrial revolution. This next phase of technology adoption has the potential to dramatically improve the productivity, efficiency and competitive advantage of businesses that take advantage of it. It will also drive new business models and service opportunities for managing the devices and the real-time information they produce.

But even the smartest smart devices need human beings to service and repair them – for the foreseeable future at least. According to Gartner, more than 2 Billion smart devices are in use in businesses today and that number will grow to more than 7 Billion devices by 2020. By anyone’s standards, that’s a lot of maintenance and repair. And companies that want to get the strategic benefits of the IIoT investments need to ensure that their smart devices are in working order, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

We believe that this maintenance problem presents both a challenge and an opportunity. One of the great benefits of smart devices is that often they have the ability to self-monitor and detect when there is a problem – either with themselves or their surroundings.

A smart electrical meter can meter electrical usage but also detect and send outbound notifications when it’s in need of maintenance and repair. Leak detection sensors in gas and water pipes can sense changes in pipe pressure and send outbound notifications that the pipe has a potential leak. Tank sensors in waste collection systems can sense and predict when a tank will be full and send outbound notifications that the tank needs to be emptied.

The value-added services opportunity associated with IIoT is in responding to all of these issues because there’s no point in measuring and detecting problems if you can’t efficiently respond to them. Companies who provide services to monitor and, more importantly respond to these issues in an efficient and highly scalable fashion will have a distinct competitive advantage.

So we’re building Vonigo to manage the human processes required to support IIoT expansion with three distinct use cases.

The first use case is potential problem resolution. When a potential, non-emergency problem is detected by a device the device itself can go directly into Vonigo and schedule a service work order. Vonigo’s unique combination of geo-location, service matching and availability-based scheduling makes it possible to automatically schedule a non-emergency maintenance check. The device can provide all of the problem data as well as location information directly into the work order so that the repair technician has everything he needs available on his mobile device. And the pre-scheduled work order can be route optimized with the technician’s other jobs for the day or week so that it’s efficient and non-disruptive.

The second use case is emergency problem detection in which efficiency and expediency are paramount. In the case of a gas leak, sending a technician next week isn’t good enough. The ability to override a crews scheduled work orders for the day, even what they’re working on right now, and reschedule those work orders until after the emergency is resolved is critical. It’s also critical that the crews with the right skills that are physically nearest the problem are notified and sent to resolve the problem with all the detailed information they need at their fingertips.

Maintaining smart devices before there’s an issue is a key component of IIoT services as well so the third use case we’re supporting is scheduled maintenance. This use case depends on having device specific maintenance logs that are easily accessible by every technician in your organization. Technicians are better prepared and devices are more easily serviced when it’s clear what maintenance activities have been performed and what’s needed. Good maintenance also relies on simple to maintain and monitor maintenance schedule and if a scheduled maintenance is missed the device can call into Vonigo and generate a supplementary maintenance ticket.

The massive amount of data generated by all of these devices has the potential to be very valuable but only if it is accessible, and more importantly, actionable. Vonigo makes IIoT data highly actionable by connecting it directly to the people servicing it – we think it’s a critical component of the emerging IIoT landscape.