Mobile and M2M will open up transparency into new business realms to drive efficiency and competitive advantage, says ServicePower CEO Marne Martin
In a time where sometimes it seems impossible to satisfy shareholders, where directors scratch their heads to find even the tiniest advantage, I would urge business leaders to consider mobile devices working in harmony with Machine to Machine (M2M whereby both wireless and wired systems communicate with other devices) as making a real difference, especially for organisations that have geographically dispersed assets.
Prior to mobile and M2M, efficient operations and business visibility was largely limited to the four walls of the business – I am not counting wholly inefficient paper systems here. Now these two technologies expand the reach and intelligence of organisations, but their true power is not as standalone technologies, but as part of connected platforms that share information, join business processes and optimise operations.
The emergence of new technologies
What exciting times we live in, Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (AKA SMAC for the acronym lovers or Nexus of Forces) are maturing and being hailed for offering new levels of flexibility for organisations looking to do more with less. I would add M2M to the SMAC stack as another technology, albeit not new but increasingly being adopted, that has enormous potential to transform business models and services.
Field service leading the way for mobile and M2M
Back in the early ‘noughties’ field service professionals were using enterprise applications on (admittedly clunky) mobile devices. The field service sector pretty much pioneered enterprise mobility before it was a ‘thing’, before consumers even knew what a smartphone was. The same is happening with M2M.
There are clear business reasons for this pioneering spirit. Field service organisations typically have employees that work out of the office installing, maintaining or repairing equipment; such as riggers on an oil platform, cable television installers, emergency gas repair crews or even individuals responsible for servicing life-support systems. Field workers benefit more than most from information delivered on mobiles. Just like enterprise mobility, it is the nature of the sector and the machine-based assets that technicians work with that is also seeing field service as a hotbed of advancements for M2M.
Mobile and M2M working together
Mobile and M2M working together can make a huge difference. So, for example, a sensor in a coffee machine could recognise a failing part and trigger an alert to the mobile device of the nearest ‘ACME coffee machine’s’ engineer. Great news for the cafe, no customers up in arms about lack of coffee, no bad Trip Advisor reviews. The business model has moved from reactive (pain’s already occurred) to proactive where disaster has been avoided.
But as I mention above, the future is to take this into a connected platform, where technology works together to deliver unprecedented levels of efficiency. So rather than just push an alert to a mobile device the information distributed by the machine’s sensors trigger a series of tasks that, enabled by technology, work in concert to deliver optimised service to the customer at the minimum cost. As an example that alert from the coffee machine goes to a central scheduling engine which then considers the problem, the parts available in stock, the engineers with the skills needed to fix that particular asset, their location, the time of day etc. When the engineer is selected all the information they could possibly require is delivered to their smartphone, phablet, tablet or rugged device, including GPS guiding them to the location, the customer’s name, the asset in question, schematics, maybe even augmented reality which guides the individual to its exact location. They could then sign off the job, even take photos if they wish.
All this information captured by machines and on mobile out in the field becomes invaluable. Technicians can scrutinise individual jobs in real-time, or executives the long-term data so that they can predict issues, be proactive in addressing them and prevent problems in the future.
Mobile and machines will push data into the cloud and bring into play analytics that can be shared across social to deliver more efficient business models. With this our understanding of our business realms will be significantly increased to derive efficiencies and service improvements in completely new ways to delight customers and go some way to satisfy the insatiable need for shareholders that demand competitive advantage.
Marne Martin is CEO of ServicePower.
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