IoT Connectivity Uses Data for Condition-Based Monitoring and Security
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We've already touched on some of the ways Industry 4.0 technology is being used to disrupt the field service industry in this article series, but now it's time to delve a little deeper.
The Internet of Things refers to any device which can be connected to the internet which isn't used for browsing. From doorbells to coffee makers and refrigerators, the number of domestic appliances which are capable of this kind of connectivity is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Naturally, IoT is also finding its way into field service, and, combined with intelligent data use, is transforming the nature of maintenance.
Condition Based Monitoring
The main role of IoT technology in field service is to facilitate what is known as condition-based monitoring. This kind of monitoring uses IoT and data to allow field service providers to move from a reactive business model to a proactive one.
"The Internet of Things presents an unparalleled opportunity for every industry to address core business challenges, such as reducing downtime, improving safety, increasing system output, reducing operating costs, and creating innovative services and business models," writes James Richardson for AWS. "You can use IoT services to build an asset condition monitoring solution that captures data from physical assets so you can understand their status and performance and take appropriate action."
Condition-based monitoring uses connected sensors to constantly monitor the state of the machines and their composite components field service providers are responsible for maintaining. The sensors are sensitive enough that they can detect a change in conditions long before a human would be able to, and long before the fault develops to such a degree that it results in a complete shutdown of the machine in question.
This allows issues to be flagged and engineers to be booked to attend way ahead of time, helping companies avoid costly downtime.
IoT technology also generates massive amounts of data which can be used to inform policy decisions. For example, if the data shows that a component is failing on a regular basis, or after an unreasonably short period of time, field service providers can look to trying a different manufacturer or investigate why the same issue keeps occurring.
"When you monitor the status of industrial assets like machinery, remote infrastructure, and vehicles, you can use the data collected to quickly respond to changing conditions, identify operational trends, and improve forecasting to maximize the performance and efficiency of the larger system," continues Richardson. "Data can be collected in near real-time (sub-second), hourly, or daily, depending on your business requirements, connectivity, and budget."
Customers will be impressed by the proactive and forward-thinking service that IoT technology enables and use of it will increase your field service brand's reputation, as well as your chances of both retaining existing clients and gaining new ones.
Obviously, IoT technology - and indeed any connected elements of a business - creates new security concerns.
It's imperative that IoT infrastructure be backed up by robust security protocols. Data is currency these days, and one only needs to look to recent high-profile breaches and scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook debacle to see the sort of influence unfettered access to digital information can wield. Criminals who are able to gain a backdoor into a company's systems via vulnerable IoT devices can use the acquired data for everything from blackmail and theft to fraudulent stock speculating via insider trading.
"IoT technologies connect devices and people in a multitude of ways and are used across industries," writes Technical Industry Specialist at Amazon Web Services, Momena Cheema. "With all the different types of devices and the data they transmit, security is a top concern. The specific challenges using IoT technologies present has piqued the interest of governments worldwide who are currently assessing what, if any, new regulatory requirements should take shape to keep pace with IoT innovation and the general problem of securing data."
As with much modern digital technology, the law and regulatory environment has yet to catch up satisfactorily. This can make it difficult to know the best way to turn when it comes to IoT security, and the onus is on providers to make sure their defenses are adequately shored.
IoT is transforming field service, enabling brands to offer new proactive solutions to their clients and helping them stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. However, security is a serious concern with these devices, and providers must make sure all possible breach points are covered.
You can hear Gregory Ratcliff, Director for Advanced Data Analytics at Vertiv, speak on IoT connectivity, conditioned-based monitoring, and security at Field Service Amelia Island 2019, taking place this August at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, FL.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.