Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Internet of Things and Asset Monitoring: The unrealised potential

Gartner predicts that there will be 2.32 billion connected devices this year, and 31 billion by 2020.  The exponential rise of internet connected devices such as switches and sensors, known as the Internet of Things (IoT), creates an exciting opportunity to achieve a new level of business insight and perform predictive analytics by harnessing new data feeds.

Using IoT, businesses can take asset performance management to a new level; the overarching result being a significant reduction of the financial impact of asset failure. In fact, it can prevent asset failure by pre-empting it, and allowing businesses to intervene beforehand, potentially eliminating the associated downtime costs. IoT enables asset condition monitoring, predictive and preventative forecasting, and reliability-centred maintenance to be undertaken on remotely deployed assets. Harnessing real-time feeds from IoT sensors on remote equipment, a rules engine will predict imminent failure then automatically dispatch a service engineer with the right parts to fix the issue. 

Integrating IoT within business IT systems can represent a dramatic shift from a largely reactive approach to asset management, to a completely proactive one, For example; equipment failure today is a comparatively drawn out process, worsened by the difficulty in accurately identifying the causative issue upfront. A customer will contact the call centre to report a fault with their heating system, the operative enters this information into the service management system, then an engineer is allocated. In a modern mobile-enabled world the job data is pushed out to the engineer’s mobile device, who travels to site to complete the job, logging the parts used.

IoT offers a highly streamlined alternative, which sees the engineer dispatched directly to the asset via an enterprise mobile application. The IoT sensor data is sent back in the real time to a cloud-based application monitoring key indicators such as temperature, vibration and current usage, information which is then processed in real time through the rules engine, to constantly determine the current condition of the heating system. Should it be found to be either faulty or working out of known tolerance, a service call to repair the fault or a preventative maintenance call is automatically scheduled in the workforce management system.

But whilst IoT has huge potential to transform businesses, a step change is needed first in the way in which data is treated in their IT systems.  The status quo for the majority of businesses has their data isolated in disparate systems, preventing a true understanding of assets, processes and people. In joining together all of their important data, businesses can really begin to benefit from the IoT revolution. The enabling technology for integrating IoT into processes exists today and is just waiting to be harnessed, the challenge for businesses is to join up their data silos through the implementation of a unified IT system, so that they can begin to transform their processes and gain a competitive edge.


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