Smart machines are everywhere — in our homes, our driveways, even our power grids and assembly lines.

The number of connected devices has almost doubled over the last three years, from 15 billion in 2015 to more than 25 billion today. By 2025, that number is expected to eclipse 75 billion.

Although people tend to associate the Internet of Things (IoT) with autonomous vehicles and smart homes, the enterprise applications are just as varied — and far more disruptive. Entire industries are being transformed by the rise of connected devices. Just look at modern field service. Routine tasks like monitoring equipment health or diagnosing the source of a problem can all be done better, faster, and cheaper by smart devices.

Already, field service leaders are using connected devices to power automation and better understand what’s happening in the field.

Here are three ways the IoT is changing the face of field service:

1. Avoid costly breakdown repairs

Most field service organizations today take a break-fix approach to service delivery. A breakdown occurs, a technician is dispatched to figure out what happened, and hopefully the issue is resolved on the first visit.

One of the biggest advantages of connected devices is their ability to deliver proactive or even predictive maintenance. In fact, a recent Gartner report suggests that 10% of emergency field service work will be both triaged and scheduled by artificial intelligence within two years.

Instead of relying on annual site visits to identify problems and perform routine maintenance, smart devices monitor themselves and the surrounding environment for signs of trouble. By drawing on rich historical data, companies are able to increase equipment uptime and save money on costly breakdown repairs and additional truck rolls.

2. Improve forecasting and visibility

With thousands of moving parts and people, field service organizations are always looking for ways to better monitor the performance of their field teams and equipment. Success is often determined by the ability to know what’s happening in the field, down to the technician level.

With a network of IoT-connected devices sending information back to the office in real time, it’s easier than ever for service leaders to keep track of their operations. Not only is the speed of data received faster, but it’s free of the errors that naturally occur when a technician takes field measurements and manually enters data.

3. Drive workforce satisfaction

Few things are more frustrating to technicians than arriving at a site without the equipment or experience needed to complete a task.

Intelligent scheduling and dispatching starts to solve this problem by matching technicians based on skill set, workload, and proximity. It also makes sure the right assets are in place to complete each job, whether that means assigning a technician who already has the part on their truck or sending another technician ahead to drop it off.

The IoT goes a step further by enabling proactive maintenance that nips emergent issues in the bud and prevents small problems from becoming large ones. Soon, predictive maintenance will eliminate the need for technicians to be dispatched in the first place. As more and more infrastructure is outfitted with sensor-equipped devices, technicians will be able to focus on strategic work, not routine maintenance.

What’s next for field service leaders?

AI-driven automation is the future of field service, but it’s only as good as the data behind it. Connected devices fill this gap by helping companies collect data on a massive scale.

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