Salesforce packages up IoT for a better field service experience

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright December 4, 2018
IoT for field service goes mainstream as Salesforce packages up Internet of Things capabilities for use by customer service, support, and field staff

Consumer smart appliances in word IoT © chesky - shutterstock
One of the long-promised benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) is smarter field service. It stands to reason that a connected product should be easier to service, since the engineer can arrive on site already knowing what's wrong. But real-world sightings of this customer service nirvana are still few and far between. The technology needs to be productized so that it's easier to implement — which is where Salesforce's announcement today of IoT Insights for Field Service Lightning comes in.

The new announcement shows off the ability to bring IoT data directly into Salesforce's field service application. It's essentially a packaged implementation of IoT connectors and workflow that presents IoT data in a context that's useful for customer service and support agents or field technicians. As Taksina Eammano, VP Salesforce IoT Go-To-Market, sums up:

The ability to reach that information, create the business rules and logic, marry that with CRM information and decide the action — that's exactly what the product does.

There are three main use cases highlighted:

  • Advance warning and remote diagnosis — IoT signals can be surfaced in the Service Cloud console, making it possible to remotely detect a problem, evaluate the cause, and either issue instructions to the customer or dispatch an engineer — in some cases before the customer has noticed any performance issues.
  • Advance information in the field — mobile workers can plan their visit using up-to-date IoT data, helping to make sure they arrive on site with the right tools and parts. They also have all the customer context and device history available to them on-site.
  • Automated workflow — IoT signals can automatically trigger the creation of cases and work orders based on predefined rules set up by the service organization.

Provided as a Lightning component, these capabilities can be built into the Service Cloud console and mobile app, into a community or partner portal, or a custom application running on the Salesforce platform.

Customers pilot IoT for field service

Among the customers already piloting this technology are City of Cary in North Carolina, which is using IoT data to help it fix faulty traffic signals faster. Another example is Samson Rope, which has been supplying rope for purposes including marine, mining, forestry and rescue for 140 years.

Samson is testing a new high-tech rope that's threaded in a way that allows sensors to monitor its condition and know when it needs replacing. After-sales services are already a large part of the company's business, says Dean Haverstraw, director of IT. The new capability will help automate some of the health monitoring and compliance management that it provides using Field Service Lightning.

The new capabilities are designed to work with any IoT infrastructure, including those running on Google Cloud Platform or Amazon Web Services. This builds on the previously announced Salesforce IoT Insights, which brings together device data such as current status, historical trends and readings ready for embedding into the Salesforce Lightning environment. They are licensed as part of Salesforce IoT Explorer, a low-code workflow orchestration tool for defining rules and triggers working with IoT data.

My take

There's nothing earth-shattering about this announcement. Bringing IoT data into field service management is something that others in the sector such as Salesforce partner ServiceMax (now part of GE Digital) have been talking about for many years.

What's important here is that Salesforce is opening up these capabilities to the mainstream, providing them in a format that, once installed, can be set up and modified by admins and developers working as part of a business function, rather than having to farm it out to IT as a multi-month project.

Of course it still depends on someone having done the not-inconsiderable grunt work of building an IoT infrastructure and instrumenting products and assets out in the field. But we're now at a stage where enterprises have quite a lot of that work already done — instrumenting everything from the humble domestic cat flap to the entire Port of Rotterdam. Now it's time to start building applications that can produce some quantifiable business benefits from all that IoT investment.

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