Market Outlook: The Impact of the Convergence of Field Service and the Internet of Things

May 23, 2017 • FeaturesManagementmanagementBill PollockIoT

Bill Pollock, President Strategies for GrowthSM takes a look at some of the findings of their 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey to explore exactly what the impact of IoT is set to be in 2017...

There have been myriad times in recent years when a new technology seems to control the conversation in the business world – and, particularly, in the services sector. And, field service is typically one of the first areas where customers and users catch their first glimpse and initial understanding of what each of these “new” technologies can do for the industry.

However, it usually takes a while longer before they truly understand what these new technologies can do specifically for their respective organisations.

Many of these new technologies enter the mainstream of the business world – and the global services community – after some initial fanfare, trade press, blogs, tweets and white papers, etc.

10 to 15 years ago, RFIDs were all the rage, with seemingly every article and white paper talking about the potential use of RFIDs for everything from tracking parts shipments, to identifying personal items that consumers send to the dry cleaner for laundering.

However, most of them will actually take years to be fully accepted and deployed via a more staggered and drawn-out basis over a lengthy period of time.


For example, 10 to 15 years ago, RFIDs were all the rage, with seemingly every article and white paper talking about the potential use of RFIDs for everything from tracking parts shipments, to identifying personal items that consumers send to the dry cleaner for laundering.

The evolution of RFIDs, however, was fairly steady to the point of almost being modestly linear over the next decade and a half.

But, fast forward to 2017, and Tesla Inc. founder and CEO, Elon Musk, has recently announced the formation a new company, Neuralink Corp., which The Wall Street Journal describes as a “medical research” company that plans to build technology “through which computers could merge with human brains”, essentially using embedded chips to upload and download thoughts directly from humans. In less than a couple of decades, RFIDs went from the “talk of the town”; to a backdrop of steady (albeit non-glitzy) market adoption and deployment; to a virtual science fiction-like catalyst between the technology of today and the advanced future.

That is why the introduction and accelerating proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in field service is such a big deal. Because, as most industry analysts tend to agree, the projected growth path for the full integration and convergence of the IoT into the global services community – particularly in field service – are stunning!

While some new technologies start out like “gangbusters”, many quickly turn into fads, or segment specific applications, as only a small percent actually do become “game-changers”. And this is where the convergence of field service and the IoT seems to be so much different than the rest.

While some new technologies start out like “gangbusters”, many quickly turn into fads, or segment specific applications, as only a small percent actually do become “game-changers”. And this is where the convergence of field service and the IoT seems to be so much different than the rest.


As technology companies actively tout the capabilities (and supposed uniqueness) of their respective IoT-based applications, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution providers tend to focus on how their embedded Field Service Management (FSM) solutions are also bolstered by the IoT. And, then, there’s Augmented Reality (AR) – which could not exist in its present form without the functionality of the IoT. In fact, many services industry analysts have stated that there could be no servitization – at all – without the IoT.

Maybe so; maybe not. There certainly could be no Augmented Reality (AR) without the IoT. And AR is already one of the “shining lights” among the “new” technologies that has staked its claim as the “next big thing” in field service.

However, even as the services community continues to talk about the gradual introduction of AR into their field service operations, the technology is already morphing and converging with other related technologies, most notably, Virtual Reality (VR). This “new” new technology is already being brandished as “Mixed”, or “Merged Reality” (MR) among the global technology leaders (i.e., depending on which one of the leading technology providers you follow).

Still, the results of Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey reveal that while “new” technologies provide a host of specific benefits for Field Services Organisations (FSOs), most are still not ready to embrace the full potential of all they can ultimately offer.

However, both the need – and the perceived benefits – are there.

For example, the top opportunities, or benefits, of acquiring and integrating new technology are cited as:

  • 44% Ability to run a more efficient field service operation by eliminating silos, etc.
  • 39% Improve customer satisfaction
  • 35% Ability to provide customers with an end-to-end engagement relationship
  • 30% Establish a competitive advantage
  • 26% Improve field technician utilisation and productivity
  • 25% Reduce Total Cost of Operations (TCO)

However, as boldly as these opportunities and benefits are cited, less than 10% of respondents presently claim to be leveraging Augmented Reality (AR) into their field service operations – although 18% say they would be either “very” or “extremely likely” to do so in the next 12 months.

There are twice as many respondents (37%) who say they are “not likely” to do so, compared with 18% of the more progressive respondents who will be moving forward with AR.

Still, there are twice as many respondents (37%) who say they are “not likely” to do so, compared with 18% of the more progressive respondents who will be moving forward with AR.


The survey reveals similar findings with respect to VR – perhaps the advent of “Mixed” or “Merged Reality (MR) will move the market somewhat more forward during what seems likely to be a period of accelerating growth in acceptance.

As reported in the SFGSM survey, it is still somewhat comforting that the respective levels of interest in acquiring these new, IoT-powered, technologies continues to grow:

  • 31% Are currently integrating new technologies into existing field service operations
  • 37% Plan to integrate new technologies into existing field service operations in the next 12 months
  • 36% Are interested in learning more about the IoT and AR

Once again, the impact of the convergence of field service and the IoT looks to have an increasingly strong acceptance for the foreseeable future.



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