With 50 billion devices said to be connected to the Internet by 2020, the rise of the Internet of Things has prompted leading service organizations to equip their techs with gadgets like Google Glass and virtual reality platforms. This technology also promises that the machines techs work on (not just wearable devices they don) will become smarter — eventually performing tasks that were once reserved for humans. As fast as organizations adopt these new technologies, consumer technology is advancing at a quicker pace.

To keep up, the manufacturing industry needs to introduce consumer tech, as it did with smartphones and tablets, into the field, notes Doug Brent, vice president of technology innovation at Trimble, at a recent manufacturing and innovation panel in San Francisco. Additionally hardware and software companies should be looking at industry-specific applications. Brent adds: ”It’s the job of the technology companies to turn these into solutions.”

Take, for example, driverless machines. They’re being introduced in the consumer world for people who want a hands-free journey in their own car, but this type of smart automation could have an even greater use case for field technicians.

Imagine an employee of an agricultural company planting and fertilizing a new crop. The whole operation can be made more precise through automation. The employee can know within centimeters where the seed is planted, so he can be spot-on accurate when he applies the fertilizer.

What’s more, driverless technology has huge benefits for any operation in the field. Organizations can increase output by 15 to 20 percent, decrease fuel consumption by 10 to 15 percent and reduce maintenance by 8 percent, reports John Meech, professor of mining engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Another example is connected factory and field operations. The United States Sugar Corporation, which has factories capable of grinding 42,000 tons of sugarcane daily, harvests sugarcane using a WiFi network in order to collect data about the plants and precisely distribute chemicals, according to Manufacturing Today.

The Promise of Data From Connected Devices

One of the reasons that the manufacturing industry is going to benefit so much from the Internet of Things is due to the ability to collect and analyze data, Shahram Mehraban, global head of energy and industrial vertical segments and head of Internet of Things group at Intel Corporation, said at the panel. 74 percent of companies will share machine data with product development.

These connected devices can collect and share data unlike we’ve seen before, but the raw dump of data is rarely valuable. Andrew Coleman, region director of high-tech teams at Teradata, shared with the panel that in the past manufacturers were looking at a swimming pool of data, and now they’re swimming in an ocean of it. They can’t just collect the data and expect it to be valuable. They have to work to reap actionable insights.

The benefits of connected devices are clear, yet many organizations fail to adopt them. That’s because too often in field service, if something isn’t broken, they’re not going to update it to something new, especially if it has a high price tag. As Mehraban said, “Unless there is a macroeconomic driver, technologies will not be adopted.”