I know what you’re thinking, “What’s a field service guy doing at an IoT conference?”

Most people understand the world is filled with machines that provide real impact and value to people and businesses. What’s often much less appreciated is that these machines – from dialysis machines to wind turbines – need constant attention from service technicians to keep people healthy and the global economy running. What’s fascinating to me is that although field service is largely an afterthought for people, it has quietly become a growth, innovation and profit engine for manufacturing companies around the world. In fact, service revenues are growing twice as fast as equipment revenues across the manufacturing sector – and have been for at least the past decade. I recently made my case to a room full of IoT experts and business executives at ConnectedWorld 2016 in San Francisco.

At the core of the field service business is a mobile (in most senses of the word) fleet of roughly 20 million global engineers and technicians. This group of hard-working people are the face of the company to many field service customers. A face that they trust to fix problems and maintain their machines. The person who customers think “really gets it.” Arming these people with machine data just enhances that whole relationship. Unlocking the ability to stream critical information directly to technician devices through the web and IoT expertly informs their maintenance activity and builds customer loyalty. The full enterprise value of IoT over the next decade will come from analyzing data to gain a much greater understanding of the needs of customers.

IDC estimates that there will be somewhere around 22 billion IoT devices installed by the year 2018, driving the development of over 200,000 new IoT apps and services. Organizations that implement quickly to access this growing network of apps and streaming data will drive IoT adoption. Tapping into machine data through mobile devices will fundamentally shift field service from a reactive industry of sluggish problem-only responses to a proactive business that uses information from a machine to predict potential maintenance requirements across the fleet. Companies will need to spend initial resources to turn these dormant sensors on, but long-term ROI from smart, connected assets will be worth every penny.

Gartner estimates that 5.5 million new “things” will get connected every day through 2016. A lot of data can be tapped from these things – especially when a company knows the product and maintenance history of each thing. Taking stock of internet-ready assets should be the first step for any company looking to take operations online. We’re already seeing global companies like General Electric, Schneider Electric, Johnson Controls and PTC using technology and apps to connect previously offline assets and technicians to the web and, increasingly, the IoT. Other global companies will follow their example and switch on previously unconnected hardware in the name of business growth and customer success across industries.

The folks at McKinsey predict that the majority of value created by connecting previously unconnected assets is going to happen in the B2B world. Their research indicates that places like factories, manufacturing plants, energy grids and hospitals could generate nearly 70% of the full value enabled by IoT. That’s huge and squarely reliant on the sustained performance of machines and assets that support mission critical operations. The mainstream adoption of IoT will happen quicker than you think. In field service and across industry, we’re headed in the direction of IoT. It’s time to embrace it.

For more information about ConnectedWorld 2016, check out the conference site.

ABOUT Dave Yarnold

Avatar photoDave Yarnold is the former chief executive officer of ServiceMax. A veteran of the SaaS and field service industries, Dave believed in field service management’s massive potential nearly a decade ago and has been instrumental in building FSM into a thriving industry. Follow Dave on Twitter @dyarnold.