Neither are enterprise IoT projects.
Enterprise technology is meant to enhance customer service and improve business efficiency. Internet of Things (IoT) projects have to integrate with other business applications to make this happen. How do you bridge IoT islands to mainland business applications?
The project involved a commercial HVAC contracting service that handled the installation and repair of several thousand air conditioners. The company was struggling to provide good customer service without eroding their profit margins.
Customers currently call in to report problems with their HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) units. The service request is registered, and a technician is dispatched to repair the unit. The current manual approach was both expensive and prone to errors.
- Hiring extra technicians to manage an unpredictable volume of service calls often results in poor resource utilization.
- Scheduling repair visits is difficult when the duration of the prior service call is uncertain.
- Sending technicians to resolve problems that could be fixed remotely hurts both productivity and profits.
- Provisioning repair vans with extra supplies to ensure that the right parts are always on hand is expensive and often overkill.
- Spare parts for repairs have to be reordered quickly as they're consumed by service technicians.
Connecting sensors in the HVAC units to a cloud-based management platform for better customer service made sense for their business. How could this new IoT capability be integrated with their current business operations?
Integrating IoT with enterprise apps
Connecting the air conditioners into their existing system raised several issues:
- How should these new capabilities be incorporated without disrupting current business operations?
- How should sensor data be integrated with existing ERP and CRM systems?
- How should security vulnerabilities introduced from the connected HVAC units be minimized?
- How could repair scheduling and technician productivity be improved?
Designing the solution
1. Connecting the HVAC units
A prototype sensor with the IoT client library sends the status of each air conditioner to the Oracle IoT Cloud Service. The flood of sensor data could easily swamp existing systems. To avoid this, the data stream is first processed to identify just the devices needing attention.
2. Applying business rules
Business rules define what actions should be taken in response to the incoming data from connected devices. A business rule automatically initiates multiple actions across multiple enterprise systems once a malfunction is detected. This keeps internal business applications synchronized and enables better customer service.
The owner's warranty details are retrieved from the Oracle Service Cloud. This is done using the air conditioner’s serial number, which is in the data stream. The Oracle Field Service Cloud issues a service request via a mobile app to the service technician closest to the customer. Once the repair is completed, the spare parts used for the repair are updated in the Oracle ERP system to order replenishments.
New IoT-based services
The project evolved in two phases. The first phase streamlined current operations to improve service and lower costs. The second phase enabled services that hadn’t been possible until the air conditioners were connected to the cloud and centrally monitored. With those services in place, the company had the following capabilities:
- Predictive maintenance: Sensor data is analyzed to identify when maintenance is needed before the unit breaks down.
- Improved product selection: Data analysis identified which HVAC units had the longest mean time between failure (MTBF).
- Remote troubleshooting and repairs: Online troubleshooting of air conditioner problems improved customer satisfaction and profit margins.
- Usage-based billing: Clients pay for air conditioning based on how much they use it.
- Better productivity: Service technicians are more productive because travel time is cut by scheduling their repair visits close to their current location.
Oracle IoT Cloud Service
The Oracle IoT Cloud Service is an enterprise IoT platform to connect, analyze and integrate IoT data. Oracle also offers pre-built applications to expedite IoT deployments. Asset monitoring to track an asset's health, performance and location is one of these applications.
Oracle's cloud-based platform ensures secure connectivity to assets such as air conditioners. Sensor data is analyzed in real time to automatically trigger the needed actions in other enterprise applications. REST-based APIs are used for integration.
These business rules define what actions should be triggered in other enterprise applications through REST-based APIs. This includes issuing a service order and ordering more spare parts.
This Oracle tool simplifies IoT application development and integration with other enterprise applications.
It involves building a software equivalent of a connected device. This "virtual" device simulates the behavior of an actual device and sends sensor data corresponding to proper and malfunctioning behavior. Multiple versions of virtual devices are configured to represent different air conditioner models. Both the number and activity of virtual devices can be adjusted to represent more customers. Developers build and test IoT applications using the virtualized sensor data without having to connect dozens of air conditioners.
“An important benefit is that a business can incrementally invest and gain business value from just a small incoming volume of telemetry data. Simply starting by augmenting current reactive customer service models helps drive efficiency that can then be further expanded to develop new revenue generating service offers, like proactive and predictive customer offerings,” explains Shon Wedde, senior director of product management for Oracle Service Cloud.
- Oracle Asset Monitoring: a ready-to-deploy IoT application built with Oracle IoT Cloud Service
- Ephlux: a member of Oracle's IoT Customer Advisory Board and a preferred partner for IoT integration
IoT projects deliver the most value when they're integrated with existing business operations. Oracle’s IoT Service Cloud simplifies the task.
John Donne’s famous poem "No Man Is An Island" isn’t about integrating IoT, but sums it up well.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
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