The Internet of Things is all around us; it’s in our houses, in our workplaces, it’s even in our hands. So, how does IoT influence your business?
It’s an interesting point to ponder...after all, the Internet of Things (IoT for short) is everyone's favourite buzzword at the moment. However, IoT itself is no longer confined solely to the tech-filled campuses of big corporations. Nope: more than ever, it’s readily available and accessible for just about everyone to use.
When it comes to your business, asking if it’s real in the world of fire and security is both a simple, but also incredibly interesting question to answer.
Simply put: yes, it is real, and it exists in both a physical sense and a detailed digital one.
True, it may not be affecting you massively at this very moment, but if that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time....
As this blog will make obvious, there’s more to the answer than "yes", particularly when you consider the potential impact that adopting IoT can have on your business, especially if you’re already using digital management tools.
Whether it’s further advancing automated processes, integrating asset reporting solutions, or enhancing the way you manage relationships with your customers, IoT is an integral part of the world we live in and it's essential to adopt within your business sooner, rather than later.
That said, there's a chance you might still be wondering...
What is IoT?
I actually wasn’t so familiar with the buzzword myself—until recently—but once I understood it, I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was all around me. On top of that, I’d actually already been interacting without really even thinking about it. In a practical sense, that’s almost the very point of IoT: subtly integrating into the everyday.
A quick Google search defines IoT as: “the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.”
Whether using an app to manage how you heat your home, connecting to your Personal AI Assistant, or even—as we’ll see in more detail—monitoring your personal security: IoT is far-reaching and constantly evolving.
So, with that in mind, let’s take the time to both consider and understand its place within Fire and Security.
How IoT factors in to Fire and Security
So, what’s IoT’s role when it comes to Fire & Security?
To understand that, let’s consider Smart Devices, these are commonly the “Things” part of IoT. They’re everywhere these days and with such a large volume installed both in domestic and industrial locations, keeping tabs on all of them is nothing short of a challenge for companies worldwide.
It’s estimated that by 2020 there’ll be some 30 billion IoT devices installed globally, and as our friends at G2 point out, "that number is expected to skyrocket once 5G cellular networks become the norm". While that number isn't easy to fathom, we can try to scale it down to something more manageable for you to relate to.
After all, you know just how many devices you install for your customers, right? From security doors and entrance devices, fire suppression systems, CCTV cameras, or intruder alarms; there’ll be hundreds, if not thousands of connected assets that you’ve already installed.
Then, of course, there’s the maintenance contracts to think of...
The importance of maintenance for your business is two-fold. You’ll want to be able to keep track of your stock, but once installed for a customer, ensure you can take care of the equipment as well. IoT, particularly with smart devices devices, will allow you to track and record where items are and, in an increasing number of cases, even monitor their status live, 24/7 with direct feedback.
Let’s take IoT devices for Fire and Security separately for a moment:
Smart sensors can be installed and connected to equipment in order to provide data that helps prevent as well as alert you in case of emergencies. These sensors measure pressure, smoke, temperature, heat, or even electrical faults.
Surveillance systems provide real-time support and can even assist in instantaneous communication upon detecting threats, or strange/unusual behaviours.
This level of automated monitoring and feedback essentially means you’ve got an extra pair (to say the least) of digital eyes and ears, reporting back to you and updating your systems. This way, engineers and staff can assess situations and act faster, in real-time, and if something needs maintenance, you’ll know about it. Whether there’s a fire or a break-in, some devices are capable of notifying the occupants instantly too, all thanks to automated responses.
Automation and IoT
We’ve spoken before about the benefits of automation, and IoT is inherently connected to this. It’s meant to save us time and enhance the tasks we perform, day-in, day-out. Add in IoT and you increase the accuracy of your work, minimise errors, and speed up processes, all thanks to accurate, detailed reporting. This means you can be smarter with the way you handle your workload, especially when it comes to Planned Preventive Maintenance (PPM).
An interesting point raised by the folks at Technology Advisors states that tapping into Predictive Maintenance will [help engineers] anticipate a customer’s needs before an issue unfolds in the first place.” Automated solutions allow staff to make smarter, better informed decisions, which in turn increases the efficiency of their work, customer satisfaction, scheduling, and all round business performance.
So, what do you need to do?
To put it plainly, your business needs to “Get Smart”. This means adopting technology that will enable you to do the best work you possibly can. It will also enable you to future proof your business and keep up with the competition.
After all, IoT may not be affecting you right at this moment, but it will in the near future; so you need to step-up, or risk falling behind! Just think how advanced tech has become in the last 10 years. We recently attended the Facilities Show, and witnessed some of the tech at the IFSEC Show running alongside, and there’s certainly a lot of get excited about: like these fire-fighting drones!
IoT’s influence is becoming more pronounced, both at work and at home, so one particularly interesting point for Fire and Security is the way it affects the domestic and commercial markets. This means, thanks to automation, the way services are being completed is changing too.
For larger companies, automated monitoring can even remove the need for a customer to request a service: instead, automated service appointments mean you’re more likely to schedule annual or semi-annual appointments, without the customer needing to request it. This means you’re staying on top of your scheduled maintenance plans, and attending to the product regularly to ensure its functionality.
The great thing here is using your management system to set up automated messages to let clients know when this is happening, well in advance of an appointment. We covered some of these points in the 5 benefits to automating your business, but this sort of scheduling means you’re more likely to prevent an issue from occurring at all.
In between these scheduled appointments, some devices essentially keep watch on themselves, reporting their status and then alerting you and the customer of an impending issue and perhaps, minimising downtime. For IT companies, the equivalent might be servers crashing, but for Fire and Security, rogue alarms, broken suppression systems, or inaccessible buildings are simply unacceptable. If there is an issue, it’s best to be in a position to prevent it in the first place, or at the very least, receive as much notice as possible, rather than it being too late after the fact.
This, more or less, becomes a combination of preventive and predictive maintenance working in tandem. Having an engineer attend an appointment is still a good idea, as not all IoT and automation techniques are foolproof (but the technology is improving constantly and certainly better than not having it at all); so it’s wise to check up regularly on your customers’ assets.
What it means is that, when attending appointments, engineers will be better prepared to deal with an asset, as they can review its history and information that’s reported by the device to better solve an issue. This data will be neatly housed by your management software, giving engineers and staff access to information they need, whenever, wherever.
It is quite clear that integrations with IoT will help businesses to grow and scale with quickly. It will enable them to improve their processes and take advantage of automation. Along with that, it will also drive better relations with customers, suppliers and partners, and further boost your first-time fix rate.
Automation is the future and no doubt you’re benefiting from aspects of it already, but as technology advances, it's important you’re doing everything you can to keep up. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a Practical Guide to Automation that you’ll be sure to find useful, especially when thinking about taking your business to the next level with integrated tech. Download the guide by clicking below!