Does the IoT Make Us More Loyal?




Loyalty is a uniquely human trait that may not compute for the software and machines of the Internet of Things. Why do we remain with certain suppliers when switching is as simple as a few clicks?

It’s a complex answer, says Mark Benak, CEO of Asset Performance Inc., an Albuquerque, N.M. company that specializes in analyzing preventive maintenance plans down to specific task and interval levels, for power plants and industrial facilities. His goal is estimating costs, benefits and timing with bottom-line results that can tie a service provider closer to clients. When a client avoids a costly unexpected repair or shutdown thanks to IoT technology, that’s a good day.

Will the IoT infrastructure of platforms, computing languages and network requirements make us more loyal through partnerships with new sources of profit? Or does the Internet just keep making it easier to look for better, cheaper options?

“There are also forces working against that,” says Benak. “Plants and equipment, things, have to have monitoring systems. And I think there’s a race to get sensor data, with companies vying to be the ones who collect and make sense of it.”

Some data aggregators are positioning to be long-run trusted providers. Others are promoting open systems that make it easy to try new platforms and take data with you.

Companies are at the stage now where they have data, Benak says, “We have access to data but is it any good and can we do anything with it?”

One question to ask is who else benefits from your knowledge. In industries with critical infrastructure one incident can impact others, particularly airlines where aircraft user data affects every owner of that model aircraft, or utilities where power output and operating equipment links to adjacent territories.

“If it happens to one, it affects everyone,” Benak adds. “You can’t monitor everything but in a 500-megawatt power plant run by 16 people you don’t have time for lengthy analysis.”

Rapid, useful information from connected products and services increases customer value, improves price and margin, and creates more significant barriers to entry. An ecosystem of products and applications requires you to think about new opportunities to create value – issues like improving service management, data management and configuration.

Today’s partners are tomorrow’s rivals. And IoT tools are moving from the shop floor to wherever they’ll get used to produce the most value. Another IoT integrator, Waltham, MA-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., has operations in life sciences, lab, diagnostic and analytical industries. Those boundaries are blurring as the company finds new uses for its technologies.

“It’s not about IT, It’s about leveraging connectivity, and integration technologies to develop products and services that are designed to work together,” adds David Riddle, head of IT for ThermoFisher’s portable analytical instruments.

The goal is bringing "lab-quality instruments to the point-of-need for use by non-scientists” in applications ranging from chemical identification for first responders, incoming inspection for pharmaceutical manufacturing plants, metals analysis for the oil and gas industry, to screening for counterfeit drugs to help protect human health.

Transitioning from selling a “thing” to a service or system brings new challenges – from on-site repair logistics and remote diagnostics to creating self-serve options. We’re seeing

some unique business models. For example, if you like Amazon or other home delivery convenience, consider gasoline from Parkandfuel.com, where a truck comes to your car or boat to refuel instead of you taking the vehicle to a gas pump.

Alliances of companies, partners and data – and who controls that information – are creating new industries. Getting people and companies to sample new wares is relatively easy. But we still need people and conversations to define IoT success rates for the long term. 

 What are your benchmarks?

  • Increasing spending, share of wallet

  • Longevity and referrals

  • Exchange of strategic goals and data that benefits both companies

  • Shared risk and reward for new ventures

Photo by Matt Butler