How the gig economy will transform field service

A use case for the future

Imagine the scenario: a master electrician is responsible for fixing motors, transformers, generators and electronic controllers on industrial robots. He finishes the first shift at a manufacturing plant, gets an alert on his phone as he’s driving home. Something is wrong with a nearby photovoltaic system – aka a solar array – operated by a regional energy provider. The company is offering $ 125 an hour to someone who can fix the problem in the next four hours. It’s easy money – so he accepts the job and his phone guides him to a field a few miles away.

He arrives on site, grabs his tools, and puts on his augmented reality glasses. On his phone he receives the work order from the energy company for the troublesome equipment. An hour before, the company had received an alert that the electrical output from the system is atypical based on the current weather conditions. He reviews the system blueprints on his phone. Following a blueprint map displayed on his glasses, he begins his inspection.

After some testing, he realizes there is a problem with the inverter and calls the energy company’s engineering team. They help him diagnose the problem based on a video stream from his glasses to their headquarters 200 miles away. After some wiring improvements guided by the engineers, the system is performing well. And he receives a $ 125 payment directly in his bank account within 5 minutes of leaving the job site.

A cloud-connected, utility-grade Conext SmartGen solar inverter from Schneider Electric

A cloud-connected, utility-grade Conext SmartGen solar inverter from Schneider Electric

The rise of the gig economy

Currently, stories such as the one above are uncommon. But, with extreme growth and interest predicted in freelancing, this may not always be the case. The application of gig economy staffing models to industry seems inevitable.

So, what does this mean? Well, the gig economy refers to the increase in the number of temporary, flexible jobs. It also incorporates the trend of companies hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. It’s widely believed that over 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is involved in the gig economy.

A freelance economy specifically refers to hiring self-employed workers to undertake specific, short-term jobs in return for an agreed upon wage. There are lots of examples of B2C companies using the gig economy to support their business models – such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Instacart, Airbnb and Shyp.

Field Service Management basics

Field service management (FSM) is the process of planning and dispatching workers to a location to meet service commitments. It’s complex. Companies need to predict service needs, forecast staffing around demand, schedule work efficiently, and enable staff to complete works.

Technology is already changing how the FSM process works at its core. For example, using weather data and advanced analytics from equipment data in the field, companies can more accurately predict outages and deploy their workforce. Systems such as Maximo are used to track work orders and maintenance records for all field infrastructure. Maximo Anywhere enables field technicians to work more productively on site. It’s no wonder the world’s largest asset-intensive organizations rely on IBM for operations solutions.

How will technology enable freelancing in FSM?

There are a few emerging technologies that will make the story above become real, faster than anyone is anticipating. First, the Internet of Things is connecting equipment and operations in unimaginable ways. This means improvements in uptime and operational efficiency. With new sources of data, Field Service can be optimized much more efficiently.

Second, artificial intelligence (AI) is changing how field equipment is managed. For example, IBM provides the ability to apply analytics to video and audio to see whether there are issues in the field. AI can also help optimize the deployment of field resources. This is partly because machine learning models can account for more variables than a human can comprehend.

Over time, services like Watson might be able to give field technicians advice. For instance, by working out the probability that certain equipment is the cause of operational failures. With the world’s computing power at its disposal, Watson might even serve as am educator for apprentice electricians on the job site.

Finally, augmented reality is developing rapidly beyond its initial commercial applications. Not only is augmented reality hardware improving, but the software powering the hardware is finding powerful industrial use cases. In the near future, cloud-based solutions such as Maximo will be easily accessible via augmented reality. This means technicians can both learn from and use Maximo as another tool in their toolbox.

Learn more and join us at Think 2018

When do you think the story above will become a reality? How do you see technology changing field service? We’ll be exploring answers to these questions and more at Think 2018: our landmark conference in Las Vegas. Join us there from 19-22 March, and meet partners, thinkers and innovators from around the world.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Maximo, the world’s leading enterprise asset management solution, by visiting our website.

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Lighting as a service – A circular economy solution

With the evolution of LED, light is becoming increasingly effective and efficient, says Darren Riva, Northern European Zumtobel Group Services director. Recent studies show a direct link between improved employee performance and the quality of light within the workspace. The lighting issue is of increasing interest to many businesses.

Businesses are also tasked with meeting increasingly onerous, legally binding energy efficiency targets which require new ways of thinking. In fact, in recent years, a new phrase has entered the business lexicon – the circular economy – which describes how firms are looking to become more resourceful and create more cost-effective business models. Circular economy principles prioritise rethinking waste, recycling and developing new products and services that keep resources circulating around the economy. Research suggests that the circular economy could be worth €500bn by 2025.

So how does the issue of lighting fit into this circular economy picture? Historically, many businesses have regarded lighting as a legacy burden, an annual cost drain considered too costly and disruptive to tackle. But business leaders are embracing a new mind-set; the idea of lighting as a service. Put simply, this means paying for the installation, maintenance and management of lighting, entering into a contract whereby the future performance of the lighting solution is ensured by the supplier.

Optimising lighting performance now and into the future

A lighting as a service model protects customers from any loss in asset value because the service is not solely based on selling luminaires but about maximising future lighting performance. Such a service enables customers to benefit from LED and future technology without the hassle of owning and operating lighting solutions themselves.

The future-proofing advantages of lighting as a service are critical. Without the model, new technological advances would require significant capital expenditure. Lighting as a service provides buyers with the necessary consultative expertise to enable them to stay ahead. Additionally, businesses deal with just one supplier contact, rather than having to deal with maintenance, management and sales personnel.

Lighting the path to a smarter, connected environment

Certainly, the cost-savings delivered by today’s LED lighting systems will interest any business. But undertaking to buy lighting as a service rather than a commodity moves the conversation beyond simple savings.

Everything associated with lighting, from design through to regular maintenance, will be handled by the provider, enabling businesses to focus staff on core tasks. Once installed, transparent remote monitoring helps businesses to achieve the agreed aims regarding illuminance, energy efficiency and – with expert guidance – to identify future opportunities to enhance usage patterns.

The most advanced suppliers understand the biological effect of light on the human body and work with businesses to design solutions that motivate employees and serve to enhance the reputation and brand image of the company as a whole. Adjusting lighting to individual needs and implementing new functions isn’t a one-off task performed during installation, but rather continues throughout operations.

Efficient lighting systems also result in lower energy consumption and reduced CO2 emissions, improving environmental balance and lowering CO2 certificate costs. EU legislation is gradually removing the problem of inefficient lamps […]

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Health service could be saved by robots with artificial emotional intelligence

My new resolution is to be less robophobic, says Nick Booth. There are good reasons to fear these electronic ‘jobsworths’. Robots write apps, books, songs and slaughter chess grandmasters. Worse still, some fiend has invented a prototype robotic reporter. I’m now competing with an ‘aggrievance’ (I believe that’s the collective noun for journalists) of freelance cyber-scribblers.

Still, not all robots are like that. Some of them might actually help us. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) could use some support at the moment. As I write, it’s been announced that 50,000 operations are going to be cancelled.

Believe me, it’s no fun queueing for an operation. For some reason, it takes two weeks for a surgeon to write a letter to your doctor and post it second class. (Why didn’t someone buy them a computer? You can get one for less than £11 billion (€12.54 billion) these days, if you’re prepared to shop around. And, if you avoid the traditional NHS suppliers, the computer might even work!).

But under the current system, you can wait three years after your bike crash for an operation. By the time the surgeons hack away the scar tissue on your arm, the nerve they are trying to un-trap is dead anyway. So, having operated on you too late, they send you on your way with the cheery advice to expect ‘atrophy’ in your arm muscles.

Artificial empathy

Having been the subject of that case particular study, I’m suddenly in favour of robot surgeons. Let’s hope they can learn artificial empathy.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was founded as an academic discipline in 1956. Its founding logic was that any human activity, if broken down precisely enough, could be done by a machine if we put enough thought into the instructions.

I can see why surgeons might not give patients much thought. The theatre work alone would put most mortals into early retirement. Then there’s the emotional toll of dealing with patients, the constant pressure to update skills and keep up with the waves of research. Not to mention the politics. Anything that relieves them of any of those burdens is a good thing, surely.

An artificially intelligent robot can scan through Gigabytes of data at lightning speed. Researchers at the North Carolina School of Medicine used IBM Watson’s AI engine to examine 1,000 cancer diagnoses. In 99% of the cases Watson came up with the same treatment plans as the oncologists in a fraction of the time.

Watson has a limitless capacity to digest complex information without tiring. Which is possibly why, in 30% of cases, Watson spotted treatment options that physicians missed.

Robot surgeon

In London’s Princess Grace Hospital, they use a robot surgeon called MAKO for knee and hip replacements.

Sixty-four year-old Bernice Glatt had a third of her knee replaced by MAKO under a procedure from which the patient recovers much quicker than they would from traditional surgery, the hospital says.

The MAKO robot allows surgeons to plan and execute surgery more precisely. With an increasingly aged and obese population, the number of hip replacements will rise accordingly, so anything that can surgically cut the queue will […]

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See Service Management and Orchestration from Edge to Cloud in Action at Cisco Live Barcelona

Typical IoT deployments involve multiple vendors, multiple tenants, multiple clouds and devices. You need an orchestrator to make them work as one.
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Focus On Big Data Analysis To Make Public Service Helpful

Powerful digital tools help governments and other organizations protect and improve people’s lives.

These tools include objects with sensors that accumulate data as well as software that gathers this data through the Internet. The software sorts, analyzes, and shares the information with other software programs, all of which are supported by another, more powerful level of software called a platform. Combined, they are part of a network called the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT is a vast network of objects connected to the Internet. The most common IoT object is the cellphone; others range from computers in police cars to thermostats in government offices. They produce a flood of information called Big Data.

Making sense of Big Data

Without interpretation, data is not useful. To gain insights from data, government agencies must make sense of massive amounts of information from IoT sensors, back office administrative systems, social media, and other sources.

One example of a government agency that relies on solutions gained from Big Data is the French Gendarmerie nationale. It is the branch of the nation’s police connected to the French Armed Forces and aids national defense. The Gendarmerie nationale uses digital tools for constant gathering and analysis of social media to help identify potential terrorist actions and participants.

Analyzing social media also helps the agency see patterns in other kinds of crime. They use this information to predict where extra support may be necessary in the future.

The State of Indiana is another example of government controlling the flood of information. It has created a digital “data hub” aimed at helping its departments and agencies share and coordinate information.

The hub supports a unified approach to solving problems such as decreasing drug abuse and supporting citizens harmed by it.

The Republic, an Indiana newspaper, reports that before the hub, lots of data existed but hadn’t been shared among agencies. It says the state’s goal “is to help agency heads make decisions based on the latest, best, most comprehensive information available.”

U.S. governors discuss shared data

In 2016, the National Governors Association reported on U.S. state and local government use of Big Data.

The NGA emphasized strong interest in data analysis to control costs and improve targeting and delivery of services. But it said government data systems often make it difficult for agencies to connect digitally and share information.

Closed data systems become “silos” filled with valuable information that becomes useless. The data is so difficult to get that it can’t aid shared problem solving.

According to the NGA, governors can improve decision making based on shared data. But to do this, they need to promote digital transformation that connects state agencies for easy sharing.

IoT imperative in public services

IoT connectivity gives public service organizations the ability to generate and access data with greater ease than ever before. But before the data is ready to access, it must be cleansed and tagged with metadata. The cleansing process may involve changes in format, finding patterns and missing values, and protecting citizen safety by making data sources anonymous.

Some technology experts compare today’s wealth of digital data to a new kind of oil strike. Similar to crude oil, Big Data must be refined. As Forbes magazine notes, the IoT’s many benefits are accompanied by challenges. Forbes states, “The fact that nearly anything can connect to the Internet also means that nearly anything can serve as a point of attack. In this environment, organizations must re-examine their security strategies to ensure that they’re comprehensive enough to withstand threats in the age of IoT.”

Security is also supported by a powerful IoT platform. Once the data is cleansed and secured, public service networks can use Big Data to identify, manage, and reduce social risks. For example, sensors placed in wheelchairs can warn IoT-connected caregivers that elderly or disabled people need help.

Another example would be worker safety networks alerted to problems communicated by wearable IoT objects tracing the actions, location, and safety of workers. Firefighters will someday wear Internet-connected infrared devices, cameras, and monitors to check air supply and body vitals.

Municipal governments are beginning to pilot smart city projects that include more than networking agencies for data sharing and decision making. One role for IoT devices is predictive analysis of maintenance needs, such as setting times for roadway and building improvements.

Handling citizen complaints in a smart city

The IoT in smart cities can also help government become more responsive to citizens. Like the French police and the Indiana state government, Buenos Aires relies on the analytical power of a digital platform to help it become a smarter city.

One demanding analytical task amid the city’s flood of data is management of 30,000 complaints a month from residents. To be effective, this type of real-time data requires real-time solutions. With help from high tech, Buenos Aires now prioritizes and resolves problems within 96 hours.

Big Data analysis helps people by helping governments attend to their basic needs.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative in Public Services: Government and Healthcare.


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