I, machine

I, machine

New interactions between physical objects with embedded technology and field staff are re-defining the concept of enterprise mobility.

‘Intelligent devices’ - physical objects with embedded technology that allow them to communicate with each other - will reach to tens of billions by 2020 across the globe, says IDC. IDC says ‘machine to machine’ technology or M2M, as it is also known, will be one of the technologies having the most impact on the New Zealand ICT market this year.

Konica Minolta CIO Neal Ross can relate to this, having deployed Sentinel Services, which provides real-time response to customer concerns, based on information M2M technology embedded on the machines they service.

At Konica Minolta, a machine to machine device that sits inside a document processing machine can monitor the health and well-being of the machine itself, such as toner level and number of photocopiers done.

“We don’t talk to machines, the machines talk to us. If a machine has a fault, for example, it would have hard disk failure that would affect the machine’s operation in every aspect, the machine will tell us it has a problem,” says Ross.

He says Sentinel Services was created from a technology developed in Konica Minolta in Japan that is embedded in these devices. “We took that one step further by enabling those services from a machine to relay information to our service system.”

Over the last 10 years, he says, the system has been developed to a point where any fault in the machine is now declared straight to one of their technician’s mobile devices within 90 seconds.

“There is no person sitting here waiting for a call, it is extremely automated, says Ross, on the service which it had deployed using Vodafone.

“What it does on the way through is of course sophisticated,” says Ross. “We have thousands of thousands of fault codes. The system filters those and it would recognise the codes that need, for example, a part replaced. It would search all our technicians in the area. It will find one who has got that part [needed] and call that person.”

He says without this level of automation, “We will have technicians on the road, we have to contact them, check if they have parts. It is very, very time sensitive.”

“The key thing is machine to machine provides the ability to get better visibility of devices and characteristics of your business that today you probably don’t have that visibility for,” says Tony Bacon, sector and partner manager at Vodafone NZ.

“You understand your business better, and if you understand it better, you will be able to make more informed decisions about how the business operates.”

“The other big advantage is generally most machines are run by computers and they generate fault codes,” he says. The machine to machine device connected to it can automatically send those fault codes back to the service centre. The service centre can analyse that and can recognise that the machine “is on its last legs.”

“Machine-to-machine and ‘internet of things’ is really the same,” says Bacon. “If you think of the internet, so far, largely that has been about information and social media and people accessing that.

“The next chapter for the internet will be the ability for machines to be able to connect effectively through the internet and for the people to gain better information.”

He says there are more machines than people and there is an increasing reliance on those machines. “But often those machines are not connected to anything.”

He says in New Zealand there is a lot of scope for machine to machine in the electricity and security industries. In the latter, for instance, cameras can be equipped to provide remote alerting. Machine to machine can also be used for general monitoring like water levels in lakes and rivers, and weather conditions.

“Many industries have embraced machine to machine more effectively,” says Bacon. The transport industry for instance, uses machine to machine for managing logistics associated with location of the vehicles and temperature control for refrigerated containers. “You will be able to show that to your customers that the temperature has conformed to what you said it is,” he says.

At Konica Minolta, CIO Ross says the company’s next goal is to be able to use the data collected by M2M capability to predict faults. “It is collecting millions of information for our fleet every day and we can begin to analyse the trends,” he says.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could ring our customers and say, hey, can we come in next week? That is our end game - predictability.”

Divina Paredes (@divinap) is editor of CIO New Zealand.

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