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What Role Might IT Services Play in the Internet of Things?

Blog: Apriso Blog

Blog_10-1-15Much has been written about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things (IoT) – and all the related transformations that are predicted to occur. Most of this discussion, however, has been focused from either a hardware or software perspective.

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Nancy Van Elsacker, president of TOPdesk US. Her organization develops, markets, implements and supports standard user-friendly service management software for IT, facilities management, HR, maintenance, complaints registration and the service desk for all sized organizations.

My objective was to gain perspective on how the IoT might impact IT services, versus its impact on software and hardware industries. What follows is a summary of the Q&A I had with Nancy.


GB: Can you please give our readers a brief introduction of you, your background and TOPdesk?

NVE: Currently I am building and leading the US operations for TOPdesk out of Orlando, which we launched in January. I joined TOPdesk in 2007 to start up its operations in Belgium. Starting in a market as a newcomer is at times challenging, but very interesting. I believe our strong and distinctive company culture is a key factor of our success in all of our branches. My main task is to make sure we maintain this culture in the US as well.


GB: With the current 4th Industrial Revolution now underway, it seems like this is a topic that a lot of people are talking about, but few seem to know what should be done to best prepare. What are some words of wisdom you could offer our readers?

NVE: The Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to spread out more throughout the entire organization as the scope is widening. Where last year almost nobody was talking about IoT, now we are at a point where I believe it will suddenly advance so rapidly that we cannot even begin to speculate about the potential uses.

Knowing this, it is key to start educating yourself on the current possibilities of the IoT and start using those that can add value to your organization and are relatively easy to implement. That way you can lay a foundation for the more advanced things that are ahead of us.

Some use cases to start with are, for example, the automating and optimizing of lighting, HVAC and other aspects of the physical office or plant. Another example is using IoT to get information from your manufacturing equipment throughout the entire lifecycle. Both are a clear use case for increased efficiency, from a clear cost reduction because of “smarter” usage of the power resources to an improved and more pro-active maintenance approach on the equipment.

A pitfall with the IoT lies in the power of its data capture possibilities. “Don’t collect data if you cannot use it” is a key instruction to keep in mind at all times.


GB: Is there a particular part of manufacturing operations that might be more impacted than others, in this digital transformation now underway? Who will feel the greatest pain first?

NVE: The organization’s supporting departments, such as IT and facilities management, will feel a lot of the impact as their way of supporting, monitoring and registering the involved assets will change dramatically. A good asset management process will be more important than ever.

Think about it: all of a sudden objects are getting “smart,” they can report their status, have smart sensors, and will be connected to the Internet in a way that they can even be controlled. Where we were used to register these assets as “dumb” objects in a database, we now want to register more information and also make sure we can monitor them even more, if only for security reasons.

The challenge lies in how to know what assets are involved, and in keeping track of them.

For IT equipment there are a lot of monitoring and scanning tools out there. The challenge now is to be able to have likewise functionalities for IoT enabled assets. And that is quite the challenge as currently different protocols are being used for connecting assets (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, cellular …).


GB: Are there some success stories you could provide on ROI or performance improvement, to give our readers a gauge as to what potential upside exists?

NVE: A good asset management process has a clear ROI and performance improvement. Keeping track of incidents and preventive maintenance tasks, about all assets, has helped a great deal of our clients to gain a more proactive approach.

One example is a client that registered all of its production equipment of its multiple-production lines into our software’s asset management module, including maintenance schedules. Also, all defects were being registered. By doing this, the client actually discovered a trend of incidents reoccurring after certain maintenance activities, giving them the opportunity to prevent those in the future. Needless to say, that led to a higher uptime of the production line, which in turn meant a higher overall performance.

By using the IoT in a smart way and integrating it with a service management tool, there is even more to gain. When an asset can tell us it is malfunctioning before the user actually finds out, we not only save a lot of time, but also increase the customer experience.


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