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The Internet of Things and its Impact on Maintenance Management

There are buzzwords aplenty in the business world these days.  You can barely read through a company’s website or blog without seeing at least three industry buzzwords per page.  And yes, we realize we sometimes do this too, so we decided to use this post to take a slightly different approach.  Rather than just using our favorite buzzwords today, we’ll give you the definition of one of the biggest ones going around today: The Internet of Things, or IoT.

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What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things refers to the interconnectivity of all types of devices around the world as well as to the people that use them.  Jacob Morgan at Forbes describes it as “The concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other),” and involves every device you can think of, including consumer electronics such as cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones and wearable devices, as well as bigger machines such as manufacturing equipment.  In the very near future, almost all (if not all) devices on the technology market will be equipped with internet connectivity, contributing to the growing IoT.  A Gartner study predicted that by 2020 there will be 26 billion connected devices worldwide, allowing those devices and the people using them to connect more than we ever thought possible.

Now you may be wondering what the big deal is about a bunch of interconnected consumer electronics and manufacturing machines.  It just means that more people in more places will be able to share and watch cat videos, right?  Although that’s probably true, the full potential of IoT technology lies in the automation and increased efficiency of our daily lives and, indeed, of our businesses.  Morgan provides two enticing examples of the possibilities of IoT technology: “What if your alarm clock wakes you up at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you?  What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more?”  IoT technology is data-driven, using the internet connectivity of potentially thousands or millions of devices to share information that simplifies and improves all kinds of tasks.

How Can IoT Impact Businesses?

At this point, we hope that the possibilities of the Internet of Things excites you, if only because of coffee that can make itself.  As a company involved in the business software landscape, we’re particularly excited about what IoT can do outside of the consumer technology market.  Specifically, we’re excited about what it can do for maintenance management software.  One of the most innovative categories of business software is Enterprise Asset Management software (EAM), a type of computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).  Techopedia notes that EAM software solutions help businesses with “The management of the assets of an enterprise across departments, facilities, business units and geographical locations, [integrating] techniques for holistic control and optimization.”

Generally used by large corporations, an EAM software solution collects data from various internet-enabled machines and devices used by a company in order to help improve efficiency.  EAM software can be used to improve the supply chain or to test how well certain parts are working.  The latter helps engineers realize when a part needs maintenance or simply needs to be replaced.  Regular maintenance is a must for large equipment and heavy machinery, but it’s made easier when there’s software that can monitor each piece of equipment and detect problems when they happen, rather than finding said problem after the fact.

Additionally, widely-scaled EAM solutions can compare data from different facilities.  No longer is it a guessing game as to which facility runs the best and why.  The data collected from every device in every facility can be compared to find which processes a particular facility may be better at than another and why that’s the case.  Despite this, the most exciting aspect of EAM is not only the ability to improve maintenance and the supply chain, but the ability to reduce environmental impact.  By constantly monitoring the machines and devices involved in industries such as manufacturing, these corporations can increase their focus on improving sustainability on a large scale, hopefully leading to much greener processes in the near future.

The Internet of Things is already a large part of our daily lives (whether or not we realize it yet), and will only become larger as the number of connected devices.  We’re excited to see the improvements and innovations that are on the horizon, from automated coffee to greener manufacturing facilities.  The only limit lies in our ability to find new uses for IoT technology.

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