If your business has looked at remote monitoring in the past, it’s time to look again — integration with the Internet of Things (IoT) technology has changed the way core business processes work. Others are seeing the potential — enterprises are adopting remote monitoring and other IoT applications more and more. IDC found that 31.4 percent of organizations surveyed have launched IoT solutions, with an additional 43 percent looking to deploy in the next 12 months. Remote monitoring and IoT technologies have changed the way core business processes are run and are continually delivering value in numerous ways. Although challenges like data privacy, security and implementation costs can seem like valid reasons to avoid this kind of technological change, there are in fact plenty of ways you can maximize your ROI, protect your data and ensure comprehensive security while using IoT.
Quickly evolving from a cutting-edge idea to an essential industry standard, remote monitoring has repeatedly proved its worth. Manufacturers big and small are seeing so much value in IoT-enabled remote monitoring that they are heavily investing to reap the rewards of increased efficiency, better utilization and lower costs. As of 2015, 40 percent of serviceable equipment in the field is connected to networks, up from 35 percent in 2013. And this upward trend isn’t going to change. As more and more manufacturers realize the benefits of remote monitoring, it’ll cease to be a differentiator and will become a requirement to remain competitive.
Your business is looking to improve visibility or explore innovative business models, and remote monitoring sets the foundation for a variety of business benefits. Let’s take a look at a few ways that businesses are implementing remote monitoring and seeing value.
Improve visibility across your business
Imagine if your assets had eyes and ears and could talk to you in real time. That’s the power of IoT-driven remote monitoring, which makes it possible to see exactly what is happening with all of your assets, at all times. Remote-monitoring solutions collect, integrate and organize data from sensor-enabled equipment all over the world to gain real-time visibility. What used to be a manual, expensive, time-intensive procedure can now be dynamic, automated and instant. With live data from connected devices, organizations have a constant pulse on status, and can quickly, automatically respond to current conditions.
Remote monitoring allows experts to see potential problems without having to travel. Bringing all your performance data together enables you to extend the expertise of the strongest support engineers for a proactive response to potential issues at any location.
For example, Rockwell Automation, one of the largest industrial automation companies in the world, helped some of its customers in the petroleum industry change the way they monitored their supply chain and investment in expensive equipment. Because of the company’s global footprint, it was nearly impossible to get a good read on how all their field assets and customer products were operating at a given time. Even if equipment data could point to a potential issue, it took so much time to act on it that problems would often occur anyway. After deploying sensors to connect assets to Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, Rockwell was able to see its entire supply chain from end to end, from an oil rig in Alaska to the corner gas station. By capturing real-time information on equipment performance and health factors such as pressure, temperature and flow rates, it was able to gain enhanced visibility across its business. With these new insights, Rockwell could fine-tune processes and deliver proactive and prescriptive guidance to customers about potential issues and failures — drastically reducing costly downtime.
Make targeted improvements to business processes
Remote monitoring starts with reducing monitoring costs and increasing visibility. But that visibility also drives other improvements for your business, like energy usage reduction, improved customer service, predictive maintenance programs and new innovation.
More cost-efficient energy management
To effectively manage energy usage and costs, you need insight into your power and energy systems. Being able to monitor and manage energy usage without being onsite enables your teams to optimize energy load balancing and prevent outages, thereby keeping costs down. By transforming data into actionable insight, you can proactively address potential issues and minimize downtime.
A key example of how the remote-monitoring capabilities of Azure IoT Suite made this possible is Johnson Controls. A leading manufacturer of sensors and equipment for buildings, Johnson Controls wanted to proactively deliver real-time insight into building operations and maintenance needs. Lack of insight into building operations meant customers were reactively dealing with issues of comfort and safety and could not control costs. Working with Microsoft, Johnson Controls connected thousands of chillers, more than 5,000 rooftops, and approximately 40,000 building subsystems to Azure IoT Suite. Collecting and analyzing this data enabled Johnson Controls to help customers manage their buildings more efficiently by reducing energy consumption and costs.
Improved field maintenance and customer service
More complex equipment and products require more complex fixes. With specialized equipment and repair procedures, it’s no longer an option for service technicians to show up to customer sites uninformed. If just one part or tool is not along for the ride, the tech will have to reschedule, prolonging the repair and frustrating customers. Smart and connected machines sharing performance data mean that service technicians can be more prepared and productive with each service visit. They can arrive equipped with the right tools, parts and workflows to fix the problem the first time.
IoT also enables remote diagnostics that make it much easier for less experienced technicians to drive repairs to close the first time without requiring a different tech to come out or walk them through it over the phone. Offering both performance insight to customers and remote diagnostics information to field techs completely changes the way companies deliver on customer satisfaction and creates differentiation in the market.
Moving from reactive to proactive
Remote monitoring is completely redefining the paradigm of maintenance. By collecting, storing and analyzing historical data, remote monitoring makes it possible to see, with a mathematical degree of certainty, when a part has worn down and needs servicing. Rather than relying on a fixed schedule and perhaps replacing a part that could keep performing normally for another year, you can monitor specific performance thresholds to know when the part must be replaced. This helps prevent costly problems before they occur.
For example, ThyssenKrupp wanted to better monitor and service its 1.1 million elevators installed in some of the most famous buildings in the world. Because of a lack of insight, unpredicted failures had led to costly downtime. By connecting thousands of sensors embedded in its elevators to the Microsoft cloud, ThyssenKrupp gained real-time visibility into product performance and rapid, remote diagnostic capabilities through HoloLens. Now, through the Azure IoT Suite, ThyssenKrupp has reduced maintenance costs and elevator downtime by arming its 20,000 elevator service technicians with the ability to visualize and identify problems ahead of a job as well as have remote, hands-free access to technical and expert information when onsite.
Guided innovation and easier product design
Connecting asset sensors together through a remote-monitoring solution can also help guide product redesign, inform future development and drive innovation. Performance data, like operating temperature, can help design teams understand what was overdesigned or underdesigned when compared with original design specifications. In-product sensors also make it easy for designers to know what features are used most often and which ones could be left out in the future. Reducing unused features makes it possible to lower costs or create a new version of the product that is simpler or more intuitive to operate. Usage data can also be leveraged to discover a previously unknown market or subset of customers that would significantly benefit from a different product all together.
Gain new business insights and explore innovative business models
When you can see the whole picture, it becomes easier to make connections you never thought possible. Until IoT and big data, it was difficult to bring together information from different data silos and correlate them. Business and insights were limited by verticals within the company. By moving data into Azure IoT Suite, it’s never been easier to spot trends and identify potential opportunities within your company. Leading manufacturers like Rolls-Royce are opening up new revenue streams based off these improved data insights they can provide to customers.
Rolls-Royce disrupted the airline industry 20 years ago with its engines-as-a-service offering, and now it is doing it again with insights from Azure IoT Suite. After connecting its assets, it saw how customers were using their engines and could compare engine and fuel performance and provide recommendations to airlines to improve efficiencies with training and maintenance support. This insight results in a new service: TotalCare®. TotalCare® isn’t just an engine maintenance plan, it’s a comprehensive service model that collects and aggregates data on engine health, fuel usage and other data points to Azure IoT Suite and Cortana Intelligence Suite in real time to deliver enhanced visibility to its customers. With TotalCare®, Rolls-Royce is helping its customers decrease flight disruptions and save millions of dollars per year.
Get started today
Remote monitoring has been around a while, but IoT makes it possible for it to deliver a whole new series of business benefits. The solution empowers organizations with deep visibility and diagnostics for use cases like predictive maintenance, connected field service and product innovation. Whether your assets are down the street or across the globe, you’ll get the insights needed to make real-time decisions that keep your business competitive and differentiated.
Are you ready to unlock the full value of it for your business? Get the business insights you need by using Microsoft’s Remote Monitoring with IoT solution to seamlessly bring your asset data into the cloud. And to learn more about how IoT can transform your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.
 “IDC’s 2016 Global IoT Decision Maker Survey Finds Organizations Moving Past Pilot Projects and Toward Scalable Deployments,” IDC
 “Evolution of Smart Service: Connected to the Future of Resolution,” Aberdeen