Dynamics 365 Field Service and IoT – The Complete Guide

Whenever I talk to customers or within #Dynamics365 community, one of the most FAQs is about IoT (Internet of Things). Nothing garners as much interest as this one. Is IoT just a buzzword or a reality? How does it work with Field Service – or why in the first place IoT has anything to do with Field Service? Does it require any specialized skill set?

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I intend to cover all about IoT and Dynamics 365 Field Service in this series of post. This has been in my mind for some time but I was waiting for the release plan for 2021 Release Wave 2 to ensure we cover some upcoming features as well. Now before we start, just to make scope clear (pun intended) my goal is to:

  • Address the philosophy before jumping on to nuts & bots: why IoT, different approaches, tech stack etc.
  • Present a walk-through of technology nuts & bolts of various IoT approaches
  • Share a future roadmap for further learning and specialisation

… and the only pre-requisite here is familiarity with Dynamics 365 as a platform.

The Series

Here is a series of posts that are part of this guide:

  1. Introduction
  2. Technology Stack and Approaches
  3. CFS with Azure IoT Hub – The Setup
  4. CFS wit Azure IoT Hub – Device Registration and Monitoring [TBD]
  5. Azure IoT Central – The Setup [TBD]
  6. CFS with Azure IoT Central [TBD]
  7. New Features [TBD]
  8. FAQs and Further to explore [TBD]

Why IoT with D365 Field Service?

Let’s start with answering the fundamental question:

What is the basic premise of using Field Service in IoT?

Every business having equipment and assets (think utilities, facility management, LGAs etc.) wants zero down-time i.e. those equipment, devices and assets should be up and running without ideally any outage. This ambition is realized by having two kinds of maintenance:

  • Preventative Maintenance: Every equipment comes with a recommended service calendar. We all know about cars: they need to be serviced every few thousand miles/kilometres or few months. This is called preventative maintenance because it preempts issues or breakdowns by having key components checked, serviced or replaced regularly. It statistically doesn’t bring outages down to zero but it does reduce the possibility significantly.
  • Reactive Maintenance: Once equipment stops working, then fixing it asap, troubleshooting, finding a workaround or making a permanent fix etc. – all comes under the heading of reactive maintenance. In other words, this is ‘break-fix’

Beside others, a key difference between these two types of maintenance is in the way their business process starts:

  • Preventative Maintenance starts with having a service calendar of assets and then following it properly,
  • Reactive Maintenance begins with a call, ticket or an email from customer (somebody will notice that equipment is not working and then call for break-fix)

‘Somebody’ and ‘notice’ in Reactive Maintenance are keywords because they are weak links in the entire process. If somebody makes a mistake and doesn’t notice a faulty equipment, or identify the wrong equipment, or does notice but report late etc. – then equipment’s overall ‘up-time’ will reduce. This prompts a question: can we optimize this process or in other words, instead of reactive, can we have a proactive maintenance? The answer is: yes!

  • Proactive Maintenance: When an equipment/device/asset sends an alert signal identifying (a) an issue or (b) a deviation from standard values, then troubleshoot and fix the potential problem.

Since signals would be caught automatically (without manual noticing), investigation and break-fix would happen earlier. Many times such signal identify a potential problem which may happen few days, weeks or months down the line. This makes Proactive Maintenance a key part of services and maintenance portfolio in every industry and therefore IoT (signals, alerts from equipment) works with Dynamics 365 Field Service.

Hope this makes a case for ‘Why’ behind this series. In this next post, we’ll talk about the ‘How’. That is, we will look at various IoT deployment models and approaches with Dynamics 365 Field Service.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to share your feedback, I’d love to hear your thoughts 😊

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