Published on in Energy & UtilitiesInnovation

As the Internet of Things becomes a reality, rather than a pipe dream, the full benefits for industries are starting to be realised. And there are significant opportunities for the utilities sector.

Fujitsu is set to launch our connected van concept, which has the potential to totally change the way field service personnel such as engineers can interact with their clients and customers. There are an estimated 3.2 million vans on the road in the UK – a huge swathe of the British workplace that is largely disconnected from digital services.

I’m very excited to be showing the connected van at Fujitsu World Tour next week – but here’s a quick preview to explain why we think it will be such a game-changer.

What are the benefits?

A connected van essentially provides an office on wheels – allowing field personnel to access services such as WiFi connectivity, secure unified communications and business applications.  These are taken for granted by desk-based workers, but often unavailable to those on the front line.

The van can also act as a mobile hub for work sites, helping to ensure operations are co-ordinated and reducing set-up time.  By using a connected van as a digital hub, a site can be online within hours, rather than weeks.

I think it’s important to look beyond the van alone, though.  Another huge plus is getting the right person, with the right tools, in the right place at the right time, every time.  By seamlessly linking the van with specific tools and parts – tracked by RFID tags – with back-end inventory and logistics systems, operational efficiency can be transformed.

It is estimated around 30 per cent of engineers currently turn up to a job without the tools or parts required. But if a fleet of vans are connected to the Internet, a business can know exactly which vans have which equipment and their locations – potentially allowing “peer-to-peer” supply, rather than costly returns to central depots.

As well as greater efficiency for the business, it creates a more positive customer experience by reducing ‘second visits’.

Many organisations spend tens of millions of pounds per year on diesel alone – so reducing second visits by 50% could massively benefit the bottom line.  And that’s not even considering the savings in vehicle maintenance and servicing costs – or the environmental benefits.

Digitising staff out in the field

The greatest impact on an organisation comes from delivering promises to customers – so for organisations with a large proportion of the workforce out in the field, you have to enable them with the tools to do the job.

In an office environment, for the most part, they will have all the technology they need. But this is not the case for those working outside the office.

If people are working on a highway, or installing electricity pylons, they currently tend to have limited access to technology – putting them at a disadvantage. How much greater could their impact be with better technology enablement?

By connecting field personnel, organisations can improve staff satisfaction by giving them the digital tools to do their jobs better, faster, and more efficiently. Particularly for younger employees, they expect digital services at work to equal those they use in their personal lives.

In my view, we are yet to see the full scope of what is possible from the Internet of Things from a consumer angle. But this connected van is an actual real-life application of the technology that will have a positive impact to business, people and society. The multiple benefits of efficiency, being green, and enabling staff shows the realm of industrial IoT is far more exciting.

I look forward to showing you the technology in person at Fujitsu World Tour!

If you can’t attend World Tour, you can still stay in touch with highlights from the event by following #FujitsuWT on Twitter.

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Graeme Wright

Chief Digital Officer, Manufacturing, Utilities, and Services, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu
Graeme Wright is CTO for Manufacturing, Utilities and Services at Fujitsu in the UK and Ireland, and has been at the company for 17 years. Graeme leads the business development for the sector, and is specifically focused on IoT, analytics and smart technologies. His role involves exploring how they can be used to devise solutions in the energy and utilities, as well as the built environment sectors to optimise asset management and deliver a step change in business performance.

Graeme has a first degree in Computing Science and a Masters in Business Administration. He has successfully used his experience and knowledge of both business and technology to deliver IT enabled change for many organisations. Outside of work, Graeme has completed a project to build his own house and plays regularly in a band.

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