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IoT and Data Security: 5 Things You Need to Know to Reduce Financial Risk for Your Field Service Organization

If the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show is any indication, the “smart home” trend is just ramping up – all made possible by advanced interoperability, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning. The Internet of Things (IoT) is projected to grow to $58 billion by 2020 and is expected to include 200 billion smart objects. This translates to more than 25 smart devices for every man, woman, and child around the globe

As IoT home devices become savvier and more connected, customers will expect a savvier and more connected service experience as well. To address these expectations, field service organizations are implementing advanced applications that enable real-time sharing of information between the customers, smart devices, and technicians. But this increased level of data transparency also increases the risk of data breaches or misuse.  

While field service organizations scramble to align operational processes with the new connected reality, many admit they aren’t as up-to-date as they should be when it comes to the privacy risk that accompanies these innovations.

Understanding Regulatory Compliance

Regulations such as the recently passed California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, the proposed Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) all seek to increase data security and give customers more control over their personal information.

For example, the new California legislation requires businesses to:

  • Provide a record of the personal data they hold and how they use it to any customer who requests that information.
  • Have a “do not sell my data” option on their websites where customers can proactively object to the sale of their data.
  • Accommodate customers who want all of their personal data deleted, otherwise known as “erasure”.

These are just three of the many requirements businesses should become familiar with as penalties for noncompliance can reach $23 million (€20 million) or up to 4% of annual global revenue. ­­­­­

Where Should Field Service Management Organizations Begin? 

The following steps can help field service organizations build a framework of compliance to reduce risk across your operations and protect your bottom line.

1.   Understand the definition of “personal data”.

The GDPR describes personal data as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.” The list of examples provided in the regulation is extensive and includes things such as employee driver’s license numbers, credit background, birthdate, social security number, etc., as well as customer addresses, phone numbers, and billing information. Even IP addresses, WIFI information, and location data.

2. Identify which operations, workflows, and applications touch personal data, including those involving business partners or third-parties.

For field service organizations servicing smart home systems, data is involved in nearly every operation, workflow, and customer engagement. For example, customer engagement platforms often house extensive personal customer data, including emails, credit card numbers, IP addresses, warranty claims information, and purchasing history. Other areas involving personal data include, but are not limited to:

  • Scheduling software
  • Technician engagement
  • Contractor management
  • Inventory and asset management software
  • Warranty claims processes

3. Implement controls and continuously monitor compliance.

In accordance with GDPR and the new California Consumer Privacy Act, businesses will need to be able to demonstrate compliance. While most field services organizations have existing privacy policies, those policies in and of themselves do not demonstrate compliance. Businesses can leverage compliance checklists to help identify gaps in data security, create structured processes, and develop compliance KPIs.

4. Educate employees, business partners, and customers.

Protecting data is likely to become even more complex as AI and advanced connectivity solutions continue to infiltrate new areas of our lives. Education about data privacy needs to be at the heart of each entity involved. Employees need to understand the value of the data they carry in their mobile devices, as well as the potential risk to themselves, the company, and the customer if mishandled.

Business partners need to understand the risk and be held to the highest level of accountability. They should be required to have a compliance program in place and to demonstrate pre-agreed upon KPIs. Educating customers is also important as they may not understand their rights around data privacy. It is the responsibility of the field service organization to provide that information and to ensure customers know their options and how to exercise them.

5. Leverage field service management (FSM) software.

Achieving and maintaining data privacy compliance can be challenging, especially for organizations with limited resources or legacy technology systems. To achieve compliance faster, many are turning to AI-enabled FSM software. Businesses can benefit from an advanced level of data security and connectivity without having to invest in additional IT infrastructure. Innovative technologies like AI and machine learning also help field service organizations create a more unified field service management workflow and improved customer service experience.

Turning Risk into Opportunity

Delivering service in the era of the IoT requires a different mindset in addition to a different skill set. Customers spend a lot money building sophisticated smart homes, and they expect their service experience to be equally as sophisticated.

Forward-thinking field service organizations will embrace this challenge.  

Leveraging field service management software can help you meet the challenges of increasing data regulations while improving operational efficiencies, lowering TCO, and boosting workforce performance. In addition to improved data governance, field service organizations can benefit from a better company image and enhanced customer engagement – both of which lead to greater customer loyalty.

To learn more about regulatory compliance and how to protect your organization, contact ServicePower today.

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