Increase employee productivity with smart apps and the Internet of Things

By Jonathan Hassell

A couple of weeks ago, I had to call an air conditioning repair service to come to my house and troubleshoot a problem with my HVAC system. It ended up being an extremely simple fix, and it was clearly a missed opportunity to increase employee productivity since I had to:

  1. Wait four hours for the service call to be fulfilled.
  2. Pay $89 for a technician to run through a manual checklist of things that might be wrong.

It strikes me that there is a lot of wasted time and lost efficiency when we deal with objects that don’t have sensors because they can’t talk to smartphones and therefore can’t just tell us what’s wrong. Why couldn’t my HVAC unit manufacturer have instrumented the system with sensors and provided a smartphone app that allowed me to read basic sensor fault information with my phone via a Bluetooth or near-field communication connection?

That is the opportunity we have with apps that can talk to the Internet of Things. How can app developers and organizations tap into this shared connectivity and intelligence to increase employee productivity? The following are three key ways this could be possible.

1. Design Instrumentation to Proactively Uncover Better Data

One of the great things about data is that you can use it to increase employee productivity, mainly by identifying consistently bad uses of time, inefficient locations, poor transitions and other resource-draining activities.

Use sensors on your apps to instrument everything. Pick up on traffic patterns, usage data, times of day, phases of work, time to completion, time spent on various parts of a subtask and next actions after completion. Then analyze this data by asking questions like:

  • Do your employees use your apps on the job site?
  • Do they use them in traffic?
  • Are they more likely to perform certain tasks on a tablet or their phone?
  • Do they use landscape or portrait mode?
  • How often are their devices in airplane mode?

Use the sensors and instrumentation you have to develop a rich, telemetry-based understanding of your users’ habits so that you can increase employee productivity.

2. Use Location Tracking to Increase Employee Productivity

For servicepeople, delivery drivers, frequent travelers and anyone on the go, location-tracking smart apps are convenient both when they’re out and about and when they’re back in the office piecing together site visit reports, expense vouchers, service write-ups and more.

But even nontraveling employees can take advantage of location services. Imagine inventory restocking processes where the inventory itself told you where to put items and where to pull SKUs from.

From an industrial perspective, connected devices and smart apps can track an item from parts to manufacturing to fulfillment. Is there a block on an assembly line? Smart apps can route unassembled items from one place to another. Do you deliver items to your customers? A smart app can determine the most efficient route by talking with other services, the items you are delivering and your vehicle. This will help ensure they arrive at the right time in the right place with the least gas used and time invested.

3. Develop Sensory-Aware Apps to Offload or Delegate Small Non-core Responsibilities

Tracking mileage? Have the app read the vehicle odometer and automatically populate in your service call or expense report software. After all, the deftness of your employees’ mileage recording is not a core value on which your business competes, so delegate it to the machines.

Are you developing a customer relationship management app? Let the app automatically read instrument info from your hardware or software and prepopulate service orders and next contact information.

Are you managing your IT department’s hardware? Instead of collecting usage information manually, use smart sensors in your power feeds and uninterruptible power supplies to track power usage over time and reduce electricity consumption over your data centers. These types of delegation can increase employee productivity and will more than pay for themselves over time.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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