In our previous blog, we looked at the five ways IoT can make or break your business and briefly touched upon service assurance.
Service assurance is a term coined by telecom operators to cover the tools and processes they use for day-to-day operational management of their technology. In essence, service assurance is the promise of a service delivered to their customers, and how they can ensure they are always equipped to provide that service.
What is service assurance?
The term covers:
- Visibility: "how many of each class of device have we deployed, where are they, what software are they running?"
- Monitoring: "how many devices are working, is that number getting better or worse, what is the customer experience, which problems should we address first?"
- Process: "if a device goes offline then file a support ticket / send a reset command, and see if it comes back online"
By using service assurance, telecoms operators eventually achieved an impressive "five nines" reliability - a service working 99.999% of the time.
Why is service assurance important for IoT?
It's not unusual for DevicePilot to be asked to look at IoT deployments which are struggling to achieve one nine - working 90% of the time - which is clearly inadequate for roll-out. The initial cause is often due to the immaturity of a chain of new technologies. But even once the tech is bedded-in IoT, devices remain intrinsically much harder to keep working. This is because unlike the previous generations of devices such as telecom base-stations and cloud services, IoT devices are deployed in the real world which is a messy and uncontrolled place where anything can and does happen.
So clearly there's a big need for service assurance in IoT. But unfortunately, the service assurance tools developed in the 1990's for telecoms operators and inappropriate for managing IoT, because IoT devices are more numerous, more diverse, and much more resource-constrained in areas such as power, communications, memory and computations.
How can service assurance for IoT be achieved?
The first step to addressing any problem is to get good visibility of it. In order to achieve five nines, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of what your devices are doing, what is affecting performance, and be able to to take proactive steps towards increasing that performance before issues arise.
DevicePilot integrates rapidly with all cloud IoT platforms and immediately makes the device estate visible and "queryable" by everyone in your company. It then just takes a few minutes to teach DevicePilot what "good" looks like. Once you've done that, you can immediately see how many devices are offline and whether that number is getting better or worse. You have the beginning of service assurance.
Of course, DevicePilot goes way beyond that and provides a full service assurance suite. Powerful time-series and cohort analysis allows you to idetify the root cause of problems (for example, new software, poor wireless connectivity, hardware version, etc). You can define and measure your KPIs and then manage to them. Sooner or later, your customers will require you to deliver to some kind of Service Level Agreement (SLA), so it's never too early to discover where you stand today.
In addition, DevicePilot also lets you define and automate all the day-to-day device operations, for example sending an SMS message to reset devices that have crashed, sending an email to ask users to replace a low battery, or automatically provisioning and upgrading devices.
Today, IoT suffers from a lack of commonly-agreed terms for the various pieces of an IoT solution, which makes it hard for customers to identify who makes each piece, and to compare apples with apples. Until now, the term "service assurance" hasn't been used in IoT but we think it's high time to start using it - and indeed to start using DevicePilot.
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