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Internet of Things (IoT) Device Considerations for Dynamics 365 and Connected Field Service

Post Author: HCLTech |

Microsoft has enhanced Dynamics 365 for Field Service with the Connected Field Service Add-on, which can enable your organization to take advantage of proactive and predictive service scenarios. By leveraging an investment in IoT capable devices your organization can take more proactive steps to detect, diagnose, and correct problems before they arise.

The power of the Connected Field Service Add-on is its simplicity and how it can process messages from IoT devices using the Dynamics 365 workflow engine. Registered IoT devices can send messages to Dynamics 365 for Field Service, where workflows can determine how to respond to those messages by sending emails or creating new records such as work orders or even using IoT Device Commands to reboot a device.

Powerful IoT Capabilities

Connected Field Service is very powerful in allowing IoT scenarios that take full advantage of Microsoft Dynamics 365 capabilities while also being fully customizable and extensible. Microsoft has enabled any entity to be IoT-enabled for straightforward IoT integration by using the register custom entity action. The add-on also brings several new entities and custom actions specific to IoT. New custom actions allow device registration scenarios, the ability to parse incoming messages for String, Number, or Boolean data types, and capabilities to handle duplicate messages that may be received from an IoT device. You can also now use IoT device data in custom dashboards to display aggregates, determine trends, or other metrics.

New Service Capabilities

Your organization can now take advantage of new scenarios that allow the remote monitoring of customer assets using IoT devices with sensors. You can be notified of a potential trouble with your equipment and take corrective action by sending the IoT device a command. You can use predictive machine learning to measure sensors in the field, and know when a device may have the potential to fail soon. You also have access to details about deployed equipment and have parts and supplies on hand for the service technician to complete the call in one trip.

The World of Sensors for IoT Devices

There are many analog and digital sensor options available that you can use with your IoT devices.

Example list of sensors you can integrate with your IoT device
Accelerometer Force Resistive Resistor Liquid Level Pulse
Air Quality Gas Location (GPS) Radiation / Geiger Counter
Altitude Gesture Magnetic Contact Switch RGB color
Ammonia Gyro Magnetometer / Hall Effect Ribbon Touch Sensor
Barcode Hydrogen Magstripe Rotary Encoder
Barometric Pressure Humidity Methane/Propane/Iso-Butane Temperature
Button Infrared Sensor Microphone Tilt
Capacitive Touch IR Beam Break Motion Ultrasonic Rangefinder
Carbon Monoxide IR Distance Muscle Sensor Ultraviolet
Circular Touch Potentiometer Joystick Photo Capture Vibration
Coin Acceptor Keypad Piezo Wind Speed
Ethanol Laser Beam Break Potentiometer Knob
Fingerprint Light Sensor Pressure
Flex Sensor Liquid Flow Proximity

Getting started with the Azure IoT DevKit

The AZ3166 board contains a EMW3166 WiFi module with 256K SRAM plus OLED display, buttons, LEDs, headphone jack, microphone, sensors like temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, and more… all for a very affordable price.

  • Order MXChip IoT DevKit here.
  • Get the software here.
  • Azure IoTHub examples for Raspberry Pi, Intel Edison, Adafruit Feather ESP8266, Adafruit Feather M0, and Sparkfun ESP8266 here.

Does Your IoT Business Case Make Sense?

Consider an IoT business case to track the environmental conditions for eggs from a farm to a grocery store. We might be considering sensors for temperature, humidity, and acceleration in case of drops. The use case would track eggs per flat, for which there would be many per pallet. Knowing a dozen eggs in our local grocery are often on sale for less than one US dollar, we may ask how could a client justify the cost of the IoT device for tracking these eggs? While IoT is a hot buzzword, there are many things to consider in your business case for using IoT devices.

Does your IoT Device Cost Exceed the Product, Service, or Reputation Costs?

Not all business cases are going to equate to a product cost. It may represent the value of service to that customer because IoT is going to give you a predictive edge to "Wow" the customer for a lifetime. Maybe your business case will establish your reputation as someone who created a game changer in the marketplace?

How will your device connect to Azure IoT Hub?

Your device will need some pathway to the Internet. Most examples provided will show the device itself having Internet connectivity either directly with an Ethernet port, or wirelessly with built in Wi-Fi. There is also Azure IoT Edge, which can act as a transparent proxy for other devices. It should also be possible to support other devices with Bluetooth or Radio using the building blocks Microsoft has provided. Each device will need to be registered separately with their own connection string, and any computer proxy supporting multiple devices will require sending the correct connection string for the correct device so Azure IoT Hub tracks appropriately.

Will your IoT device take a beating?

Will your device remain in conditions where it will take a physical beating? Will your device be exposed to extreme high or low temperatures? Will your device be exposed to conductive liquids? Should you consider rugged or replaceable sensors which can take a beating? Have you considered what type of enclosure and dimensions of that enclosure will be required?

How will your IoT device be powered?

Most devices are powered via micro USB or direct current jack on the board. For stationary devices, it may be possible to power those with normal wall adapters. In mobile scenarios, the device will need some type of external battery pack with removable batteries or rechargeability. In some mobile scenarios, it may make sense to power the device with a Lithium Ion battery pack which is rechargeable via solar.

Your costs don't end with the device.

Devices will need to be repaired or replaced, will require new batteries and new sensors, or may need to be retired. Infrastructure may also be required for your devices to work. We have seen cases where there are dead spots in Wi-Fi even within the same building. Make sure to include the device replacement, device maintenance costs, and infrastructure in your business case.

Training costs

Don't forget the people costs! Consider if your device requires human interaction or needs to be checked up on from time to time.

It's a Long Way from Maker to Production Device.

Most of the development boards you will find are designed for the low quantity maker community who are building small quantities or prototypes. There are many printed circuit board layout programs and manufacturers who can take your printed circuit board designs and produce you a finished board in small or large quantities. Having production printed circuit boards is only half the issue, you are going to need to source enclosures, sensors, batteries, solar, connectors, and other components that make this a finished product. Having all the components, now requires assembly, and quality control. If you are considering a production roll out, you may want to consider a turn key IoT design firm who can produce you a custom device.

Want to learn more about IoT and Dynamics 365 for Field Service? Join PowerObjects, this year's Platinum Sponsor, at the Microsoft Business Applications Summit on July 22-24 in Seattle. Register with code HCL100dc to receive a $100 discount.

Happy Dynamics 365'ing!

By Joe D365
Joe D365 is a Microsoft Dynamics 365 superhero who runs on pure Dynamics adrenaline. As the face of PowerObjects, Joe D365’s mission is to reveal innovative ways to use Dynamics 365 and bring the application to more businesses and organizations around the world.

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