New tool for print industry brings live feeds and geolocation to asset management
Ian Birch set up IBC Group at the beginning of 2018 after 18 years in the printer industry working for manufacturers like Ricoh, KYOCERA and Xerox.
The independent consultancy helps end user businesses, vendors and channel organisations address three main areas of business operations: data insight – unlocking the value of the data through business intelligence dashboards; process automation – removing paper from processes and implementing more effective ways of working; and regulatory compliance.
While much of 2018 has been spent helping SMEs achieve GDPR compliance, IBC Group has also been expanding its proposition with new tools and solutions, including Smart Asset Maps, which it launched in October. Managed IT spoke to Ian Birch to fnd out more about the solution and its applications.
Managed IT: What exactly does Smart Asset Maps do?
Ian Birch (IB): It maps, tracks and manages all assets in your workplace. It takes a traditional assessment technique, the plotting of assets on ﬂoorplans, and overlays them onto Google Maps to show where assets are located.
Managed IT: Does this mean it’s mainly for multi-site customers?
IB: Clearly, it works very well with multi-site organisations, but because of our subscription model, which is based on the number of assets in the system, it works just as well for smaller single site organisations. Beyond plotting assets onto a Google Maps platform, we are able to pull live data feeds into the system, which again has benefits even for small organisations.
There are other systems that allow companies to manage their assets, but often information on listed assets is contained in Excel spreadsheets and other systems, silos essentially, which are clearly not the best places to store that sort of data. We pull data on a wide range of different asset types into a single asset management system and, where live data feeds are in place, provide a single view of issues relating to assets.
We can manage 1,200 types of asset, including printers, servers, air conditioning units, security cameras and alarm systems, and we have an open API in the background, which means we can work with any bespoke system a customer might have. We also have a number of APIs with document management systems and other solutions.
Managed IT: How do you envisage an MPS provider or IT reseller using Smart Asset Maps?
IB: It can be used at different stages of the sales lifecycle. In a pre-sales scenario, it can be used for traditional assessments to quantify the number of assets a customer has before making recommendations on what an optimised environment might look like. To help with this, you can create really nice visuals and dashboards with heat maps. If someone wants to know which assets are above or below a certain level of utilisation, heat maps will give an instant view of where they are.
When it comes to ongoing asset management, service providers generally know how many assets they are managing, but they often don’t know where they are and so don’t make the best use of service technicians’ time. Linking a service management system into Smart Asset Maps and geo-tagging assets enables them to be much more effcient. For example, if a technician has downtime between jobs they could pop into a nearby customer and do some proactive maintenance, which will deliver benefits further down the line.
Managed IT: How do you think people will use the live feed capability?
IB: If we just look at the IoT side, there are couple of scenarios that stand out. You could put in sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, CO2 and dust particles, all of which will have an impact on the working environment. With live feeds, you could create triggers that activate when the temperature is too high or too low, alerting administrators of the need to adjust the air conditioning or heating.
Another example is to do with occupancy. We have sensors that monitor the usage of meeting rooms and hot desking spaces. If these show that an eight-person meeting room is only used for meetings of two or three people, clearly a lot of space is being wasted. Live data feeds allow real estate facilities managers to understand what is going on in their environment and plan accordingly.
Managed IT: Are end user customers most likely to be FMs?
IB: Yes, they will see significant benefits. But there are also opportunities for traditional MPS providers. Print is a challenging space – it is heavily commoditised – and Smart Asset Maps lets them move beyond managed print services and managed document services to the next level, to managed workplace services. With Smart Asset Maps and associated IT devices, service providers can more deeply embed themselves with their customers.