Experts answer 18 common questions about Salesforce IoT

04.12.2019
6 min.

The IoT market is growing quickly despite the inevitable security risks and implementation concerns. Gartner predicts that the number of connected things will reach 14.2 billion in 2019 and top 25 billion by 2021.

Today, connected devices underpin a wide variety of industries, from healthcare (remote health monitoring, emergency alert systems) to agriculture (crop monitoring) and manufacturing (plant optimization). The goal of these devices is to help companies implement huge amount of data and automate backend processes.

Salesforce is constantly experimenting with its IoT efforts, now enabling big data flows for more of its products. We’ve put together this guide in order to answer 18 of the most frequently asked questions about Salesforce IoT.

1. What is IoT?

If you’re new to the topic, IoT stands for the internet of things, which uses sensors in physical objects (such as vehicles, wearables, and equipment) in order to generate and transmit data via the internet. These objects can have different functions: some deliver data immediately, thereby allowing for real-time monitoring, while others store generated data until a trigger event (say, some error) happens, then help the owners pinpoint how and why the problem occurred.

2. What is Salesforce IoT?

Back in 2015, Salesforce launched IoT Cloud to provide users with a platform for storing and processing data from the connected devices. The Cloud was powered by their proprietary real-time event processing engine Thunder that handled massive amounts of data from connected assets.

For example, Salesforce IoT Cloud made companies’ products (say, solar panels) ‘talk’ directly to the Salesforce CRM system and initiate context-based alerts and actions (say, to create a service ticket for fixing a broken solar panel).

In 2017, Salesforce announced a new IoT initiative, IoT Explorer Edition. It’s an interface for building low-code apps on top of IoT data, for example, to create a rule-based automation. However, Salesforce wanted to tie IoT data to more of its products. In 2018, the company added the IoT Insights component to Service Cloud and Field Service Lightning mobile app as a part of the Salesforce IoT Explorer license.

3. How does Salesforce IoT work?

Salesforce IoT works through creating events, rules, actions, conditions, and orchestrations. Let’s look at an example:

  • Sensors in the customer’s device detect a failure. This triggers a change in the state of the device to ‘Error’ and starts the relevant ‘Fix It’ orchestration.
  • The ‘Error’ state follows a specific rule. This is a predefined logic that tells the orchestration what to do. It can be a simple action (such as to create a ticket for the service desk team), or a smart combination of events, conditions, and actions. For example, Salesforce IoT can automatically send the customer an educational article (Action 1) if the problem can be fixed without professional assistance (Condition 1). Alternatively, it can escalate the ticket (Action 2) if the issue is complex (Condition 2) and requires a field specialist’s assistance.
  • After Salesforce IoT executes the ‘Error’ state’s rule, it changes the state to ‘In Progress’ and listens to the customer’s device. If the device sensors determine that the problem is fixed, then the device can transition to the ‘Ok’ state.

This is a very basic explanation, but it illustrates the processes happening behind the scenes. In reality, Salesforce IoT allows putting together data streamed from various sources, including device sensors, third-party services (such as weather forecasts), and Salesforce’s own CRM, Service Cloud, Field Service, Community, and more. This ensures that orchestration can become as complex as necessary in order to automatically deliver exceptional customer service.

4. Do you have to be a developer to use Salesforce IoT?

Salesforce IoT is designed to enable any company, even the ones without an extensive IT department, to start addressing their needs with IoT. Its configuration relies on a visual logic so that users without coding skills can create orchestration rules, conditions, and trigger events by simply clicking on the different elements.

However, this approach can be limiting if a company needs the kind of functionality that can’t be delivered solely through preconfigured elements. In that case, only teams experienced in IoT development can find a workaround.

5. How can non-developers start using Salesforce IoT?

While Salesforce IoT doesn’t require much coding experience, non-developers might find diving into the IoT world too difficult in the beginning. Salesforce suggests following these five steps to organize the work, going from the solution design to the deployment.

Salesforce IoT implementation algorithm

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

#1. Plan

There are actually two goals to achieve here:

  • Identify triggers. This is the most crucial part that can’t be automated. You have to discover the crucial customer experience moments and spot the major events that can make your customer either happy or upset. These trigger events vary from between companies and industries.
  • Create actions. Envision the best solutions for the identified potential problems. Think of the most efficient ways of resolving different cases.

#2. Connect

At this stage, choose which data sources to connect in order to provide the necessary contextual data.

#3. Transform

Since machines speak the language of logic, you have to describe customers’ problems (combinations of contextual data) in technical terms. For example, broken sensor can equal event 1; create a service ticket can be action 1, and so forth.

#4. Build

Now you can add a new orchestration rule in Salesforce IoT and build the necessary logic using the expression syntax used in formula fields. This way, it’ll be even easier to work with your existing data in Salesforce.

#5. Deploy

When you are ready, activate the orchestration and look at the traffic view to understand just how many people or devices are in each state. Before applying an orchestration, we recommend testing whether or not it is designed correctly. In fact, Salesforce IoT platform trackers perform this task perfectly. They can provide a detailed view of orchestration activity and help identify any unwanted results.

Troubleshooting Salesforce IoT orchestration via trackers

Despite this low-code approach, configuring Salesforce IoT is not that simple. Complex cases including multiple events, conditions, and several data sources require the help of experienced IoT and Salesforce development companies that understand how to unlock this smart technology’s full potential.

6. What can businesses get from Salesforce IoT capabilities?

In brief, they can get actionable insights (not just data), which help to:

  • Get a unified view of customer data
  • Polish customer experience and deliver outstanding service
  • Increase customer loyalty and retention rates
  • Improve productivity through automation
  • Anticipate and diagnose issues remotely
  • Minimize the time it takes to fix product issues
  • Make better and more informed strategic decisions
  • Increase sales

7. How can Salesforce IoT improve customer experience?

Be it a hospital or a farm, Salesforce IoT enables a business to get customers’ critical data immediately. Streaming data allows product and service providers to react proactively and offer assistance to their customers even before problems become apparent. Rather than getting upset with an interrupted service or risky health indicators, customers can receive a solution or action plan right when they know they need it—and oftentimes even earlier.

This proactive approach prevents service quality claims and helps resolve service tickets more quickly. Solutions will be applied before a customer even reports a problem, and in turn the overall product performance will become smoother. This means companies no longer have to annoy customers by asking for information; they already know everything about the issues at hand.

8. How can Salesforce IoT help sales and marketing?

Salesforce IoT lets companies enrich customers’ profile data. For example, equipment sensors can help identify usage patterns that even customers fail to notice. Likewise, medical wearables can improve patients’ health monitoring by linking their activity to real-time health indicators.

9. How can Salesforce IoT improve products?

With connected devices storing information collected from sensors, IoT can then help pinpoint the cause of an issue and find faster ways to solve it. The contextual data can also go beyond product performance parameters and include environmental data. This will shed light on the performance of equipment under varying circumstances.

Certain behavioral patterns can offer insights into improving the product or preventing repeated issues. Businesses can then analyze the information gathered from several customers in order to deliver more comprehensive solutions, as well as develop valuable improvements for their offerings, for example through smarter inventory management.

10. Can Salesforce IoT platform actually boost upselling?

When a customer’s equipment or products (say, solar panels or industrial machines) perform in a stable way, it allows them to achieve higher goals. For example, the B2B setting can help transform customers’ business growth into more orders for the equipment vendor. Moreover, sensors can notify the vendor that customer devices are about to reach maximum capacity, which is the best time to recommend buying another product or service.

11. How can Salesforce IoT increase efficiency?

Salesforce IoT offers service automation, whereby the support team no longer has to call or visit customers in order to clarify details, and can therefore solve issues faster. In fact, device-generated alerts render product monitoring unnecessary. Likewise, orchestration allows for the creation of rules for automated ticket escalation if an issue recurs.

12. Which devices work with Salesforce IoT?

Salesforce IoT uses REST API, which means it can capture data from any source system that’s connected to it, including complex networks managed by Amazon Web Services, or simpler wearables.

13. How does Salesforce IoT connect to other products?

You can enable Salesforce IoT in all Salesforce products within Lightning Experience, which is a great plus for existing Salesforce customers who are striving to unlock the power of connected devices. In particular, native integration with Salesforce Einstein, a robust AI tool, allows for the extraction of valuable insights from enormous volumes of data gathered by IoT devices, including video, images, texts, voice records, and sensor data.

14. How can Salesforce IoT Insights be securely delivered to employees?

The IoT Insights component can be added to Salesforce Lightning record pages (cases, work orders, and assets) in just a few clicks.

The example of adding Salesforce IoT Insights to the Salesforce CRM record page.

For example, Salesforce IoT Insights for Field Service Lightning excludes switching tabs and provides service assistants with comprehensive customer profiles including both CRM and IoT-driven data. Therefore, service reps can resolve cases faster and satisfy customers more thoroughly.

There’s one more common use case that applies to field service reps. With the data generated by connected devices linked directly to a customer’s CRM profile, field workers will no longer find themselves having left some valuable information in the office. They will always come to the customer’s site fully equipped with all the necessary documentation and data in their mobile devices.

15. Has anybody seen results with Salesforce IoT?

As Salesforce’s IoT offering is still quite young, not too many cases exist yet. However, existing Salesforce IoT examples look promising.

For example, take Samson Rope, a 140-year-old company that produces rope for a wide range of global industries. They provide lifetime (up to 10 years) service support for over 8,000 lines of rope. Field Service Lightning and Salesforce IoT helps Samson Rope manage all of their lines, monitor their customers’ rope conditions, and identify when they will need replacements.

Another case is Jacuzzi, which utilizes Salesforce IoT to track the states of their hot tub filters. The retrieved data goes to the CRM and helps Jacuzzi spot the ideal times for filter replacement.

Likewise, the authorities of the town of Cary, North Carolina, revolutionized traffic light functions with the help of Salesforce IoT and Service Cloud. Connected stoplights trigger alerts that get sent to the traffic and police departments in order to help quickly resolve traffic issues. Alerts are also sent to drivers via the Waze app in order to direct them to alternate routes. Salesforce IoT has allowed for the quick dispatch of technicians to fix issues and minimize problems for the citizens of the town.

16. What are the alternatives to Salesforce IoT?

According to G2 Crowd's reviews, three alternative options exist that may perform better than Salesforce IoT, at least to some extent. Particle, AWS IoT, and Google Cloud IoT are reported to better meet customers’ requirements and have more advanced support services, though AWS IoT is a more expensive option.

Overall, the two more mature products—AWS IoT and Azure IoT suite, delivered by Amazon and Microsoft respectively—are the best alternatives to Salesforce IoT. But it must be noted that a detailed feature-by-feature comparison of these products would be required.

17. Is Salesforce IoT secure?

Gartner states that security is the top technical concern for organizations deploying IoT systems. This is because companies have almost no control over the sources and nature of the software and hardware utilized in their IoT networks.

Unfortunately, many connected devices have little to no cybersecurity protection and only add more variables to the IT risk formula. Salesforce IoT addresses this challenge by utilizing access tokens for secure access, which are described in detail in Salesforce documentation.

18. How much does Salesforce IoT cost?

Salesforce IoT is available for an extra cost, with no fixed pricing. The actual cost of its implementation depends on specific use cases and thus requires asking for a quote.

Now, with these 18 questions answered, you should be better prepared to answer one last question of your own: is Salesforce IoT worth trying?