20 common questions about Salesforce IoT, answered by experts

6 min.

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

Today, connected devices power a wide range of industries, from healthcare (e.g., remote health monitoring, emergency alert systems) to agriculture (crop monitoring) and manufacturing (plant optimization). Their goal is to help companies make use of a huge amount of data and automate backend processes. Salesforce IoT, one of the Salesforce Cloud products, is actively winning more and more customers worldwide. This article answers 20 most frequently asked questions about this robust tool.

Ready to dive into Salesforce IoT? Let’s go!

1. What is IoT?

For those new to the topic, IoT stands for the internet of things that uses sensors in physical objects, such as vehicles, wearables, and equipment to generate and transmit data via the internet. These objects can function differently: some deliver data immediately and this way allow for real-time monitoring; others store generated data until a trigger event (say, some error) happens and then help the owners clarify how and why the problem appeared.

2. What is Salesforce IoT Cloud?

Salesforce IoT Cloud is a SaaS product delivered by Salesforce, a top CRM provider. In brief, it allows a company’s products (say, solar panels) to ‘talk’ directly to the Salesforce CRM system and initiate context-based alerts and actions (say, to create a service ticket to fix a broken solar panel).

3. How does Salesforce IoT work?

Salesforce IoT is a nonlinear workflow engine that works by using events, rules, actions, conditions, and orchestrations. To make it clear, let’s take an example:

  • Sensors in the customer’s device detect a failure. This event triggers a change in the state of the device to ‘Error’ and starts the relevant ‘Fix It’ orchestration.
  • The state “Error” 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 rule of the ‘Error’ state, it changes the state to ‘In Progress’ and listens to the customer’s device. If the device sensors tell that the problem is fixed, the device can transition to the ‘Ok’ state.

This is a very basic explanation that 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. Orchestration then can become as complex as needed to automatically deliver exceptional customer service.

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

The tool is designed to enable every company, even without an extensive IT department, to start using IoT for their needs. Its configuration relies on a visual logic so that users without coding skills can create orchestration rules, conditions, and trigger events simply by clicking on the elements.

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

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

Though Salesforce IoT doesn’t require much coding, non-developers might find diving into the IoT world too difficult in the beginning. Salesforce suggests these 5 steps to organize the work from the solution design to deployment.

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 find out the key customer experience moments and spot major events that can make your customer either happy or upset. These trigger events vary by companies and industries.
  • Create actions. Envision the best solutions to the identified problems if they appear. Think of the quickest and most efficient ways of resolving different cases.

#2. Connect

At this stage, you are to choose the sources to provide the needed contextual data.

#3. Transform

As 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 in Salesforce IoT and build the logic following the instructions in the Salesforce IoT tutorial.

#5. Deploy

When you are ready, activate the orchestration and look at the traffic view to understand how many people or devices are in each state. Before applying an orchestration, it is recommended to test whether it is designed correctly. Salesforce IoT platform trackers perform this task perfectly. They can provide a detailed view of the orchestration activity and help to identify any unwanted results.

Troubleshooting Salesforce IoT orchestration via trackers.

Data SourceTroubleshooting Salesforce IoT orchestration via trackers.

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

6. What can businesses get from Salesforce IoT Cloud capabilities?

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

  • Polish customer experience and deliver outstanding service
  • Increase customer loyalty and retention rates
  • Improve productivity through automation
  • Minimize time for fixing product issues
  • Make better, more informed strategic decisions
  • Increase sales

7. How can Salesforce IoT improve customer experience?

Be it a hospital or a farm, a business can get customers’ critical data immediately. Streaming data enables product and service providers to react proactively and suggest assistance to their customers even before the latter come across the problem. Instead of getting upset with an interrupted service or risky health indicators, customers would receive a solution or an action plan right when they understand they need it—and even earlier.

Such a proactive approach prevents service quality claims and helps to resolve service tickets ever quicker. Solutions will be applied even before a customer reports a problem, and the overall performance of the product will become smoother indeed. At this point, companies don’t 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?

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

9. How can Salesforce IoT Cloud improve products?

As connected devices store information collected from sensors, IoT can help to trace the cause of an issue and find ways to solve it faster. The contextual data can go beyond product performance parameters and include environmental data too. This will shed light on the equipment performance under different circumstances.

Certain behavioral patterns can hint at how to improve the product or prevent repeated issues. Businesses can analyze the information gathered from several customers to deliver more comprehensive solutions as well as come up with valuable improvements of the offerings.

10. Can Salesforce IoT platform actually boost upselling?

A stable performance of purchased equipment or products (say, solar panels or industrial machines) allows their owners to achieve higher goals. In the B2B setting, for example, customers’ business growth in turn leads to more orders for the equipment vendor. Moreover, sensors can notify the vendor that the customer’s devices are about to reach their maximum capacity, which is the right time to recommend the customer buying one more product or service.

11. How can Salesforce IoT increase efficiency?

Salesforce IoT Cloud brings in service automation. The support team doesn’t have to call or visit customers to clarify the details and can solve issues faster. In fact, it is not necessary to monitor each product thanks to device-generated alerts. Orchestration allows for creating rules for automated ticket escalation if an issue repeats.

12. Which devices work with Salesforce IoT Cloud?

As Salesforce IoT Cloud uses RESTful API, it can capture data from any source system connected to it, including complex networks managed by Amazon Web Services or simpler wearables.

13. How does Salesforce IoT connect to Cloud services?

Salesforce IoT seamlessly integrates with all Salesforce products, which is a great plus for existing Salesforce customers willing to unlock the power of connected devices. Native integration with Salesforce Einstein, a robust AI tool, allows for extracting valuable insights from enormous data volumes gathered by IoT devices, including video, images, texts, voice records, and sensor data.

14. Can Salesforce IoT connect to other IoT platforms?

Yes, it can. Salesforce IoT can add a layer on top of any device management platform that you use (e.g., Amazon Web Services IoT or Azure IoT). This way, it can start processing huge amounts of data, enrich it with contextual details, and make it actionable across Salesforce Cloud services. Tweaking the firmware as well as other device functions will all happen on this device management layer. At the same time, all customer-related functions will be executed in Salesforce IoT.

15. How to retrieve Salesforce IoT data?

The tool’s capabilities support complete data processing, including filtering, merging, and exporting it in the JSON, CSV, or TSV file formats.

16. How to securely deliver Salesforce IoT insights to employees?

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

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

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

As an 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. As a result, service reps can resolve cases faster and make customers more satisfied.

One more common use case applies to field service reps. When the data generated by connected devices get right into a customer’s CRM profile, field workers won’t leave some valuable information in the office anymore. They will always come to the customer’s site fully equipped with all the necessary documentation and data available in their mobile devices.

17. Did anybody get results with Salesforce IoT?

We’ve recently reviewed some IoT success stories on our blog. As Salesforce’s IoT offering is quite young, there are not many cases yet. However, existing Salesforce IoT examples look promising.

Take Samson Rope, a 140-year-old company that produces rope for a range of global industries. The company provides a 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 these lines, monitor their customers’ rope conditions and identify the time when they need replacement.

Another case is Jacuzzi that uses Salesforce IoT to track the states of their hot tubs filters. The retrieved data go to the CRM and helps Jacuzzi to spot the right time for filter replacement.

The authorities of the town of Cary, North Carolina, revolutionized the functions of traffic lights with the help of Salesforce IoT and Service Cloud. Stoplights used as connected devices trigger alerts and send them to the traffic and the police department to resolve traffic issues fast. Alerts get sent to drivers too via the Waze app to direct them to alternate routes. Here, Salesforce IoT allows for a quick dispatch of technicians to fix issues and minimize problems for the citizens.

18. What are Salesforce IoT alternatives?

According to G2 Crowd's reviews, there are three alternative options that 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 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. Still, a detailed feature-by-feature comparison of these products would require a whole different blog post.

19. Is Salesforce IoT secure?

Gartner states that security is the top technical concern for organizations deploying IoT systems. The reason for that is that companies have almost no control over the source and nature of the software and hardware used in their IoT networks. Unfortunately, many connected devices have little or no cybersecurity protection and add new variables to the IT risk formula. In Salesforce IoT, this challenge is addressed by the use of access tokens for secure access, which are described in detail in Salesforce documentation.

20. How much does Salesforce IoT cost?

There is no fixed pricing for Salesforce IoT. The actual cost of its implementation depends on particular use cases and thus requires asking for a quote.

Now, with these 20 questions behind, you should be better prepared to answer your own question: is Salesforce IoT worth trying?