I was talking to a customer a few weeks back and the subject of legal liability came up.  In many industries, the word liability is often followed by the word "insurance".  The idea is that you or your company has a vulnerability (usually, this refers to the amount of financial damages that will be attributed to you if work is not done or not done up to the required standard). So to protect yourself, you purchase an insurance policy to cover any potential losses.  This is pretty straightforward....or is it?

The customer said that, in fact, reducing liability had a much greater cost to his business than simply the cost of liability insurance.  He cited several examples of items that "cut into his bottom line" that were strictly done to reduce liability....such as:           

  • Technicians heading back to job sites to check if certain settings were applied, when the information could have been checked over the air if a system was available.
  • Extra tests being ordered on equipment (ones that proved to be both expensive and unnecessary) – tests that are only done due to a lack of visibility to key information by the technician.  This is similar to how many physicians may order tests to "rule things out", even when the actual test is likely unnecessary.
  • Costly site visits to customer locations to perform simple steps on equipment....things that could have been done remotely.

That got me to think.....how does an M2M solution reduce not only the tangible costs of liability (like insurance) but also the unnecessary steps that are taken "just in case"?

Know when work was done and when it was not
Some industries (such as snow/ice removal) have very distinct liabilities. For example, .if someone slips on ice on your property and you did not take reasonable steps to prevent this, you are liable.  One of the issues, especially during heavy storms, is that some companies can be held liable – even when they DID take all reasonable steps – as it can often be difficult to prove when de-icing was actually done.  Smart companies are using M2M solutions to provide evidence that not only was the work done but when it was done.  This has been tested in court and in most cases the court accepted that the company had performed all reasonable steps to prevent the injury.  As well, many building owners have been successful in deflecting some of the blame for injuries to contractors for failing to perform contracted duties and they were able to prove that the work was not done through the use of some clever M2M solutions.

Prove that you were there.....OR, that you were not there.
Through the use of a combination of GPS and cellular technologies, Fleet Management solutions have been used successfully by companies to prove that their employee was where they said they were there.  This can:

  • prevent the paying of fees under SLA (service level agreements)
  • prevent companies from rejecting orders that they claim were not delivered on time but actually were (such as perishable foods)
  • help prove that key work was done (such as clearing of roads)

However, one interesting way that these solutions are used is to prove that someone was NOT there.  One situation that comes to mind is in the case of where an owner of a Bentley accused that one of the vehicles owned by a tow-truck company had struck their car and fled.  The car had sustained significant damage, and the owner of the Bentley threatened legal action.  In the end, the owner had made a mistake as to the name of the tow truck company!  The owners of the tow truck company were able to prove their innocence by showing information from their Fleet Management software, showing that the driver was in a different area of town altogether.

Compliance

For many industries, complying with regulations (whether they are from the government or from their industry) can be a very expensive undertaking.  However, as much as these regulations can cost companies, it is tough to question the reasoning behind them for the most part.  These regulations have resulted in safer food, better built cars, cleaner water and much more.  As a business owner, while you can't legally eliminate complying with these regulations, it makes sense for you to reduce the cost of doing so, as it generally is just a burden on your business. 

Here are some ways to do it:

Automated reporting
In some industries, there is the ability to upload information directly from the company into the required governmental agency's system.  M2M solutions take this one step further by transporting the information from the field directly into the company's system (reducing valuable time spent by remote staff collecting the data).  The data is then formatted automatically into the format required by the government's system, greatly reducing cost and speeding up the entry of data.

Reduced clerical work   
As much as companies would love to reduce costs, some evaluation work (such as medical assessments and inspections) will always need to be done by humans.  Quite simply, machines can never replace the experience of a skilled worker.  However, where M2M solutions can help is by reducing the amount of clerical effort that is required by the worker to gather and report all of the required information.

Simple tasks done....OTA
OTA stands for Over the Air, and increasingly, companies are able to make basic changes to their systems this way.  So, for things from resets to simple changes to firmware, the need to go on site to perform certain duties is becoming reduced.

Bottom line
M2M solutions are a valuable tool to reducing many costs for your business.  They can ensure that many routine tasks are automated or at the very least, done much more efficiently by your team.  This helps the bottom line, and since more information is provided, it can also help to increase the safety for all of us.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection.  You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com.  As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).