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Voice of the Machine (VOM) – Are You Listening to Me or “It?”

My grandfather helped build the Golden Gate Bridge, and he used to call his automobile “the machine,” which led to a family tradition of calling any device with some utility a “machine.” This came in very handy during the “heat of battle” when I would point to one of my kids’ devices and say “please bring me that machine.”

Futurists promised that our refrigerators would re-order groceries via scanning and auto-replacement, but most of us talk to a machine to order products, validate the weather, or check sports scores. But within industrial manufacturing, the maintenance of heavy machinery and equipment, and the automotive industry, it’s reversed. The machines are talking to us – and to other systems.

Why Is It Important That Machines Are Talking Now?

A Harvard Business Review article suggests the following about where the advancement in this technology is headed:

“Data used to be episodic (generated by discrete events such as the shipment of a component from a supplier), but increasingly it is becoming interactive (generated continuously by sensors and the IoT to track information). This continuous tracking of assets and their operational parameters can boost productivity.”

“Tier Two: Advanced operational efficiencies. Caterpillar installs sensors on its construction equipment products to track how each of them is used at a construction site. It finds, for instance, that customers use their motor graders to level lighter gravel more often than to level heavier dirt. Utilizing this insight, the company introduces a cost-efficient motor grader primarily designed to level gravel rather than dirt.”

What’s Coming Next?

Some foundational elements of great digital transformation and customer engagement are Voice of the Customer (VOC) and Voice of the Employee (VOE), and smart companies are building out their customer experiences and customer engagement platforms based upon both of these elements.

Kevin Espinosa, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Perficient, has helped to coin the term, Voice of the Machine (VOM). The VOM is now a must-have component for many companies and industries for a complete and impactful customer engagement.

Now, companies are capturing machine data via telematics, Internet of Things (IoT), location-based services, and other sensors that are then feeding that data via web services, application programming interfaces (APIs), and enterprise service bus (ESB) into other systems that enrich the customer experience, save customers money, and provide a competitive advantage.

What is VOM Doing for Our Clients?

VOM is why one of the coolest companies within the Americas, Watsco Inc., bought Alert Labs in 2018.

“Alert Labs develops, designs, and builds IoT hardware and software, including cloud-based and mobile solutions aimed at helping protect homes and businesses from damage and unnecessary expenses; … to further the development and commercialization of Sentree, an IoT device invented by Watsco Ventures. Sentree attaches to an existing HVAC system and, through a proprietary cloud-based software platform, remotely measures collects and analyzes vital performance analytics. Contractors are notified when an operating anomaly is detected or when maintenance may be required to alleviate risk of critical failure. In addition to providing data about the health of a system, this connectivity and data stream offer longevity and value to a contractor’s relationship with homeowners.”

I asked four Perficient colleagues (and friends), “What comes to mind when you hear the term VOM?”

Kevin Espinosa’s, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Perficient, answer:

“As a framework to the marketing strategy, we have always thought about triggers, steps, and roles. What triggers the need, what steps need to be taken to move customers through the sales funnel, and how do we market to each role involved.

Traditional triggers have come primarily from the customer (VOC) but as we have advanced in IoT efforts and more information coming from the machine now is acting as a primary voice (VOM). This data gives us triggers about usage which usually doesn’t require an urgent response but a reminder that service or parts will be needed soon, but the machine can trigger advanced information that it is not functioning correctly and a more urgent communication (text or call) can be sent to prevent a catastrophic failure.

This VOM can be combined with the VOC to create comprehensive journeys for each customer.”

How to Contact Kevin:

Jim Hertzfeld’s, Principal and Chief Strategist at Perficient, answer:

As connected products become smarter and more pervasive, the volume of generated data and actionable insight is creating new opportunities.

Early connected products solved basic problems around machine-to-machine communications and basic maintenance and repair, and later provide engineering and product managers with valuable performance and reliability data to make ongoing product management decisions. Thus, the emergence of VOM.

As sensing and intelligent features become more prevalent, the machines become more autonomous and the insights become geometrically more complex and the voice becomes clearer. Innovations like 5G are also making machine-to-machine communication even more sophisticated.

Marketing, customer care, dealers, and customer service organizations are now able to tap into the Voice of the Machine to provide operational insights (monetizing them in some cases) and use those insights to create evidence-based product value propositions and generate market demand. As customers become to the VOM, the product itself is becoming a new channel to meet the VOC.

How to Contact Jim:


Ron Merbler’s, Director of Digital Transformation at Perficient, multiple answers:

  • Voice of the Machine to me represents the data coming from the connected car.
  • The space is evolving rapidly and creates both opportunities and challenges for everyone from the OEM to Dealers to Consumers.
  • The debate over who owns the data has access to the data and how the data is used will all be important aspects of the evolution in the relationships across the connected vehicle space.
  • Fleet and Commercial customers may have a very different perception about Voice of the Machine data than a retail consumer and are likely to shape the initial uses and relationships.
  • The connected digital ecosystem across vehicles, websites, apps, and CRM will be critical for the Voice of the Machine data to be used effectively and add value to all participants.
  • Data sharing between OEM’s and Dealers will be critical to ensure value-added communications at the correct time and avoid duplicative or conflicting messages to the consumer.
  • Consumer’s acceptance of the vast amount of data being collected about them and their vehicles will be interesting to watch as use cases are developed and tested.

How to Contact Ron:


Skip Martin‘s, Director Commerce Transformation at Perficient, answer:

The VOM is an evolution and extension of the more commonly known IoT. Where IoT aligns to the placement of devices on a piece of equipment or device to monitor its operation. The VOM reflects not just the placement of devices but the utilization of that data to create an understanding of the machine’s state. As an example, a device attached to a machine may indicate a certain temperature of a bearing housing say 220 degrees Fahrenheit, the VOM would reflect an interpretation of that information to determine that the bearing is overheated and may need maintenance or replacement.

One might think of VOM as listening to the machine to understand what the data is provided by the IOT devices is telling us, and potentially taking action based upon that knowledge.

IOT = Data; VOM = Information

To contact Skip:


Now, Onto My Final Thoughts…

I have not seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey since 1968; but perhaps I can finally convince my wife to watch it this weekend, on one of our machines.

For more information on VOM, contact our commerce experts today.


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