8.3 Advanced service systems
8.3.1 Automated service systems
Customer self-service typically is supported by automated systems. Automated systems depend on some form of input device to capture data such as sensors, bar code readers, magnetic strip readers, and voice-to-data translators. They also need a processing system, ranging anywhere from software or firmware logic systems and simple processors to super computers. A communication network connecting the input device to the processor is also required, which can be hard wired, wireless, or both. Examples of automated service systems include credit card readers, self-serve blood pressure readers, and point-of-sale systems.
Point-of-sale (POS) systems. POS systems capture information about an item at the point of sale, normally by reading bar codes or radio frequency identification codes to receive either a product code or a link to an item database. POS information drives sales transactions by retrieving item descriptions and prices. Information read in a POS system can also be linked to other information to guide special handling, retrieve materials safety data sheets, reorder materials, and account for material costs and allocations as they pass through the system.
Voice-activated service systems. Financial, insurance, and utility companies are currently leaders in using voice-activated systems to capture and translate customer data before a customer is connected with a person, who will then have the customer's service record available. The input device (in this case a voice translation) creates a query to the customer relationship system database to find the customer's data. This data then is relayed to the customer via a text-to-voice translator or by a customer service representative.
8.3.2 Remote sensing systems
Sensors can monitor the performance of production systems, capturing data such as heat and pressure in steam systems, flue gas emission in smokestacks, and rotation speeds and voltages in electric generators. Sensors can monitor flow rates in petrochemical plants, gas and water distribution networks, and heating and air conditioning systems. Remote sensing is used when direct monitoring is impractical, cost prohibitive, or unreliable.