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Comment: Time to have a rethink about wearables?

Feb 11 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 2804 Views • No Comments on Comment: Time to have a rethink about wearables?

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Despite the hype that has surrounded wearable computing we’ve yet to see widespread adoption in either the consumer or business world. Yet there is plenty of potential for wearable technology in field service. However, we need to change the way we see think about them argues Kris Oldland…

As far as recent technology trends go few have failed to live up to the hyperbole quite as much as wearable technology has done so far.

In 2013 Forbes magazine brashly claimed 2014 would be the year of the wearables. Then when 2014 came and went specialist mobile computing analysts CSS stated actually 2015 would be the year of the wearables.

Yet while the technology has evolved the fact remains that I’m still pretty much one of the only people I know to actually own a wearable device.

Even the ultimate technology-as-a-fashion statement brand Apple haven’t had anything close to the impact they were expected to have had.

Yet this is the consumer world, what about in the realm of industry? It’s no secret that Glass 2.0 is being geared towards the enterprise and in field service the application of such a device, which offers a completely hands free means of communication with the added bonus of the on-site engineer being able to provide a ‘see-what-i-see’ experience to a remote colleague, could potentially be truly ground-breaking.

Indeed Google shouldn’t wait too long to release a second iteration of Glass as there are plenty of other smart glasses manufacturers working with specialist developers such as Pristine IO who are already heavily engaged with the field service industry.

The fact is that smart glasses offer the opportunity for highly efficient remote assistance and often one of the biggest costs for a field service company is getting an experienced engineer half way across a continent to make that critically urgent fix for that key customer.

The use case for smart glasses in our industry is clear. The same cannot be said for smart watches however.

The cost of travelling, accommodation not to mention dead-time whilst the engineer is in transit could be wiped off the P&L if companies are able to get that engineer to ‘dial-in’ rather than fly-in. R.o.I could be hit within a matter of weeks and at the same time service levels are being improved as the customer is getting his assets up and running a gain far quicker.

The use case for smart glasses in our industry is clear. The same cannot be said for smart watches however.

Whilst some FSM solution providers have created smart watch apps, for me the benefits are minimal. An engineer still needs to turn his hands to read an incoming notification, so the solution isn’t really hands free.

Also whilst some smart watches like the Samsung Gear2 are capable of voice calls many aren’t so again hands free communication is a bit of a stretch for most smart watches.

We to change our thinking around wearables and stop lumping smart watches and smart glasses together under the one blanket umbrella. The use cases for both are very different. One clearly has potential in field service, the other not so much.

And trying to manage inputting any amount of data or notes on a smart watch is a cumbersome task simply due to the limited screen real estate. Add to this the fact that these are companion devices (so the engineers need a phone anyway) and the cost/benefit equation doesn’t really stack up.

And this is why we to change our thinking around wearables and stop lumping smart watches and smart glasses together under the one blanket umbrella. The use cases for both are very different. One clearly has potential in field service, the other not so much.

And of course wearables aren’t just limited to glasses and watches either. Certain smart clothing could certainly play a big role in lone worker protection. Heart monitoring vests or wearable cameras certainly would have potential in this area for example.

Indeed personally I’m a big believer in the use of wearable technology within our industry. However, we absolutely need to stop thinking about wearables as a broad technology and focus on the use cases for specific devices and how they could be a useful addition to our technicians tool-kit. Once companies start doing that, then I am sure we will see more use of wearable computing within the field service industry.

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