Written by 6:00 am Digital Transformation, Feature

The 2020 Field Engineer’s toolkit

In this new four-part series Field Service News Editor Kris Oldland takes a look at five key tools forecast to become part of the field service engineer’s toolkit in the not so distant future.

As a child of the eighties with a penchant for a bit of science fiction to me the year 2015 sounds very much like the distant future we might have heard about when watching Tomorrow’s World back when we were kids. And whilst not all things that we thought would appear in the future have arrived –  for example,  we are not all walking around in  shiny silver outfits and the hover car has yet to be invented  – there is so much technology that is commonplace today which is truly remarkable and has that futuristic feel.

Devices like satnavs, tablets and smartphones could all have come straight from the set of Star Trek and just a decade ago it would have seemed incomprehensible that devices like these would be regular items in both our working and our personal lives. These devices are now not only widely in use, they are hitting mass saturation.

And it’s little wonder really when we think how big the impact first smartphones, then tablets and other forms of mobile computing have had on the way we work , how we communicate, the way we interact with each other, and how we manage tasks – all empowered by the mobile Internet. And in no other industry has the impact of improved mobile computing been felt more than in field service.

However, I truly believe that the leaps forward we have made in terms of technology this decade are just the tip of the iceberg and in the next few years we will see further technologies that are now starting to emerge become as commonplace as the smartphone, satnav and tablet, and that they will have an even greater impact.  Phrases like the fourth paradigm, industry 2.0 and the new industrial revolution which were once being whispered in corners are now being used by very senior and respectable people with more and more frequency and more and more confidence.

Just consider this a moment – we are talking about a leap forward in technology that is comparable with the shift in society created by the industrial revolution.We are talking about massive changes in the way we work, a wholesale sea change bigger than anything we have experienced in living memory – all empowered by technologies that whilst they may seem futuristic are already out there and being used in industry today.

So lets take a look at some of these technologies and how they can be put to work as part of the field service engineer’s tool kit.

Wearables: smart watches

Having spoken about smartphones in the introduction perhaps the most obvious place to start is with wearable technology such as smart watches. Last year was widely touted as the year of the wearables yet it didn’t really live up to the hyperbole.

In fact it was quite the opposite… research from digital research firm L2 confirmed what a lot of people in the industry would already have guessed:  that whilst 75% of consumers are aware of wearable technology, just 9% actually had any desire to purchase and a tiny 2% confirmed they actually owned a wearable device.

So not quite the mega-impact that many industry experts had been predicted.

However, whilst the consumer world might not be ready for such devices there is a definite home for them in the world of industry and particularly in field service.Lets take the smart watch to begin with. As part of the recent release of IFS Applications 9,  smart watch integration is embedded. Other companies like ClickSoftware have also built smart watch apps into their field service solutions.

The ability to communicate hands free, whether it be receiving messages or making a call, has obvious benefits for the field engineer whether it is when they are driving between jobs or working on site on a repair. This is the first key benefit of a smart watch. And whilst much of this functionality is available either through bluetooth headsets or through the smart-phone itself being put on speaker for example,[quote float=”right”]A smart watch brings together and streamlines functionality in a much more convenient manner.[/quote]The impact that smartphones have had on field service is widely recognised – smart watches simply take the power of the mobile phone and deliver it in a more convenient device that enables the engineers to work with both hands at all times

And for me introducing additional convenience and improving the overall efficiency of the tasks we are trying to undertake, is a large factor in whether an emerging technology will take root and I do believe that smart watches certainly tick many of these boxes and have the potential to do so and should absolutely be considered when selecting the right hard ware for our field engineers.

Look out for the next feature within this feature where we look at how smart glasses and unmanned drones could also become regular tools used by our 2020 field engineers.

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