The field service industries are often leading the way in terms of technology being used within enterprise.
For example the wider world of Enterprise Mobility Management is still something of an infantile stage compared to the percentage of field service companies that have embraced mobile solutions. Yet in field service the message has become clear and it is now a case of how and when companies move to an automated mobile led solution, rather than if and why.
So with this in mind Field Service News has taken a look at some of the key technological trends that we believe will impact the field service industries in the next 12 months.
In this the first of three features in this series we look at The Cloud, Wearables and NFC
1. The Cloud will finally come of age in field service management…
It has been debated for a long time and worries around security of the cloud have been continuously refreshed by the occasional high profile breaches of consumer cloud technology such as last years breach of Apple’s iCloud, which due to the celebrities involved, made headline news across the globe.
However, in the world of industry Cloud security is far more sophisticated, with companies such as Axeda and Amazon Web Services being names regularly thrown out in discussions around the Cloud as they have built a reputation for being leaders in developing robust cloud security within their product offerings.
[quote float=”left”]The benefits of the Cloud are well documented and well suited to field service organisations[/quote] Early last year Field Service News conducted research into how the Cloud had taken root amongst field service companies, and we revealed that although at that point only 23% of field service companies were using a Cloud based field service solution. Of those that were either using either an on premise solution or manual based processes, well over half were actively considering moving to a Cloud based solution in the next iteration of their field service software.
The benefits of the Cloud are well documented and well suited to field service organisations. Scalable, low IT costs, quick roll out, easy mobile access, and built in disaster recovery plus an affordable pricing structure for smaller and medium sized companies via the SaaS model. With almost all Field Service management software vendors now providing a cloud offering it seems just a matter of time before Cloud becomes the dominant distribution model of field service software and we think that 2015 will be the year that we really see the pendulum swing in favour of the Cloud.
2. We will start getting smart about wearables…
Given that last year was supposed to have been ‘The Year of The Wearables’ it has to be said that the appetite for wearable computing both amongst consumers and businesses alike has been rather stunted. In fact a recent report from Juniper Research predicted that sales of Smart Glasses, perhaps the most exciting of the current wearable options, are unlikely to reach more than 10 million per anum globally by 2018.
Yet are we victims of falling for the hyperbole a touch too much when it comes to our expectations of wearables, almost certainly. In too many corners wearables were being heralded as the next wave of technology that would be all conquering, much along the lines of tablets and smartphones before them.
[quote float=”right”]Are we victims of falling for the hyperbole a touch too much when it comes to our expectations of wearables, almost certainly.[/quote] This is where we are going wrong. Wearables such as Smart Glasses and Smart Watches are not replacements for tablets and smart phones, they are companion devices and when we change our thought process to view them as such they can be powerful tools – particularly in the area of field service.
We all can see for example how Smart watches offer a great means for a field engineer to receive alerts and messages without having to interrupt their workflow. However, a more specific use for the field service engineer could be if he were to use the camera on his smart watch in combination with the screen of his phone to view otherwise inaccessible area – such as the back of a machine.
With Smart Glasses the opportunities in field service are even more apparent. For example a less experienced field service engineer could put a video call into a more experienced colleague. Whilst this is of course possible with most modern smart phones, when such a call is made via smart glasses the more senior engineer can see exactly what the onsite engineer is looking at, whilst of course the onsite engineer has their hands free.
As the hyperbole dies down and real-life practical uses of wearables such as the above become better developed then we will see wearables take their place within the field service engineers tool-kit.
3. NFC will finally take it’s rightful place amongst field service must haves…
Near Field Communication (NFC) has been kicking around for some time now and the term is fairly well known amongst those with just a modicum of technological understanding, yet it hasn’t yet truly emerged to meet it’s potential as yet. And that potential could be massive in terms of further automating and streamlining multiple steps across a field service technicians working day.
However, as with smartphones themselves, it may just be that now computing giant Apple has stepped into the NFC fray (albeit somewhat tentatively it must be said) that we see NFC achieving true mass market penetration.
In very basic terms NFC acts in a wi-fi lite type where an NFC tag can be written to convey a set of rules which can be actioned by an NFC enabled device (many smart phones are now NFC enabled) when the device is brought in close proximity (typically within 10cm or more).
[quote float=”left”]An NFC tag within the field service engineers vehicle dashboard could be programmed to open up a routing/mapping application and log the start of a journey in a field service app simply by pressing the field engineers smart phone against the tag.[/quote] For the field service engineer for example there are a number of potential options for adding further layers of automation throughout his day. For example an NFC tag within the field service engineers vehicle dashboard could be programmed to open up a routing/mapping application and log the start of a journey in a field service app simply by pressing the field engineers smart phone against the tag.
If your field service operatives visit a company regularly then you could ship out NFC tags to your clients for them to put on reception so when a field service engineer comes in he can log his arrival at your clients premises – important when providing SLA reports for example.
As well as being able to provide actionable instructions, some NFC tags can also be written to contain data as well. So one other particularly useful application of a NFC in field service could be to leave an NFC tag on the device being repaired with notes on the maintenance carried out. That way the next time that device is repaired the field service engineer can read his colleagues notes to see if there are recurring problems etc. Similarly an NFC tag on the device could also open up a web-based knowledge base for that particular model etc.
Whilst all of the above options could of course simply be actioned by manually accessing apps what NFC offers is a means to further speed up and improve a field service engineer’s workflow. Indeed, the potential for NFC is vast and what makes it a particularly attractive proposition is that it is a relatively inexpensive addition (appx 30/40p per tag) that simply takes advantage of the functionality of the existing tools being used by the the field service engineer (i.e. smart phone or tablet)
With NFC now becoming an expected feature in most smartphones and tablets field service news believes that NFC will see much wider adoption in 2015.
Look out for the second part of this feature where we will be revealing three more of the big technology trends we believe will appear in 2015…