3 Ways Wearables will Impact Daily Field Service Operations

field service wearables

We are living through a global wearables popularity explosion. As more smartwatches, glasses, and voice-activated devices continue to hit the shelves, the size of the global wearable market will surge from $2.93 billion in 2016 to an estimated $5.8 billion in 2018, according to the latest research.

From pet trackers to sleep enhancement devices, wearables impact nearly every corner of daily life for consumers. But will wearables have a long-term impact on field service management?

In a recent post on the future of field service, we made the case that wearables will be a game-changer for field service. Here we go a step further to uncover three specific ways that wearables will impact daily field service management operations.

1. Voice Command & Hands-free Activity for Increased Productivity

Voice command went mainstream in 2011 with Apple’s rollout of Siri. But the first version was shaky at best. After a few short years of tinkering, voice activated wearables and devices have become fully capable and complex. They allow consumers to shop, change a home’s temperature, or play their favorite music all without lifting a finger.

And this trend is making waves well beyond consumer devices. Voice command already enables complete autonomy and hands-free activity for the most innovative field service organizations.

For the energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and utilities services sectors, voice command will be a major productivity game-changer.

Voice-activated watches already offer enough technology to help techs take notes, call headquarters, activate a case, access repair history, or search a database. And they can achieve this all without stepping away from the task at hand. Field service organizations willing to get ahead by investing in voice-activated wearables will win big in the long run.

While they are not yet as advanced, smart glasses also show promise. Imagine headquarters being able to virtually monitor service as it happens, providing real-time assistance. Or imagine techs wearing smart glasses that have graphic overlays showing how to troubleshoot or fix complex equipment. Finally, smart glasses could be used to automate and streamline searching for product information. With simple codes printed on parts and equipment, eventually smart glasses will simply pull up maintenance history and repair documentation for techs on the spot.

Sound far-fetched?

Not for the Japanese telecommunications company, NTT Data. According to Tractica’s annual report, NTT recently launched a hugely successful pilot program using smart glasses for remote site maintenance.

During their pilot, a senior engineer remotely monitored tech activity, while the tech had smart glasses with access to a user manual and an overlaid augmented reality (AR) marker controlled by the senior engineer. Through several tests, they demonstrated significant field-based value for smart glasses by speeding service times and reducing error rates.

NTT Data hopes to scale this program in the future to improve productivity and reduce the number techs necessary on site at any given time.

2. Prompts and Field-based Knowledge for Reduced Job Error

According to Internet Retailer, 68% of manufacturers report they believe wearable devices will help them drive more service business.

How?

Through efficiency and reduced job error.

We believe wearables will significantly reduce error through AR and field prompts delivered via wearable devices. As discussed above, many highly advanced smart glasses already exist. These devices stand to enhance clarity for service technicians by providing overlays and displays with clear steps for repair, service history, and information previously unavailable in the field. And this can happen without techs having to push a single button.

Augmented reality devices will allow workers to get rid of paper checklists and stop workers from having to rely on memory. When a worker detects a problem, they can take a photo of the problem from their smart glasses and upload it to a database. Incidents and issues can then be logged in real-time, without field techs leaving their work, or having to log a separate report.

In addition, management will be able to keep track of technician performance and progress in real-time from headquarters.

With direct access to this knowledge in the field, risk of error will significantly reduce. By developing full transparency on tech performance, and using AR smart glasses that give instructions on exactly how to complete a job, field-based errors may very well become a thing of the past.

3. Increased Safety through Smartwatch Biometric Data

Many believe wearables simply offer management new avenues to control workers. For some, big tech can feel like big brother. But the opportunities for field service safety improvements with wearables are too substantial to ignore. Big brother isn’t so bad, if he’s saving your life.

Nearly all smartwatches track biometric data.For example, during hot summer months, an organization could track their field tech’s body temperatures and heart rates. This could ensure injuries or death due to heat do not occur. Management could also monitor vibration levels among techs working with drills and heavy tools to ensure they stay at a reasonable threshold. 

For technicians working in remote locations, handling dangerous equipment, or working alone, keeping track of targeted biometric and location data will prove useful in keeping employees safe. 

It’s no fun thinking about worst-case scenarios, but it’s simply better to have a plan for ensuring these situations do not occur in the first place.

Whether you are seeking to increase safety, improve efficiency, or empower techs with deeper knowledge while in the field – wearables will prove integral to your future success. And while wearables might not be completely ready for the mainstream, they will soon be commonplace among field service technicians.

For more information about the future of field service technology, please visit the technology section of our blog.

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Field Service Matters is about framing new conversations in field service management. We invite a variety of industry thought leaders and specialists to share their perspectives on various areas in workforce management, and explore the big ideas that power service excellence and innovation.

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