March 23, 2015
Why wearables are tailor-made for field service workers, who could become the technology’s biggest advocates.
When you hear the word wearables, you probably think of health conscious consumers donning digital devices to track their physical activity or technology enthusiasts getting sideways glances as they sport internet-enabled glasses on the subway. Maybe you’ve even heard of avid golfers using wearables to perfect their swings.
Wearable computing is predominately perceived as a consumer technology in search of a problem. That’s probably one of the major reasons why only 3% of enterprises are investing in wearable technology, down from 6% last year, according to our 2015 Digital IQ survey preview.
Enterprise wearables have a public relations problem. Currently, they are not considered a business necessity, but field service workers could begin to change that. One industry analyst firm estimates that smartglasses could deliver $1 billion annually to companies in increased productivity if field technicians and inspectors use the technology.
Mobile peaks and field service workers forge ahead with wearables
Mobile has revolutionized the field service industry. Field service workers have been freed from tedious paper-based tasks and empowered with unprecedented information and interactivity. However, the hands of workers remain tied. Field service workers must halt their work to get how-to instructions or guidance from a supervisor. Their concentration and progress are disrupted.
In forward-thinking enterprises a potent mix of technologies (augmented reality, 3D visualizations, and video conferencing) is piped through smartglasses to give field service workers critical information and facilitate valuable interactions. Schematics are overlaid onto the machines that workers are servicing, right before their eyes. Workers in remote locations can see what field service workers see to lend a helping hand. And, straight out of a scene from “Minority Report,” field service workers scroll through data downloaded via the cloud using hand gestures.
Wearable technology can close the gap between information and action, arming field service workers with the ability to work seamlessly, consistently, and safely. In short, wearables are tailor-made for field service workers. But wearables won’t do all the work alone to usher in the next wave of innovation in the area of field service.
Wearables + Internet of Things + 3D printing = field service reinvented
The Internet of Things (IoT) and 3D printing play a crucial role in taking field service to the next level as well, particularly in keeping field service workers proactively solving problems. Here’s an illustration of a typical scenario in which wearables, IoT, and 3D printing work together.
We foresee companies first experimenting with wearables in the area of field service. Once they realize the great gains to be had, the idea of wearables could catch on and spread across the company. It’s conceivable that field service workers will lead us into a future where wearables are woven into the fabric of enterprises.