Virtual reality and other devices are poised to revolutionize field service work in a vast array of areas. From training on the job to how the back office works, these technologies are reshaping how field service companies interact with customers and machines on-site. Virtual reality devices make it so technicians can work hands-free.
If you’re not already monitoring these types of technology and their use in field service, here are the devices to look for in the coming months.
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are poised to transform not only gaming, but how field service workers are trained. Headsets such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens let the person wearing them see into tiny spaces and view data or information such as instruction videos in front of their faces. In this way, VR headsets can also make servicing dangerous equipment safer, since workers can practice by simulating the steps listed in the instructions on the machine in a virtually reconstructed world.
Along with VR headsets, VR gloves are also convenient in field service since they can simulate touch. When using the gloves, technicians would be able to manipulate objects in virtual reality in conjunction with VR headset, but the gloves can also be used in the real world when they are utilized to manipulate robotic arms.
Technicians that must work with sensitive or delicate equipment parts could use VR gloves and/or headsets to be able to control robotic arms fitted with pressure sensors. These arms can pick up equipment or machinery parts and sense whether to have a gentler or rougher touch while holding the part. It’s especially great for items that need special attention or are located in hard-to-reach areas.
In the future, you won’t have to touch screens. You read that right. Google is developing software called Project Soli that allows ultra-sensitive radar to pick up your hand gestures on a touchscreen, without you needing to make tactile contact with the screen. The radar can sense even the smallest hand movements. And would mean technicians would no longer have to hold their mobile devices in their hands when they are working.
Drones with 3D Cameras
Field service drones are already in use by some organizations. They can venture high up to dangerous locations and also capture the full picture of a particular object or area of land down on the ground for techs that work on agricultural projects. However, with new technology, drones can be fitted with 3D cameras and will be able to return with 3D visual renderings of a subject or a transmit a live 3D image, whether it’s of a power plant or oil rig.
For safety reasons, helmets are an essential part of many field service workers uniforms, so why not have one that has a built in headset that makes working with VR possible. Technicians would be able to pull up information they need on a piece of equipment and visualize solutions to problems. Though expensive--the Daqri Smart Helmet starts at $5,000--it’s the smartest way to replace hardhats; even better, smart helmets even come with safety glasses.
Smartphones and Tablets
Currently, even though new technologies are springing up every week, smartphone and tablets provide the best and most affordable route for downloading mobile field service software that is easily accessible to all the members of your service team. Smartphone and tablets make mobility a reality, rather than just a possibility. And these devices are not set to go out of style any time soon, as some smartphones even work in conjunction with VR headsets.
Although Google Glass haven't yet taken off in the real world or in field service, like VR headsets, smart glasses provide a way for techs to see information while on-site without having to dig for another device. With smart glasses, users can see information ranging from notifications of schedule changes to step-by-step instructions on how to fix a machine, right in front of their faces.
Though smartwatches aren’t standalone devices, they enhance the usefulness of smartphones and work well in conjunction with other mobile devices. A technician wearing a smartwatch can communicate with the back office via messaging, search for directions to the next service call location, or review data conveniently from their wrist.