Imagine a reality in which slipping on a pair of glasses can transport you to another world, provide you with previously unavailable insight and knowledge, and connect you with people and experiences far removed. That is exactly what augmented reality and virtual reality are both promising and delivering. And the field service industry has a lot to gain by integrating these innovations into its business strategy.
Many people associate augmented and virtual reality with the gaming industry. Technologies developed and honed for people who want to defend the universe against an alien invasion and protect civilization from mass extinction. However, the technology offers far more than a bit of entertainment for a niche group.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are two sides of the same coin. Both allow users to delve beyond what is actually visible and tangible and into a virtual or augmented space. Though the two present similar possibilities, the applications are uniquely different.
Augmented reality allows you to experience an enhanced version of your surroundings. For example,
a surgeon could perform a minimally invasive operation guided by augmented reality glasses that help locate what would otherwise only be visible with much larger incisions.
images of the inner workings of a machine could be overlaid on the machine’s exterior to provide service technicians with a detailed guide for performing repairs and maintenance.
a quick scan of QR codes using augmented reality glasses could provide information about where to locate replacement parts or even provide an overview of the device’s production and repair history.
Virtual reality allows you to step inside a world completely separate from your own. The tools extend beyond a pair of glasses and often involve a full sensory immersion into an alternate reality. This makes it possible, for example, to:
simulate how a pilot might maneuver a plane in distress and land safely.
have virtual meetings with business partners in foreign countries.
determine how a machine will function before it has been manufactured.
Given these two tools, companies have the potential to revolutionize how they approach field service repairs and maintenance.
Excellent maintenance starts before the field service call. By using augmented reality and virtual reality tools during the training process, companies can offer new field service technicians ample opportunity to practice both standard maintenance procedures and more complex repair work. This ensures that field service technicians are armed with the knowledge and skill to quickly and accurately address customers’ technical issues.
However, it is impossible to practice for every potential scenario. Virtual reality and augmented reality make it possible for field service technicians to access all the knowledge they might need in order to solve a customer’s technical issues. One option available is to use their own mobile devices to upload manuals or videos that display detailed information about the machines in need of maintenance or repair and how best to tackle the problems. Another option is to enlist the support of a specialist who can assess the situation using virtual reality tools and provide real-time expert assistance.
These measures offer financial savings in the form of money saved on transport and accommodation costs for shuttling experts to field service sites to assist field service technicians. They also make it more likely that an issue will be resolved during the first field service visit. This is a sure way to keep customers satisfied and loyal business partners.
With augmented and virtual reality set to become a $4 billion business by 2020, it is clear that companies are realizing the competitive advantage that these technologies have to offer. The potential for cost savings and optimization are immeasurable. And the more widespread the technology becomes, the more integral it will be for standard business processes. That is why it is essential for field service providers to get out in front by exploring the many applications of these enhanced realities.
Check out the video below to see how an automated field service solution uses augmented reality to meet customer expectations.