Field service automation and its relationship to the IoT has often been discussed over the past few years. But the technological revolution that’s changing how field service techs work is not over. In the coming year, several interconnected technologies will revolutionize how field service is conducted. According to this list compiled by Gartner, these are the ones you should know for the future.
Devices That Communicate With Each Other
Think about it. First you bought a Macbook, then an iPhone, then an iPad, then an Apple TV, then an Apple Watch. All of these devices can communicate with each other and pass along information, and ultimately work together. They sync up to your car, your home, and you.
Whether it's wearables, mobile devices, or other consumer electronics, in the future, more devices will have smart sensors as the price becomes cheaper. In the IoT world devices will be able to interact between each other in what is called the device mesh. Sensors will communicate with mobile devices, wearables, and other devices that field service techs use, sending signals when there are problems with the equipment. The engineering and electronics company Bosch is already using sensors in its IoT environment that monitor machines and transmit data so patterns can be reviewed, and failures predicted in time to prevent unplanned downtime.
Ambient User Experience Takes Over
People are mobile, and many of the devices they use in their daily lives are carried with them as they go. Because of the device mesh, someone may be playing a game via their gaming device and then switch it to their mobile device and then pick it up again on their smartwatch. This ambient user experience means that your use of technology will never have to come to a complete halt. Users will be able to experience things across shifting devices wherever they go.
For field service this means that techs will be able to access customer information and data everywhere: on a tablet, smartwatch, smartphone, or laptop.
3D Printing Becomes More Popular
A field service tech is at a job, and he needs a part to fix a customer’s problem. What if he didn’t have to pre-order the part and already have it ready? What if he could just head back to his van and 3D print the part right there on the spot while on-site? That’s what technology is pushing towards as 3D printing continues to advance. More and more people are using 3D printers, and this means that businesses will have to begin rethinking how their parts, inventory, and supply chain processes will look in the future. Rolls-Royce has already created the world’s largest 3D printed object: a XWB-97 airplane engine that will begin flight-testing this year.
Autonomous Virtual Agents and Robots
While robots might not take over field service anytime soon, they will work as assistants to people in the future. Virtual Personal Assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri will learn and become smarter, and they are the precursors of other robots and virtual assistants that will act autonomously. No longer will people have to press buttons or swipe around to find apps on their phone, they will be able to communicate directly with the assistant who will be able to do what they need on their device. The sheet metal manufacturer, Tradesman Manufacturing, is already using Baxter, an autonomous robot that can help with line loading, tending to machines, and material handling.
Device Application Software Architecture For Service
In the future, businesses will create applications that can be more easily distributed and scaled. Field fervice software should be able to be deployed to multiple people, used across teams and connected to the existing IT infrastructure meaning it needs to be compatible with the ERP and CRM system. This application software should be available whether the tech using it is on the work premises or out in the field accessing it via the cloud.
Better and More Adaptive Security Architecture
One of the biggest reasons field service companies don’t switch to cloud-based mobile workforce management is that they are worried about the security of the cloud. Since businesses will continue to build technological systems that will grow in complexity and will rely increasingly on the cloud, IT professionals will have to adapt and focus on finding and eliminating threats to cloud-based services, and preventing these attacks in the first place. Cisco has developed a next generation, threat-focused security architecture that detects cyber dangers to protect the cloud-based systems of large enterprises and service providers.