Trends in Field Solutions: Hardware, Software, Wearables, AR, Robotics
- September 25, 2017
- By: Vonigo
The field service industry has seen a lot of change in a very short time. Much of that change has been to the field solutions that techs use on the job. While the bulk of the tools of the trade may not have changed, some of the new technology has changed dramatically, and even become the status quo.
What follows is a list of some of the tech that has become part of the job, and some items to look out for in the not-too-distant future.
Field Solutions Hardware: Tablets
Mobile devices have truly become the status quo in field service. We have already reached a time when paper-based work orders send the wrong message to customers. The ease and instantaneousness of clocking in and out of jobs with a mobile device make it the method of choice.
Changes to tablet and smartphone technology have been incremental of late, but here are some of the more popular models:
Apple iPad Pro (as seen at right)
Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft’s flagship Surface Pro received some conservative updates for 2017. Better battery life still keeps it the gold standard of Windows “hybrid PCs,” a fancy term for tablets with keyboards.
Google Pixel C
The Google Pixel C has a slim, compact aluminum build that feels sturdy. Its optional Bluetooth keyboard is equally solid and doubles as the tablet’s cover and it has a powerful, long-running battery. In short: the Google Pixel C is the best Android tablet money can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Book (pictured at right)
The Samsung Galaxy Book beats the Surface on value by including a keyboard cover and stylus in the box, but the Surface’s design is still more refined.
Caterpillar T20 Tablet
Need something a little more rugged for your field work? The T20 tablet is dust, water, vibration and drop proof from a height of up to 1.8m. It’s designed to operate in harsh environments and extremely low and high temperatures.
Protect Your Tablets with Rugged Cases
If you want to protect and extend the life of your tablet, Kensington are the current reigning champs of rugged tablet case design. Their military grade Blackbelt tablet cases have best-in-class drop protection.
Field Solutions Hardware: Smartphones
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8 retakes the throne as the ultimate Android phone, for now. It tops Samsung’s already excellent S8 and S8 Plus with dual cameras and a boatload of stylus tricks. It’s the most feature-rich Android phone you can buy.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus (pictured at right)
The iPhone 8 Plus is a great phone with a spectacular camera. But wait for the upcoming iPhone X before buying. It promises to fold all of the key features of the 8 Plus into a smaller package.
Field Service Software
If you’re not already operating your business with software that is purpose-built for your company’s needs, you’re missing out.
A growing number of customers prefer to book online and to connect with your company, confirm appointments and even pay invoices digitally. If you’re still using paper-based work orders in triplicate and taking checks, you might be at a disadvantage to your competition. This one’s not a trend; it’s evolved into a must-have.
Various different kinds of wearables are coming to the fore. Obvious safety solutions like led-enabled jackets and helmets are becoming more popular. Devices that track the health of technicians while they do their work are beginning to put to use as well. Wearable cameras have their place too; to help with training and reporting of job conditions, among other uses.
Meanwhile, techs may be incorporating any number of wearables into their workday in a BYOD (bring your own device) way: step counters, smart watches, heart rate monitors and more are appearing on workers, as they take a greater interest in their health and connectivity.
New consumer trends are being tested as well, meaning it may only be a short time before they have commercial applications. For example, Google’s jean jacket that can read texts to you.
AR (Augmented Reality)
AR is best explained as the addition of digital information into the user’s environment, in real time. Large manufacturers like Boeing have already begun to use AR to help mechanics with installations and repairs. It’s only a matter of time before this has broader commercial applications.
For example, an HVAC technician might be well-versed in air conditioner repair. But they might still benefit from being able to view details from the repair manuals of the myriad devices they see in any given workday. Having a detailed view of parts and repair methods can be a massive time saver. One that is worth the investment of hardware for field service companies.
Some techs are already beginning to wonder: When will the robots replace me? Thankfully most robotics technology is still cost-prohibitive enough that is it remains at the prototype phase. But with commercial, programmable robots that can play music, lift heavy objects, and even run at full speed, automatons may be the way of our near future. Self-driving trucks and cars are already in use too.
While a robot electrician or plumber may be a few years out, exoskeletons, both powered and unpowered, are already seeing some use. The current mantra of the developers of exoskeletons is “endurance first, power second.” Perhaps before a robot takes your job, parts of robots will be used to help you perform like a superhuman. And of course, we may also see a future where Sigourney Weaver’s powered suit becomes a reality. In a way, it already has.
With so many advancements happening in technology that can be applied to field solutions, it’s exciting to think about what might come next, and the implications the new technology will have.
Are you interested to learn more about field service software and how it can help your business get to the next level? Book a free, private demo of Vonigo.
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