Mobile & Tech

Field Service Roundup: SolarCity & Fleetmatics Go IPO, World’s Toughest Smartphone, Social CRM for Dummies

Every week we run across dozens of interesting news items, blog posts, tweets, white papers, market data and trends — all tied to field service in one way or another. We don’t have time to cover them all, so we’re starting this weekly roundup to help readers keep tabs on a business sector in the midst of an exciting, tech-driven evolution. Here’s the first edition:

Field service goes to Wall St. First there was Fleetmatics — the Dublin, Ireland-based company that sells remote fleet-tracking services — launching its IPO Oct. 5 and raising $106 million. Then SolarCity followed this week with an S-1 filing and plans to raise $200 million with a forthcoming IPO. On the face of it, those are two very different businesses — Fleetmatics, an enterprise SaaS for managing fleets of commercial vehicles; and SolarCity, the much-hyped (and much-funded) clean-tech startup that installs and services home solar panels.The common thread? Tech innovation applied to field service from different angles. Fleetmatics’ software doesn’t just track over 280,000 vehicles; as Boston Business Journal’s Kyle Alspach notes, it’s “extracting actionable business intelligence from vehicle and driver behavioral data.” That’s an emerging competitive advantage of today’s field service organizations. And SolarCity isn’t so much a clean-tech startup as it is a complex, tech-powered field service operation — now in 14 states, and according to the S-1, with installations in nearly 34,000 buildings and homesRead more…

World’s toughest phone?  Need an on-the-job phone that can survive armegeddon — or the roughest job site imaginable? The new Nautiz X1 from Sweden’s Handheld Group boasts enviable features, writes Greg Crowe at Government Computer News. It might well be the world’s most rugged phone yet, with “IP67 ingress protection rating against dust, sand and full immersion in water, as well as full MIL-STD-810G compliance for humidity, vibration, drops and extreme temperatures.” It hits the market in January with an $899 price tag. Read more…

When to go rugged … or not. The consumerization of IT may be charging right along, but there are limits with field service: Where do you draw the line between outfitting techs with consumer devices that can handle field work, and spending more on purpose-built rugged products like the X1? Mike Wills, North America VP at ruggedt device maker Psion, offers an objective guide to making the right call. Read more…

3 safest tablets for the enterprise. A new report from U.K.-based Context Information Security offers comfort for field service CIOs who still consider security a top concern as they fold more tablets into the workforce. The most secure devices?  BlackBerry’s PlayBook, followed by Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. LifeHacker’s Angus Kidman takes a closer look. Read more…

Social CRM for dummies… OK, not dummies. But embracing the social enterprise is a hot topic — it’s also an utterly foreign concept for a lot of field service organizations learning how to steer their businesses from the 20th century to the 21st. Gartner has officially anointed the concept a marketplace — and blessed it with a “Magic Quadrant,” with 13 companies plotted within as players. Louis Columbus offers his take on Forbes. Read more…

…and late adopters. Field Technologies Online editor Sarah Howland sums up the potential of the social enterprise to companies that have been extremely late adopters: “While your competition is still rolling its eyes at the idea of social technology in the enterprise,” Howland notes, “you can be reaping the benefits.” Read more….

Manufacturing outlook: Not great, not terrible. The latest Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) Survey came out this week, with a forecast of “slowing growth for U.S. manufacturing over the next three to six months.” It’s not all grim news, as the report suggests that manufacturing should pick up again soon, says MAPI economist Donald Norman, “even if at a much slower rate than what we’ve experienced over the past two years.” Read more…

More: How Geofencing Helps One Company Track 16,000 Trucks.

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