As the lines between working and personal lives and devices blur, conferences like South by Southwest (March 7-11 in Austin, Texas) offer a glimpse of what’s to come in field service technology. From wearables to the latest “smart” machines, the devices on stage during the conference season just might be within technicians’ reach in the field next year. Here’s a look at where that technology is headed — and how it could impact your field service organization sooner than you think:

Heartbeats to Replace Passwords, Fingerprints & Keys?

One of the most-anticipated mobile technologies expected at this year’s South by Southwest confab are wearables that rely on so-called biometric identification, or biological data such as fingerprints, for user access. Take the Nymi, a new wearable bracelet from Canadian manufacturer Bionym, that detects a person’s heartbeat and, if verified, turns on. Wearable devices that use biometric identification could help field service techs easily log into devices and mobile apps while protecting sensitive customer and company data in the case of a lost or stolen device. It’s still early days for wearable technology and biometric identification, but the efficiency and security possibilities in field service aren’t hard to imagine — especially in heavily regulated industries such as health care and pharmaceuticals.

Read more at USA Today

Mobile Devices that Respond to Voices, Gestures

Kiwi_Move_-380x380Devices that scan a person’s heartbeat aren’t the only advancement in wearable technology expected to make waves at South by Southwest. Canadian manufacturer Kiwi Wearables will also be showcasing its Kiwi Move bracelet. Similar to the Fitbit and other consumer health-focused bracelets, the Move tracks users’ movements, but it doesn’t stop there. The device also responds to gestures and voice commands, allowing users to control connected devices and appliances with their voices and gestures. While the bracelet is intended for consumers, wearable technologies that respond to voice and motion commands hold promise for the field service industry. Imagine having the ability to control tools and troubleshoot equipment — all from a small band around your wrist.

Read more at Mashable

Technicians on the Wearable Front Lines

Wearable technologies, such as Google Glass, could be a $1 billion opportunity in field service, according to Gartner. Need more proof of wearable tech’s potential impact on service? Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre writes in Forbes that business, not consumer, users will be the most exciting for wearable technologies like watches and headsets. She predicts that these technologies will make technicians more efficient and productive while making business operations more profitable — with the field industry experiencing the biggest lift. “The greatest savings in field service will come from diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly, without needing to bring additional experts to remote sites,” she writes.

Read more at Forbes

Easy Mobile Collaboration with Skype, Integration

Service technicians worldwide who use, Microsoft’s free online email service, can now integrate with Skype. Field service organizations are discovering the power of video, and this integration offers another convenient (and free) mobile collaboration tool for workers in the field. The video chat feature in Skype could, for example, help field technicians diagnose and solve customer problems by communicating instantly with colleagues, manufacturers or even partners.

The integration between the two Microsoft-owned services, previously available in test markets (including the U.S.), requires a simple setup process to link contacts between and Skype.

Read more at CNET