This week’s announcement of the Apple Watch — with all the pomp & circumstance expected of an Apple event — was followed closely here at ServiceMax. It’s no secret that field service is a very compelling business use case for wearables like the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Google Glass and a whole slew of other devices. Often weighed down with a truck, a roller bag full of tools and parts, a ladder and various other tools of the trade, techs want to travel lighter. Many are carrying laptops today, and wearables may provide them the option to downsize the bulk while making customer, product and part information even more readily accessible.
The interest in wearables in field service is so strong that Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre recently predicted, “In 2017, savings in the field service industry will increase $1 billion due to smartglasses.” She bases that figure on the potential time savings smartglasses may offer and the millions of field technicians in the global market. Including other types of wearables like watches, GoPro cameras and the like only mean this opportunity may be even larger. But as optimistic as many are, will wearables really take over field service? Here’s a few things to consider as wearables get ready for primetime:
1. Convenience/Fit: What will your techs need to get the job done? Servicing a wind turbine on a Tehachapi ridge is vastly different than servicing an MRI machine in the basement of a hospital. Your industry may even have important needs like non-sparking equipment. One reason I like the Apple Watch? The wrist is a very convenient option (much more so than a GoPro strapped to my head or glasses that may fall off).
2. Features/Form Factor: When using a wearable, what are the tasks a tech needs to accomplish? Getting alerts like “30 minutes until next appointment!” or “SLA expiring in one hour!” would be a great use of the Apple Watch, but debriefing a multi-product work order? Perhaps not.
3. Collaboration: My favorite feature of the Apple Watch (which TechCrunch didn’t get and called “a bit of a strange concept”, was the paired communication mode. It’s basically two people, each with Apple Watches, able to chat and share hand-drawn messages rather than just a text. I can definitely see the appeal of two techs or a tech and an engineer from the home office troubleshooting a tough problem using this feature. There’s even a camera in this thing. (Cut the red wire! No, the blue one!)
Time will tell if the Apple Watch can match the hype (comedian Ricky Gervais isn’t convinced – see tweet below). But I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds!
Just saved myself 350 quid pic.twitter.com/SpdvesIog7
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) September 9, 2014