This article first published on Chief Mobility Officer
There’s little argument that mobile tech is a great tool for workplace communication and convenience, but what about benefits beyond simple tasks such as emailing and scheduling? Indeed, companies are still trying to find the best ways mobile tech can truly transform work processes. One of the fields that seems to poised to feel some of the deepest impact from mobility is field service, where workers are naturally remote.
Here are five mobile technologies that are reinventing field service:
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Although RFID is not a new phenomenon, the more widespread adaptation of these wireless chips that store information has been a beneficial productivity tool for workers in the field. RFIDs can be read in many environmental conditions (dirt, dust, and mud pose little-to-no threat to these tags) in order to help workers avoid manual data entry. Some RFID tags today also have the capacity to hold more information than a simple barcode — like service history on a product — providing workers important insight on a specific job or piece of equipment. “In the past, RFID tags typically displayed a serial number and not much else,” RFID Journal founder and editor Dan Roberti told The SmartVan. “But now we have applications that can read those tags and know, ‘this is a piece of an oil pipe.’ We can read the tags as they’re going down in the well. We know the history of the pipe: Is it damaged? Is the temperature changing? Now we can track the whole maintenance history.”
Managing a fleet of vehicles without a garage or hub sounds like a nightmare for a manager, right? Not necessarily. Thanks to new technologies like geo-fencing, companies like Aspludh Tree Expert Co. can manage its 16,000 truck fleet nationally by setting up virtual fences for them. The geo-fencing system will send alerts via e-mail, text, or notification to a central portal about where the trucks are, when they are there, and how they traveled to the spot, allowing managers to coordinate accordingly. Zones and target areas can be set using geo-fencing to provide updates on an on-the-move crew. It can be used to clock workers in and out and keep track of their whereabouts.
- M2M Technology
Paperwork reduction is one major advantage of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technology in any sector. However, in an industry that includes a lot of work monitoring or repairing machines, the ability to remotely communicate with these machines is a game-changer. Now, instead of checking meters every day or manually taking inventory, workers can receive notifications straight from the machine about where, when, what, and how things need to be serviced.
- Mobile Apps
These days, it seems like there’s always an app for that. The same rings true for workers in the field. Field service businesses can utilize all-encompassing field service applications like cloud-based Service Max to communicate with their hub, check inventory, place orders, and create contracts. Workers can also install more specific tools such as GeoViewer Mobile for iPad, which provides building schematics, GPS trackers, or even mobile payment options like Square, Intuit, and PayPal to collect payments from clients on site.
- Mobile Video
With the help of high-speed mobile networks, the ability to communicate, not only orally but also visually, from the field has changed the way workers interact with one another, the project, and, when applicable, even their customers.
“We’re not going to eliminate emails and voicemails from support, but we need to look for how we can introduce video [communications] to strategic customers, or premier customers,” John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association, told the SmartVan. “It’s just one more way to offer that smiling video concierge who’s always there to help in a very personal way.”
Mobile video allows workers to show rather than tell — critical when in the field trying to service something — and to work collaboratively as a team. If a tech doesn’t know how to fix a part, he can live stream video with another expert who is able to walk him through the process. Or, companies can upload instructional videos to the Web or a cloud service so that workers can view them if unsure of a process.