The newest generation iPhone, combined with the predictive qualities of Apple’s latest gadget, the Apple Watch, offers several exciting possibilities for hands-free mobility in the field.
It’s not hard to imagine technicians, hands tied trying to fix equipment, jump at the chance to read a text message or call a colleague for help by speaking to the device on their wrist. Here’s a look at how Apple’s newest devices, when used in tandem, could transform how your techs do their jobs.
iPhone 6 Plus: Bigger, Better, Faster
The Apple Watch is intended to work closely with a user’s iPhone (iPhone 5 or later required). The iPhone 6, released last fall, includes several improvements that make the relationship more powerful.
- Faster networking speeds: The iPhones got a bump in networking power thanks to the latest networking standard (IEEE 802.11). With LTE-enabled connectivity, speeds have increased to 150 Mbps from 100 Mbps in earlier models. For technicians, this ensures snappy download and upload speeds.
- “Hand-off” capability: New feature allows users to seamless switch phone connections between WiFi and cellular data. This could prove useful to technicians working in remote areas with low cellular coverage.
- Upgradability: Base models come with 16 gigabytes of storage, which may be restrictive for some technicians. But access to iCloud data storage helps alleviate these limitations. It’s noticeably cheaper to upgrade the storage on the iPhone 6 compared with earlier models. This is an advantage for field service leaders who need to store a lot of data on their employees’ devices.
- Larger screen: The “phablet” form factor of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (4.7-inch and 5.5 inch screens) provides ample room to type, and more space to view text and images. These size advantages make it easier for techs to display illustrations, schematics or to collaborate via real-time video.
McKinley Equipment, an Irvine, Calif.-based commercial and warehouse door solutions provider, is currently evaluating the iPhone 6’s potential. In 2011, the company supplied its technicians with iPads, but the company is considering replacing the iPad-smartphone combination with the iPhone 6.
“We could save money on equipment and connectivity costs by providing a single iPhone,” says Dave Carevich, director of business development at McKinley.
Beyond the Apple Watch Hype
The iPhone 6, from its larger form factor to virtually unlimited cloud-based storage, allows techs to work faster and more easily in the field. Combined with the Apple Watch, the potential is even greater.
- Communications: Users can speak to their wrists, or use a Bluetooth headset for more private interactions. Technicians can also seamlessly transfer a call from the Apple Watch to the iPhone by scrolling up with the digital crown and tapping “Answer on iPhone.”
- Alerts: A technician’s phone can be stowed away while alerts, such as text messages, are transmitted via vibrations and messages display on the watch. Quick-tap buttons for “yes” and “no” make it easy to respond.
- Siri: In the new iOS8, users can access the personal assistant Siri at any time. Instead of holding down the home button on their phone, technicians simply speak their requests and the personal assistant will respond.
- Safety: The phone’s biometric capabilities could also improve technician safety. The watch offers a barometer feature that tracks elevation. Any precipitous drop in altitude could indicate a possible fall and could be set up to automatically contact emergency relief services. In addition, a heart rate monitor increases biometric surveillance. Technicians could give their company access to the data, or keep that personal data private.
There are, of course, some big caveats. For starters, the cost of both devices is likely prohibitive for many organizations, especially small- and medium-sized service companies. A base model iPhone 6 starts at $199, while the watch starts at $349. That’s more than $550 to outfit a single technician, not including carrier costs.
The iPhone 6 along with the Apple Watch really does represent a formidable duo that will become more pronounced as wearables enter the mainstream. Nanotechnology, IoT, human-machine communications and robotics are other emerging trends that point to a level of ubiquitous computing that will surely get more affordable over time.
The question for field service executives is: How quickly will organizations recognize the advantage and move toward broader adoption?