At the beginning of 2020, the one technology predicted to finally be on the cusp of an industry-wide breakthrough this year was Augmented Reality (AR). Fast forward to the second half of the year, and that prediction has come true although for different reasons than those predicted.
With Covid-19 driving an urgent need for remote service delivery, suddenly AR almost overnight became a necessity rather than a mere nice-to-have technology. However, while the drive towards remote service delivery has been given turbo-boosters by the pandemic, the critical developments within the technology that we at Field Service News thought would be the catalyst for wider spread adoption of AR in field service.
That development was the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the field service focused AR. Here we look at how AI may well be the missing key to unlock AR’s potential
“The challenges posed by the current global situation and the related change in proximity logics are rapidly transforming many companies’ business processes and their approach to daily activities,” writes Francesco Benvenuto, Product Marketing Manager, OverIT
Having just combined the two technologies (AI and AR) in their 3.0 release of SPACE1 (OverIT’s dedicated AR solution to field service) demonstrated on the Field Service News Digital Symposium. The AI-enhanced version of SPACE1 was undoubtedly impressive with multiple potential time savings aspects that could help get trainee technicians out into the field, bringing value to the organization much, much faster.
However, the emergence of an AR solution underpinned by AI isn’t unique to SPACE1. It is the central premise of Augmentir’s solution. As Russ Fadel, CEO and Co-Founder, Augmentir outlined in an exclusive Field Service News feature where he explained why the next wave of AR implementations in our sector must harness Artificial Intelligence.
"What has been ignored is a real opportunity to create sustainable value throughout the organization – not only giving workers the ability to consume information and apply knowledge, but also augmenting the intelligence of the organization..."
- Russ Fadel, Augmentir
Writing in August 2019 Fadel had commented, “Despite some early momentum, Enterprise AR alone isn’t enough to deliver sustainable value in the field service sector.
“What has been ignored is a real opportunity to create sustainable value throughout the organization – not only giving workers the ability to consume information and apply knowledge, but also augmenting the intelligence of the organization relative to how it engages empowers, and continually improves its human workforce. At Augmentir, we are calling this Augmented Operations, and we believe that this will transform the service workforce of the future.”
Ultimately, at the heart of successful innovation in the industry is the harnessing of multiple technologies alongside each other.
As Bas De Vos, Vice President of IFS Labs, explains “Combining different technologies is the key to unlocking the full potential of any digital transformation/innovation projects.”
However, for DeVos, there is more that is needed for successful deployment of AR in field service than the introduction of AI.
“AI will certainly support the development of AR, but it’s not the only missing piece in its success,” De Vos suggests
“AI is a key ‘supportive’ technology, the use of AI in computer image processing and its unique learning abilities allows AR processes to develop to the next stage, to achieve the desired end goal and in doing so AI guides AR to new heights.
“However, to unlock the true value of AR’s potential, the world of head-mounted devices needs to accelerate. Today’s adoption speed is still lagging behind expectation which is mostly related to costs and the maturity of the hardware.
“The true value of AR shines best when combined with AI on a head mounted device, rather than a handheld device.”
The argument that De Vos makes undoubtedly holds some weight. Many would agree that the endpoint of AR in a field service environment would involve lightweight head-mounted computes. This allows the field service engineer to work hands-free, while still receiving vital information from either the asset itself via IoT connections, a remote expert or a knowledge management solution embedded into the AR/FSM solution.
However, it should equally be noted that the lack of affordable, field-ready solutions shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to adoption today.
Indeed, the majority of AR solutions today are available as cross-platform, solutions that can function well utilizing the existing technology in your field service technicians toolkit – namely either a smartphone or tablet.
In the Field Service News Digital Symposium presentation on SPACE1, there were multiple benefits of adopting such a tool, even if the implementation is based upon handheld devices.
For example, some of the benefits Benvenuto outlined during the presentation included:
- Maintenance: By providing support to field technicians during maintenance, inspection, and test activities, to enhance productivity, quality and safety, even in those situations with the low network coverage.
- Training: By introducing a new perspective in training activities, allowing users to collaborate everywhere and providing them with remote interaction and knowledge sharing tools.
- Presentation: By driving the way to cooperate to new heights, allowing to involve clients and suppliers from remote to propose products and share advanced contents in real-time, ensuring an unprecedented user experience.
However, what is catching the eye in many of the most impressive AR solutions is the further integration with Knowledge Management features, and this is increasingly reliant on harnessing the most advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies which allows for reshaping and sharing of collected data.
The future of AR in field service has finally begun, and AI will be a fundamental part of that future moving forward.
- Read more about digital transformation in field service @ /www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/digital-transformation
- Read more about the use of Artificial Intelligence in field service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/hs-search-results?term=artificial+intelligence
- Read more about the use of Augmented Reality in field service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/hs-search-results?term=augmented+reality+
- Find out more about the solutions OverIT offer field service companies @ www.overit.it/en/
- Find out more about the solutions IFS offer field service companies @ www.ifs.com/uk/
- Find out more about the solutions Augmentir offer field service companies @ www.augmentir.com/