Ask your AI what it means

Aug 02, 2018 • FeaturesFuture of FIeld Service

Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News, reflects his thoughts on the impact of Artificial Intelligence in the field service sector during his leader in the May/June issue Field Service News...

A recurring theme across this leader across the first few issues of this year has been around the perfect storm of technology that has evolved around us and how the field service sector is embracing technology at a faster rate than ever...

In fact, I’ve often gone to great lengths to stress that it is not about any one technology, in particular, that is driving field service delivery to ever increasing heights but in fact how these technologies can come together in a service-centric ecosystem.

However, one thing that I keep coming back around to when I’m thinking about this topic is that there is actually one key technology that whilst isn’t perhaps a technology that we can explore on its own is in fact perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle.

That, of course, is Artificial Intelligence or AI.

Of course, in field service, AI is nothing that new.

It could be argued that the complex and intricate algorithms that sit within and enable fully optimised and dynamic scheduling engines to do their thing are AI. They learn, they adapt and they do it largely by themselves (if set up correctly). Sounds like AI to me, and dynamic scheduling has been around for a long time.

There is for sure some degree of truth in this, and AI is to some degrees a nice catchy name for a whole raft of different algorithms all designed to do something different. In some circles we throw in the words Machine Learning as well, which for those that know about this type of thing will almost certainly have a nuanced difference from AI - but speaking on behalf of laymen and troglodytes everywhere - I’m damned if I can work out what it is.

However, what I can do is get my head around just why AI is so important.

As I said earlier it is the various other technologies that are feeding into each other in one ecosystem that will allow us to drive our service standards forwards.

For example, IoT has been a huge talking point in the industry now for quite some time, but the sheer volume of data we now create has made it almost impossible to extrapolate meaningful insight from that data.

Step forward AI.

“Whilst meaningful insight is good to have, surely it becomes a moot point unless we can drive action from it as well...”Similarly, whilst meaningful insight is good to have, surely it becomes a moot point unless we can drive action from it as well. Automation is a phrase that comes in and out of the buzz-word lexicon but it has substance - ultimately we want to be able to automate where ever possible if we are to increase efficiency. But getting data flowing from a to b to trigger c can be a cumbersome and clunky task.

Again step forward AI.

Or how about within the contact centre space allowing your chat-bots to actually prove useful and complete some considerable triage before assessing whether a real human needs to get involved?

Or finally being able to see the true potential of smart-glasses for your engineers by enabling a voice control that actually works and contextual layering of Augmented Reality information when asked for.

Step forward once more AI.

You see it is my belief that AI will become the glue that binds all of our other technologies together. It is the brain that makes the body work.

And perhaps here is the perfect analogy because a brain all by itself is a fairly useless thing - just a big, pink, wrinkly sponge that can’t do anything at all - but give it a body and it can really make things happen.

The same goes for AI - it is not something we should consider as it’s own independent entity. But it is the secret sauce that will make everything else work properly.

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