Whilst there were not that many surprises emanating from Cupertino with the latest Apple announcement (a 5inch iPhone had already be confirmed by leaks from a manufacturing base in China, whilst the fact that Apple have been working on a wearable is probably the worst kept secret in technology history) the fact is that when the folks at Apple launched the first iPhone it changed field service and enterprise mobility solutions forever. So what does this latest iteration mean for field service? Click Software's Gil Bouhnick takes a look...
So, what can the new iPhone and Apple Watch do for the field service?
The answer is: it depends. You probably don’t need the duo immediately, but the features are such that for workers out in the field, especially those that work for utilities, communications service providers, capital equipment, or even traveling healthcare workers, the benefits will be a boost for both employee and employer.
Here are a few advantages that may prove useful for field service organisations:
From a competitive standpoint we had been seeing a fair number of organisations move to Android devices for 2 reasons: cost and size. The new iPhone (the 6 coming in at 4.7” and the 6 Plus at 5.5”) address the size issues, giving workers in sometimes difficult environments more room to type, more text to read, bigger images, troubleshooting guides and all sorts of size-related advantages.
Durability and Readability
The device includes a new polariser in the glass that offers better bright sunlight readability. And Apple touts the new iPhone as being stronger and more durable. While it’s no Toughbook, the device is certainly moving away from its fragile beginnings and is now more compatible with the realities of life in the field.
Predictive typing with Apple’s QuickType keyboard (in iOS8) is said to be smarter, more personalised and intelligently take context into account, such as who the recipient is. Understanding the way people communicate and providing contextual guidance improves the speed of communications between workers and the office, workers and each other, and workers and customers.
I’ve been a long fan of iOs keyboard, and the way it quickly learns new words. If indeed this is going to be better as promised (so far my tests with iOS 8 beta is inconclusive) – it’s going to be by far the best keyboard out there.
While Apple spoke at length about selfies, mobile workers, especially in complex or low-light environments, will benefit from the new 8MP image sensors the iPhone 6 cameras feature what Apple is calling Focus Pixels, which more quickly focuses and snaps a shot. The iPhone 6 Plus offers optical image stabilisation to help reduce image blur in low light — iPhone 6 offers only digital image stabilisation.
While reportedly only available with a limited number of carriers right now, we anticipate more will follow soon. And when they do, this will be helpful for workers who may or may not have access to cell coverage.
I’m cautiously optimistic that the Apple Watch will significantly enhance the employee experience in the field. With the ability to respond, via voice or quick touch, to messages or alerts, the watch has the ability to take wearables from a “nice to have” object to a real everyday tool in the enterprise.
With the predictive features, availability of maps, and turn by turn directions, it may become the powerhouse piece of hardware that let’s workers do most of their work with the watch, and only need to pull out the phone when they need to larger screen environment for lengthy typing or to access large amounts of information.
Field employees often need to react quickly and respond to emergencies, notify their customers about their ETA, and report back to the back-office. Those are typically short interactions, and the Apple Watch may become the go-to device for such actions. In order for that to happen, the apps running on the watch must offer solid capabilities beyond notifications. I think Apple is almost there.
The HealthKit, which was touted for fitness junkies, also has real and impactful benefits in the field. With biometric feedback, heart rate detection and a host of other features, it will go a long way to adding to health and safety measures of workers in dangerous or remote locations. We’ve seen organisations ask about such capabilities (especially about simple wearables) and using apple’s HealthKit API’s, apps are now capable of providing these capabilities in that area.