Field Service News in partnership with RealWear, and OverIT have worked together to produce a detailed 22 page Essential Guide to Remote Service. In this features in a series of excerpts from that guide we now turn to look at some of the important considerations that should be made when selecting software for a remote service solution...
As with hardware, there are many different software solutions available that can help field service organisations accomplish effective remote-service capabilities. With a number of options to choose here are some of the key considerations to find the solution that fits your needs best...
When we talk about remote service delivery, perhaps one of the most important aspects to factor into your thinking regarding the software solution you select is not necessarily the remote expert’s location, but instead the remoteness of the on-site engineer’s location. The ‘remote-expert’ will almost certainly be working from an urban location, with a strong wifi connection and ample bandwidth for them to perform their role. They will be in an environment that is controllable and set up for the task.
We cannot assume the same for the engineer working in the field.
Of course, depending on the vertical sector, this may be a lesser or greater problem. For example, a field tech working in the print/copy sector, whose work is going to be entirely conducted in an office-based environment, will have fewer troubles with connectivity than an engineer in the mining and aggregates sector whose primary workplace will be very remote and one where they could likely face issues around poor connectivity.
Even in an urban environment, connectivity dead spots can exist, so it is important to consider how a remote service solution handles low bandwidth situations. Some solutions, such as SPACE1 have specifically designed low-bandwidth modes for this exact reason. It is essential to understand the capabilities of the solution when operating within such modes and how this may affect the solution’s use.
For example, the SPACE1 solution reduces frame rates in a video call without affecting the quality of images, which allows for minimal disruption to the workflow even in low bandwidth scenarios. Understanding how any remote service solution is capable of handling worst-case scenario environments with regards to bandwidth is one of the most critical considerations when exploring whether a solution is suitable for your specific use case.
Ease of integration into existing systems and workflows
When we are trying to improve the workflow and improve efficiency in processes by introducing remote service technology, it is prudent to understand how the introduction of this technology will sit within the field service engineers current day-to-day and job-to-job workflow.
Some solutions have native integration with dedicated field service management solutions (FSM). For example, SPACE1 is the remote service and augmented reality capability developed by OverIT, and the integration of it is native with OverIT’s FSM solution, and near seamless with other FSM solutions.
Of course, the reality is that most field service companies will already have a current FSM in place and be looking for a solution that can integrate into that.
In today’s modern world of APIs, such compatibility is likely not to prove an issue, although the integration levels may vary.
In an ideal world, the engineer’s optimum flow is for him not to have to leave an FSM app and enter a second remote-service app but instead for the two to work seamlessly as part of a holistic workflow that allows the engineer to move effortlessly from work order to remote guidance and back to job completion.
Is the solution future proofed?
Understanding how any given remote service tool will work within your engineers’ existing workflow and how it can integrate into your existing FSM systems is an important consideration when identifying the right remote service solution for your organisation.
While the very concept of remote service and AR in one sense feels like something from the future, the truth is that we are currently living throughout an exceptional period of innovation and technological advancement.
Understanding how such an evolving technological period will shape the future of how we work is therefore absolutely critical when selecting any new software that will form the backbone of the mission-critical role that is field service operations.
This is particularly true of remote service solutions, which, as we have explored in the opening segment of this paper are set to be a fundamental pillar of service delivery as we move forwards into a post-pandemic world.
"When it comes to AI, we are already seeing relatively sophisticated examples of this technology being embedded within AR systems..."
AR is undoubtedly going to be one of the technologies that reshape the very way we think about field service. However, of equal importance will be the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) The future of the field service engineer’s workflow may not only involve an AR interface that allows him to get real-time feedback from a remote expert, but, as we begin to expand further what is possible with IoT, the engineer will likely be able to see an overlay of the core metrics coming from an asset in real-time in the same AR display. This could have a significant impact on improving onsite triage of problems, for example.
When it comes to AI, we are already seeing relatively sophisticated examples of this technology being embedded within AR systems.
SPACE1, for example, already has native AI built within it that adds a wealth of depth to the functionality of the tool from parts identification through to tagging of relevant elements within an image or video feed.
This latter feature can help the field service engineer with triage when on-site and surface relevant support materials within a knowledge base to help them resolve the issue and appropriately categorise any recordings where remote guidance is activated to add to the knowledge base continuously.
Will the solution work across multiple regions?
Again, referencing one of the most key benefits of remote service solutions we outlined in this guide’s opening segment, i.e. geographical expansion, another area to factor in when deciding which solution is a fit for your business is to assess whether it is capable of being deployed in multiple languages.
For an engineer working on-site receiving directions on how to resolve the issue at hand, the very fact that an AR solution is in place can dramatically improve the communication process.
However, if the engineer is required to control a head-mounted device via voice commands, having the ability to do so in a native language will undoubtedly make adoption rates smoother and result in fewer user errors.
Therefore, while it may not be a deal-breaker, having a solution that can work in multiple languages is undoubtedly a big tick in the box for any solution provider who can offer such functionality if your organisation has an international footprint.
What is the vendor’s track record?
Finally, it is important to look at any solutions providers’ track record working with other companies on similar projects to that which you are planning.
This is important in two ways and it is important to remember that introducing a remote service solution isn’t merely digitalising new processes. It is introducing an entirely new way of working.
Suppose a solution provider has experience working with other field service organisations on similar projects. In that case, they will first be able to help provide you with the key learnings from their own experiences in implementing other projects with similar clients.
This can be invaluable as the transition to incorporating a remote service element within your service delivery portfolio will involve much strategic thinking as you redefine many processes that have been fundamental to your field service operations before this implementation.
Having an experienced head in the conversation who has been through this process before and who can tell you what has worked and what are the pitfalls to avoid, could be the difference between a smooth and effective transition that sees a quick return on investment or one that takes many wrong turns and delays the improvements in productivity and efficiency that adopting a remote service solution promises.
Secondly, because there is so much strategic thinking required to adopt remote-service delivery within your existing workflow, many of the refinements needed to achieve optimal results will come from adopting a co-creation approach. In such a close working relationship, again a partner who has experience working in such a manner and a track record of achieving success in similar projects with other clients is an essential ingredient in the mix to look for when selecting the solution right for you.
In the next article in this series we will look at three more benefits of remote service; empowering the blended workforce, embracing the tools for outcome-based services and differentiating your service against that of your competition...
This interview was undertaken as part of our development of our recently published Essential Guide to Remote Service. This guide offers insight into the important considerations field service companies need to be aware of when selecting remote service solutions suitable for their needs.
The guide looks at both the hardware and software considerations as well as containing a case study from Rail Cargo Group that looks at how they implemented such a solution which has revolutionised their industry.
This essential guide is currently available on our free-forever FSN Standard subscription tier for a limited time as well as being available to our FSN Premium subscribers and our FSN Elite members. If you are on any of these subscription/membership tiers you can access this guide by clicking the button below.
If you are not yet a subscriber, the button will take you to a dedicated registration page for FSN Standard that will give you instant access to this guide as well as access to the other Premium Resources currently available on this tier.
Data usage note: By accessing this content you consent to the contact details submitted when you registered as a subscriber to fieldservicenews.com to be shared with the listed sponsor of this premium content, OverIT and Realwear who may contact you for legitimate business reasons to discuss the content of this report.