Augmented Reality has been widely predicted to become a fundamental aspect within field service delivery in the future. Here Jereme Pitts, COO, Librestream discusses how you can get a lead on your competitors and secure investment in AR for your...
ARCHIVE FOR THE ‘augmentir’ CATEGORY
Augmented Reality has been widely predicted to become a fundamental aspect within field service delivery in the future. Here Jereme Pitts, COO, Librestream discusses how you can get a lead on your competitors and secure investment in AR for your field service operations today...
According to The Service Council, 70% of service companies stated that within 5-10 years they will face challenges due to the retiring workforce. This fact has created an industry wide need to capture and leverage knowledge, one of the top drivers for augmented reality (AR) technologies. Compounded with this challenge are the increasingly complex assets and operations that service teams face.
After deploying AR technologies, service operations have reported strong outcomes in worker safety, increased uptime, accelerated training, and knowledge retention, employee retention and productivity gains. Over our 15 years of delivering AR solutions, we’ve seen these outcomes across our customer base.
To successfully deploy and adopt AR within an enterprise, it is important to understand which use cases will drive the highest value across your operation. These use cases will determine which form of AR solution you should focus on first. Two of the most popular AR solutions in the industry are remote expert assistance and digital work instructions. Both solutions capture and leverage knowledge and are ready-to-deploy with strong proof points in the industry.
The first solution, remote expert assistance, is the ability to connect with virtual specialists immediately by sharing live video, audio, telestration and augmented content through wearable or smart devices. This solution is making way for just-in-time training, which is the concept of giving workers the tools they need to learn on the job at the scene of an event. With the growing turn-over rate of millennial workers, taking the time and money to train a new technician is a huge investment. Just-in-time training reduces the investment in time and money and instead trains the technician when it’s needed.
"Investing in AR is proving to combat the loss of expertise and growing complexity within the field service industry
The second highest growth AR solution is digital work instructions. Digital work instructions involve transforming paper processes into digital step-bystep workflows - accessible to technicians on their wearable or smart devices. This solution provides enterprises with the opportunity to streamline processes for consistency and better accuracy across their entire operations. Creating actionable data enterprises can use to create smarter and more effective business decisions. Here are examples of benefits and outcomes our industry-leading customers have reported since deploying these two AR solutions:
• 20% accelerated time to resolution and 50% faster support calls
• 33% faster training by mentoring field technicians with live video
• 5-10% reduction in return visits with improved first-time-fix rates
• 70% time saved in total productivity hours of technicians
• Improved worker safety statistics measured by indicators such as fewer miles travelled.
After selecting the highest value use cases and type of AR solution needed, the next step is often creating a successful business case. This step is crucial to gain consensus internally for a successful deployment of the AR solution. Over the years, we’ve worked with our leading customers to compile the main requirements they recommend in building this business case. Here are three important aspects to consider:
1. Name all the important stakeholders who should be involved from the beginning. For example, who are the executive sponsors, key team members, IT and security personnel?
2. Set benchmarks for success. Create a way to measure how well the solution is performing against the ‘old’ ways to help with determining the success of the project.
3. What are your formal KPIs? Make a list of your tangible and intangible benefits and how you will collect that data. These are just a few of the key thing to consider when building a successful business case for AR. To learn more, you can read the ‘Build a Business Case’ chapter in Librestream’s Industry guide on remote expertise.
This guide includes helpful content on the entire process from selecting an AR remote expert vendor to successfully deploying and gaining adoption.
Investing in AR is proving to combat the loss of expertise and growing complexity within the field service industry. Choosing the right AR tools and creating a strong business case are vital to the success of the deployment. As a part of many companies’ digital transformation strategies, AR is becoming the new industry standard.
Much has been said and written about Augmented Reality (AR) and its benefits n the field service arena – from improved field technician performance to reductions in field service operating costs. However, these early success stories masked the reality of Enterprise AR in the industrial sector – companies have been slow to adopt this technology and have had difficulty moving beyond the experimentation and pilot phase
The first wave of vendors in the Enterprise AR space were overly focused on wearable technology, believing the early predictions that there would be millions of sets of smart glasses deployed in the enterprise by 2018. This directed their efforts to getting work instructions running on a variety of wearables, and many also invested solely in using AR to present information to technicians in the field with rich content and 3D CAD overlays.
It has become clear that these investments have not delivered the value expected to the enterprise, which is reflected in the lack of mainstream adoption. What has been overlooked is the real opportunity of leveraging the new found connectivity to service workers to create sustainable value throughout the organization. Not only by delivering personalized information to each worker, in the ideal format, but also using artificial intelligence and machine learning to augment the intelligence of the organization relative to how it engages, empowers, and continually improves its human workforce.
This is the beginning of a new era, an era not of Enterprise Augmented Reality, but of Augmented Operations where AR is but one of many ways to present data, support, and guide field workers. Augmented Operations has the opportunity to transform human worker productivity much like automation has done in the past 30 years.
This transformation is driven by the combination of two key technology trends – Enterprise AR and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning.
Why is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Important?
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) has been around for a long time and has historically been applied against external data sets. A recent trend is to embed AI in software platforms, and have it act on the internal data, eliminating the estimated 80% of AI/ML project efforts around labelling and cleansing external data. This is frequently being applied to solutions focused on improving outcomes in business processes where the human worker is at the center. Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) is ideally suited to understanding patterns in the noisy data sets generated by humans workers.
At Augmentir, we are using our AI engine to identify patterns in the data generated by field technicians and highlight areas that can then be used to improve overall worker performance, as well as act in real-time to provide personalized procedures based on the proficiency of each worker. The AI engine is able to help continually deliver insights and recommendations based on that human worker data – this is valuable intelligence that can be used to help drive continuous improvement across the entire organization – from operations to training to quality.
• AI can help each worker perform at their peak – dynamically changing the instruction to one that allows each worker to perform their job as fast as possible, while meeting quality and safety targets;
• AI understands the patterns and outliers in the vast instruction/job execution data to identify the largest capturable opportunities in the areas of: productivity,. worker effectiveness, training materials effectiveness, and instruction effectiveness – and provide insights and recommendations on how to capture these opportunities. This is the only way to deliver the actionable information required for industrial organizations to drive continuous improvement on a year-over-year basis;
• With AI, companies can optimize troubleshooting/ diagnostic procedures by observing the attempts and results of technicians in the field;
• With AI, companies will be able to capture tribal knowledge from participating in the interactions between Experts and frontline workers, over time making the expertise/tribal knowledge a scalable corporate asset.
With this concept of Augmented Operations (using AI/ML to deliver intelligence across the organization from your augmented workforce), we are seeing a step change in how organizations are making informed decisions, empowering workers, and improving the productivity of humans in the workplace.
Augmenting the Service Workforce of the FutureDespite 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.
Augmentir has announced the closure of an oversubscribed funding round. The round was led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital, with participation from Lerer Hippeau, current investors, and HOLT Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of HOLT CAT.
"The closing of this round with the participation of these leading venture capital firms further validates our unique AI-first approach to improving the productivity of frontline workforces," said Russ Fadel, Co-founder and CEO of Augmentir. "This funding will enable us to expand our global footprint, further increase the functionality of the platform, and make it even more accessible to companies across the small, mid-sized and large spectrum, and we look forward to reaching even more companies while defining the future of work."
Ty Findley, Vice President at Pritzker Group Venture Capital, added, "With our thematic focus on Industry4.0, we are excited to be working with a company that is accelerating the industrial sector evolution using AI and AR to support frontline workers. From founding efforts at Wonderware, Lighthammer, and ThingWorx, the Augmentir team has a proven track record and domain experience delivering software innovation to the manufacturing and industrial market, and we are eager to participate as Augmentir continues to shape the frontline workforce of the future."
"We are excited to be working with Augmentir and believe that the platform provides our Caterpillar dealership with the opportunity to standardize our workflow across multiple operations in order to deliver improved consistency to our customers," added Meg Paulus, Partner at HOLT Ventures. "Augmentir's AI engine will help us gain better real-time and global insights to our operations to drive increased efficiency and technician training and enablement throughout our territory which spans from the Red River to the Rio Grande."
This latest round of funding will allow Augmentir to further expand its reach in the industrial sector, including oil and gas, mining, field service, and manufacturing industries, and continue to provide solutions that will shape the future of the industrial workforce. The company is the first to deliver an "AI-first" enterprise platform for the industrial sector that combines augmented reality (AR) with artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). Augmentir's Augmented Operations™ platform allows industrial companies to support their frontline workforce with augmented procedures and step-by-step work instructions, remote assistance capabilities, and drive continuous improvement through AI-driven insights.
Augmentir is a relatively new startup in the growing Augmented Reality (AR) space that is focussing on the field service sector. Indeed this is a market that is becoming quite quickly crowded with AR vendors dominating industry conferences both in the US and Europe this summer in terms of the new entrants into the market.
However, three things, in particular, made Augmentir stand out from the crowd when I met with their VP of Marketing, Chris Kuntz, at the Field Service USA conference in Palm Springs recently. Firstly, there is much pedigree in this seemingly wet behind the ears startup.
The team that has put together Augmentir have been together for a long time on different projects which have included bringing the pioneering industrial IoT platform ThingWorx to market, as well as Wonderware, which was the first HMI interface in the manufacturing sector and is now in place in an estimated 60% of manufacturing plants worldwide.
So before we even start to look at the technology driving Augmentir, it’s fair to say that there is more than a good chance we shall potentially see another success story here.
However, the fact is that even without the well established pedigree, the vision behind Augmentir have taken a different yet thoroughly logical approach that sets them apart from many of their peers in the market.
As Kuntz, explained when I met with him in California, “We’re taking a different spin on what’s out there today. We’re the first software platform built on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the world of the augmented or connected worker. Historically, what’s happened in field service is roughly as follows: A new job is created when a customer reports a problem with a piece of equipment. This results in a worker getting dispatched, who then attends the job and either fixes the product or has to reschedule a second visit. Then at some point later, he updates a system with the notes outlining the actions he took,” Kuntz says recalling a scenario many of us in the sector recognise.
“However, the activities that happened from the time the engineer was dispatched to the time that that job is complete, remain a relative unknown, it’s a black box today. People don’t know what’s happening on the job site. Is that worker struggling with some of the steps? Does that worker speed through the repair procedure? Did the worker follow the right steps to meet health and safety requirements?”
There are all sorts of things happening. The problem then gets compounded for some companies who offer self-service or routines their dealer network or to their end customers. Now, you don’t know if they’re following the correct maintenance procedures or not. This, in turn, could affect the warranty status, and so on and so forth.”
"Augmentir have taken a different yet thoroughly logical approach..."
Of course, the result of the scenario Kuntz outlines is one many of us are familiar with. Companies have thus started to push technology down to the worker to make them better connected, to make them ‘augmented’.
This is at the heart of the current play for many AR providers, which in essence builds upon the case put forward for mobile a decade ago. Ultimately field service organisations are still attempting to solve the perennial question of “How can we give our engineers more information, give them more instructions on how to guide them through their process”.
“That’s all fine,” Kuntz states referring to the approach most of his peers are taking in resolving these issues, “But most companies aren’t collecting how their engineer’s work is performed. They’re just saying to the engineers, ‘Here are your instructions.’
“What we’re doing is taking that one step further. Firstly, we provide what we call ‘augmented work instruction’. By that, we mean work instructions that have information related to the case the engineer is doing, the piece of equipment they are working on and its work history that make the instructions interactive and personalised work instructions.
“If you’re an expert, that’s gone through this procedure a million times, you might get a more summarised view of the instructions, whereas if you’re a novice and this is the first time on a specific repair, our AI engine might provide you with a required training video along with a more detailed step-by-step guide. All to meet the goal of fix it right the first time …in the least amount of time.
“The next thing we do is we’re collecting all the granular data on how the workers performing their job and interacting with the instructions. We’re then using this data with our Artificial Intelligence engine in a way to help them become better at what they’re doing.
“Maybe an engineer is performing tasks slower than the average worker, is that an opportunity for training? Maybe they’re faster than the average worker? Is it an opportunity to tap into that person to say, how are you doing it? Have they found a more effective way of completing a task? Alternatively, maybe most of the workers are having trouble with a specific procedure/step – is there an opportunity to improve the instructions or associated training materials?”
Compliance is, of course, a crucial part of a field engineers role - both for legislative and internal efficiency purposes. However, often, it is the case that compliance steps happen after the fact.
One of the crucial aspects of digital transformation is making sure actions like these can now be electronically verified in real-time, in an interactive manner - and not just be an afterthought added to the notes a service engineer completes at the end of the job.
It is a small shift in a workflow that can have multiple big benefits, and the fact that Augmentir has baked such factors as this into their solution from the get-go does suggest they have a firm understanding of the field service engineers day to day workflow and the broader processes of the field service operation.
“This information can be used for compliance purposes, can be used for warranty purposes, it can be sent back to the customer to say, ‘this is a service procedure, this is exactly what happened,’ offer them a full inventory, step by step of what happened,” Kuntz explains: “We’re taking augmented reality, infusing it with artificial intelligence to collect the data, analyse it, and push it back to the organisation. Moreover, we’re doing it in a way that offers our enterprise software platform in a more modern approach.”
It is here we come across the third facet of Augmentir’s approach that also separates them from much of the pack - their route to market is equally accessible for the SMB sector as it is the large enterprise.
Kuntz continues: “If you think about how companies in this space adopt technology, Salesforce, Clicksoftware, ServiceMax; it’s a very lengthy process to implement any of these systems. Certainly, when it gets down to other AR solutions, it is no different and implementation can become even more time consuming. A pilot may take nine months; it could cost up to $150,000 to test out an AR solution.
“What we’re doing is trying to take a model that Slack, Atlassian and Dropbox have taken - make it easy to try, easy to buy, easy to own. The way people adopt Dropbox, the way people adopt Slack today is typical of how the modern world works, and we think we can apply that to the field service sector.
“What that allows us to do is not only work with the large enterprise companies, but also the small to mid-sized companies that don’t have the time and money to spend a large amount of money on implementing a large complex system."
This strategy really could be a game changer in the Field Service/Augmented Reality sector, which for a long time I have identified as one that has a vast potential to improve field service delivery, yet has ultimately struggled to truly take a prevalent hold in any meaningful way as yet.
SMBs are in prime position to benefit from many of the potential benefits, both in terms of reducing costs and increasing revenues that AR could yield. A solution that allows them to step into this world, virtually risk-free could become a massive gateway for widespread adoption on a mass scale.
The pedigree of Augmentir’s senior team, the intelligent well thought out use cases presented and a strategy that makes the solution easy to trial are three significant areas that can make them stand out from this increasingly busy pack.
However, the biggest reason I see Augmentir becoming an established provider within our sector is that I don’t actually think they are an AR provider at all. Instead, having spent some time with Kuntz looking at and discussing the solution, I believe they are best described as ‘an AI company that specialises in knowledge transfer and interpretation, who happen to have chosen AR as the primary interface for their solution'.
It might not roll off the tongue quite as easily, but it sure ticks a lot of boxes that many, many field service companies are looking at - and this may make Augmentir a key solution in the sector.
From Singapore to Sweden and from California to Coventry and everywhere in between - where there has been an opportunity to learn more about developments in field service we’ve been there. As such we’ve spoken to more field service management professionals and field service solution providers than anyone else on the planet and we think we’ve a pretty good idea of what the solutions the industry is most keen to see and the companies that have emerged to deliver the solutions that meet those needs.
So without further a do here is our list of three of the best new solution providers service the Field Service Sector who have really impressed us across the last 12 months...
You can’t go to a conference, not just in field service, but in any sector and avoid the term Uberization. Within our sector alone there has been endless articles, white papers and presentations on how to ‘Uberize’ field service. Half of these are just focused on what the hell Uberization means in the first place.
Well a good place to start is implementing Localz, which can act like a plug in to go on top of whichever flavour of FSM or scheduling tool you have and deliver a very cool end customer interface that allows them to see the ETA of your engineer on route across the last mile.
Localz is capable of a ton of other stuff all centred around ‘Last Mile Communications’ but this really is the Uberization of Field Service many have called out for and with an implementation of weeks it is little wonder the have already secured some very high profile clients like British utilities giant British Gas. Localz can be as lightweight as a plug-in and delivers exactly what the market has been asking for in a brilliant way.
When Google Glass first came around everyone in the field service sector rushed to embrace it. All the Field Service Management Software guys raced to get the first App developed for it and there were loads of reports of companies doing beta trials everywhere.
Why? Because Hands Free working in field service just makes a massive ton of sense.
However, ultimately as we know the idea was great the technology not so much. And whilst there have been some very good alternatives coming onto the market in the field service sector for a while now, nothing has dominated because the price point for entry is just so high companies are uncertain if they will see a quick ROI if any at all.
Enter Mira who have the potential to absolutely dominate in the sector through a simple, well thought out and smartly designed headset that takes advantage of the fact that pretty much every engineer has a phone in their pocket.
Their headset allows a phone to be placed into the frame, much like the gaming VR headsets such as Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Daydream but also gives the user visibility of the real world through a clear display.
The headset itself is exceptionally well thought out and you can see the team behind this product come from a design background - little touches like easily attaching to standardised hard hats for PPE compliance are testament to this. Similarly, as the headset is literally powered by your engineers existing smartphone there is no additional MDM concerns. A low cost, yet effective way to implement AR today.
Sticking with Augmented Reality, the last company on the list is Augmentir, who come with a very strong pedigree and a very neat approach to things.
At first glance, you may be forgiven for thinking that Augmentir are just another of the many Augmented Reality providers that have suddenly noticed the potential in the field service market. However, scratch the service and you will see that there is actually quite a lot more to them than that.
The first thing to pay attention to is who is behind this brand. It is the same team that previously developed ThingWorx, which was ultimately sold to PTC and became the backbone of their IoT solution and recognised as an industry leading solution. They were also responsible for Wonderware which statistically almost two-thirds of our readers from the manufacturing sector will already be using. So when these guys rend to turn their hands to something they have a pretty good track record of getting it right.
However, the really interesting thing about Augmentir is that they’ve gone far beyond the initial approach that many of their peers are offering when it comes to Augmented Reality (AR) and dived straight into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered approach. In their own words they position themselves as ‘the first software platform built on Artificial Intelligence in the world of the augmented or connected worker.’
This could be a significant game changer in terms of AR being used in field service because it takes the technology beyond its initial use case and into something far, far more useful by leveraging another exciting technology in AI directly alongside it. In fact, as their VP Marketing Chris Kuntz told us they are “a 100% AI first company” who have just been smart enough to realise that AR is the interface that makes most sense for modern field service operations.