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Crowdsourcing is an established trend in the workplace, although primarily known from industries such as software engineering, rideshare platforms or finance in the form of crowdfunding.
However, companies in field service are increasingly recognizing the benefits of this collaboration model for their business strategy. Amongst some of the advantages are a faster processing of service orders or improved customer satisfaction to name just a few.
But why exactly should companies jump on the crowd service bandwagon?
Build a strong ecosystem with skilled partners
By establishing a crowd service concept in their field service management, companies can add as many external technicians to their talent pool as they require in addition to their internal technicians – sourced from its partners and subsidiaries to freelancers.
That way, they create an ecosystem of certified experts performing simple tasks such as installing standardized machines and equipment or replacing cables, but also solving complex issues with specially configured systems or according software. In that case, it is of paramount importance that this expert knowledge is digitally recorded.
"Crowdsourcing is an established trend in the workplace..."
Finally, companies can expand their knowledge pool. This is especially important for very specific maintenance and repair tasks of old equipment at a time when highly qualified specialists are becoming rare or they are already retired.
Accelerate the completion of service orders
After having received a service call, the artificial intelligence-based crowd service tool can match the most suitable and qualified technician from the pool with the specific service request. The technicians are selected based on their location, availability and work schedules, required skills and additional criteria that companies can determine individually.
Afterwards, the system sends a request to the technician’s mobile device. The expert can then accept the service job and receive all the information needed for the tasks in the application. Once the assigned tasks have been completed, the technicians receive a fixed payment for their job – and customers can rate the performance the same way they would rate a driver working for a ride-share provider.
Transform customers to fans
So, what is the biggest advantage of crowd service? The improved customer experience for your clients, of course. Benefiting from a larger pool of technicians, companies can respond to service requests faster and reduce the waiting time for their customers.
Moreover, sending the most suitable technician to the job that needs to be done leads to a higher service quality, boosts your first-time fix rate and, therefore, leads to minimized downtimes of mission critical machines and equipment.
This is the decisive moment in customer service: companies need to help their customers to achieve their business goals despite machine or equipment failures.
In return, customers will reward companies with their loyalty.
Manuel Grenacher is GM of SAP Service Cloud.
At this week's Housing 2019 event in Manchester, location and mobile technology experts, Localz, talked about the impact of the IConomy to the field service industry. In this article Localz explains how the field service industry can utilise...
At this week's Housing 2019 event in Manchester, location and mobile technology experts, Localz, talked about the impact of the IConomy to the field service industry. In this article Localz explains how the field service industry can utilise mobile technology to deliver “uber” style housing repairs and deliver frictionless customer services in the fourth industrial revolution.
The instant revolution
Consumers are sick and tired of impersonalised and inflexible services which do not fit into their routine. They want to be able to schedule an appointment that fits into their schedule and be able to track and adjust it in realtime. eBay, Deliveroo and Uber are all addressing the need for instant booking, tracking and assurance for its customers. These companies are putting the customer at the centre of its service, giving them control, reassurance and convenience and overall building trust. They are setting the benchmark for all industries and now customers are starting to demand the same experiences from every organisation they engage with.
Applying the success from leading brands and incorporating customer and field service engineer pain points, Localz advises on the key steps to ensure frictionless customer experiences in today’s digital age.
- Be digitally available
Providing convenience means being digitally enabled on various platforms, this includes customers being able to book an appointment via a laptop, tablet or smartphone and smartwatch. Alongside device enablement they also want to be able to book an appointment via different means including, email, telephone, on a brands app and in the future via voice recognition. It is vital that you stay on top of the latest technology and ensure you know how your customers want to interact with you.
1. Confirm and reassure
Once an appointment is booked you need to continually remind and reassure your customers that you are coming. It is vital to provide customers with regular updates throughout the appointment life-cycle, from confirmation to receiving the appointment, to a reminder the day before and the morning of including real-time updates of an ETA.
2. “On my way”
On the day of the appointment provide the customer with a real-time location tracker of the service provider so they can check the platform and are deterred from calling the contact centre. If there are going to be any changes to the appointment then the platform can be triggered to automatically provide push updates on the service providers ETA.
British Gas has seen no-access, failed appointments fall by 20% by using “On my way” notifications. Customers are more informed and therefore aren’t forgetting appointments or rescheduling if needed to.
The ‘Find my Engineer’ solution provides the ultimate transparency by giving customers access to real-time location tracking when the operative is en route. Accurate ETAs are provided, which take live traffic conditions into account. Localz own research shows that 65% of consumers say that viewing their service provider’s ETA is the most important feature on a service provider’s mobile app. This is particularly important in the housing sector as the length of appointments can vary greatly. By providing real-time updates enables customers to track the engineer and get on with their day so they are not stuck within the confines of their own home for hours.
4. Empower engineers
It is time that organisations start cutting out the middleman. A real-time operational dashboard needs to be put in place so both the team on the ground and in the office can see live updates of appointments. Engineers will be able to click and see in one touch full details of the job so they can be prepared ahead of each visit.
By enabling for two-way communications between service engineers and the customer will help to streamline appointments. Two-way communications make it easy for customers to tell you and your operatives important information without having to join a call centre queue. Provide contact centre staff with the same transparency and real-time tracking, so they can give a consistent and reliable message if a customer still decides to call.
OVO Energy’s engineers have cited that using two-way communication has an increase in customer satisfaction. By enabling engineers and customers to directly speak to one another it removes the middle man, which can be a frustrating experience for both parties.
5. “Rate Your Service”
One of the key ingredients to successful communication and one that is often forgotten is the power of listening. Asking consumers to “rate” and feedback on the service will lead to consumers feeling important, cared for and if you respond accordingly listened to.
This is something that Uber has done very well. By allowing consumers to rate their driver it not only leads to customers feeling heard but it enables the organisation to increase the safety of the solution.Both outcomes of providing the score is both of importance to the consumer and the company alike. In environments where interactions are frequent and where 'promises' can be fulfilled reliably and repeatedly trust can be established.
To find out more about Localz’s solutions click here.
National Grid is a British multi-national electricity and gas utility company headquartered in the UK where it operates and owns the high voltage electricity transmission networks in England and Wales and is the electricity system operator for Great Britain.
In addition, it owns and operates the national gas transmission network in Great Britain. In the United States National Grid serves more than 20 million people through its electricity and gas networks in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Atos will deliver the latest Digital Managed Workplace Services technology and data analytics to digitally empower National Grid employees and improve end-to-end employee experience and service. This will be achieved through a support network, including a global enterprise service desk, device management and printing services, as well as a Proactive Experience Centre.
The centre will be a dedicated employee experience improvement resource with a focus on integrating automation and AI solutions. Atos will work with National Grid’s business to optimise its operational performance by implementing new and smart workplace services solutions in support of its strategic priorities.
Adriana Karaboutis, Group Chief Information and Digital Officer (CI&DO), National Grid, said: “We chose Atos primarily because they shared our vision for digital end-user excellence. Atos has an excellent reputation with other leading UK and US companies and I am excited about our partnership and the transformation ahead.”
“We very much look forward to working with National Grid to achieve a step-change in employee, and ultimately, end user experience through a true partnership with Atos,” said Adrian Gregory, Atos Global Senior Executive Vice President and CEO UK & Ireland. “The comprehensive plan of improvements underpinned by innovative technologies will have a positive impact right across the organisation, enabling National Grid to work smartly and more efficiently”
A strong presence and rich experience within the energy and utilities sector means Atos is well placed to implement tailored Digital Managed Workplace Services for National Grid.
XOS UK previously used the server-based solution Service Accent, the precursor to Asolvi’s cloud-based Vantage Online solution. With market pressures mounting, they found that Service Accent wasn’t efficient or versatile enough to accommodate their future success. They needed faster processes, superior reports, a clearer way of seeing information and the ability to work remotely anywhere and anytime. When Vantage Online was launched to replace Service Accent and be the growth platform they were looking for, the decision to migrate was a simple one.
“The transition was painless,” says Bob Cudmore, operations director for XOS UK. “No major issues arose regarding data migration. Naturally, this was a project that needed careful management on the part of both XOS and the Vantage team, but with excellent communication and clear project goals and timelines the migration was delivered on time, on spec and on budget. Downtime was also kept to virtually zero.”
Cutting out clicks
Vantage Online does everything Service Accent did, but better. Interfaces are more intuitive and about 50% fewer clicks and screens are required to complete key processes such as work control, stock management, contract administration and meter billing.
Sales order processing (SOP) and purchase order processing (POP) are quicker and easier thanks to increased levels of automation. For example, if XOS sell 10 of the same order, they no longer have to build each order manually 10 times in the system. They simply duplicate the order instead. Now a multi-machine deal takes the same amount of time to process whether it’s for two or two hundred machines. Additionally, Service Accent used a more laborious “find, add” process for attaching accessories such as trays and staple sorters to an order. Vantage Online, on the other hand, produces an automated list of compatible accessories for each machine.
Meter billing is also a more streamlined process in Vantage Online, involving fewer clicks. For example, XOS can now select different invoice types and consolidate them into one, a feature that was missing in Service Accent.
From paper-based reports to live analytics
Before upgrading to Vantage Online, XOS used Crystal Reports, which was integrated with Service Accent and displayed information on screens designed to be printed. It wasn’t particularly flexible or quick and none of the data was live. Now XOS are benefiting from a totally re-imagined reporting system, with dynamic dashboards displaying key data such as volume trends, KPIs, margins, costs and profitability in real time.
Having this data at their fingertips means that users are no longer required to compile as many reports. And when a report does need to be compiled to send to a stakeholder, the information is easily exported as a CSV file to Excel or other programs for further analysis. In effect, it is lightning-quick for XOS to get the information they need, when they need it, in the form they need it in.
XOS' favourite feature: The integration with their data collection agent
Before Vantage Online, XOS weren’t experiencing the full benefit of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. This is because the integration between Service Accent and their fleet management system, XSM, was more limited in scope. In particular, meter readings were only inputted automatically into Service Accent if they came from certain in-scope devices. For the rest of their fleet, XOS were required to manually enter the data from XSM into Service Accent.
“Perhaps our favourite single feature [of Vantage Online] is the integration with XSM, where meter readings are seamlessly transferred into Vantage Online from all our connected devices,” says Bob Cudmore. “This massively speeds up our billing process.”
Easier remote access
The fact that Vantage Online is a more proactive system with fewer screens, more automation and a better user interface is only half the reason XOS decided to upgrade.
The other half is that it’s cloud-based. Service Accent was a server-based Windows-only application which needed to be physically installed on a computer to be accessed. While remote working solutions were available, they needed to be configured and maintained by an office-based IT team with a solid understanding of server infrastructure. XOS simply didn’t have the resources necessary to do that.
As a cloud-based solution, Vantage Online eliminates IT support burdens by shifting the responsibility for maintaining the software to Asolvi. Remote working is much easier to facilitate because there is no server-based infrastructure that needs configuring or maintaining. A remote worker is good to go as soon as they have login details.
Scope to do more
By increasing the speed and efficiency of their processes, Vantage Online has given XOS the scope to do far more for their customers than they could using Service Accent. This has made them more attractive as a dealer, inciting significant growth of their customer and machine base. They have also expanded internally, taking on more technicians to deal with the extra demand and deliver the enhanced level of service they now offer.
HomeServe is the UK’s second largest boiler installer and the operations have two distinct components. First, a sales surveyor will conduct a video, telephone or in-home survey to assess what kind of boiler a customer needs, recommend one, and produce a quote. Secondly, field engineers will attend a customer’s property to install a boiler once a quote is accepted.
This presents a complex mix of sales surveyors who attend many jobs in one day and engineers with one job that could require one day or several days for installations. So, when searching for new scheduling and route optimisation software, HomeServe needed a tool that could do both.
More than white-space-filling
Sparking the search for a new scheduling solution was HomeServe’s desire to work smarter, not harder. In particular it sought to bring greater efficiency to the way it scheduled its workforce and remove some of the pressure from its back-office staff.
Richard Wilson, IT Director for HomeServe boiler installations, explains, “Previously we had always relied on the personal knowledge of our planning team to know which sales surveyors and engineers would be best suited for a job in terms of geography, availability and skill set. We wanted software that could make smarter, faster decisions than our planners were equipped to.” It was on speaking with other field service and scheduling solution providers that HomeServe first heard of FLS.
Richard says: “A lot of the scheduling tools we looked at were just about filling white space. In other words, finding gaps in people’s diaries to fit in appointments. We wanted a more dynamic tool, one that could continuously optimise, looking at every appointment and every field worker collectively and scheduling everything in the most optimal way. The providers we talked to said, ‘We can’t really do that, but we know a solution that can: the one offered by FAST LEAN SMART.”
A tool that thinks on its feet
Richard and his project team investigated FLS and discovered that its real-time scheduler and route optimiser, FLS VISITOUR, was the solution it was looking for. An intelligent tool that evaluates a company’s entire resource pool and effectively ‘thinks on its feet’, VISITOUR makes smarter, quicker and more efficient decisions than humans and other scheduling technologies.
It works in conjunction with FLS’s platform-independent mobility solution, FLS MOBILE, to ensure that field-based staff get to where they need to be and have the information they need when they get there. Together they cut the administrative burden considerably and automate a process. The company proceeded with the proof-of-concept pilot project that FLS offers all new customers.
This demonstrates the value of VISITOUR in terms of functionality and versatility, in particular its ability to integrate with existing back-end systems.
Richard explains: “Integration was a key requirement for us. We needed to know that VISITOUR could integrate with our service management software. This is why FLS’s pilot projects are so helpful. They’re not just demos where you have to guess and imagine how it’s going to work in the context of your business. With an FLS pilot, they wire it all in and prove it to you. We saw immediately that FLS lends itself to integration. We were also able to see first-hand how feature-rich and multi-faceted VISITOUR really is.”
Richard goes on to refer to a feature that has proved particularly useful for HomeServe: the ability to link jobs. When HomeServe installs a boiler, it needs to schedule a field engineer to do the installation and an electrician to do the wiring. FLS will link the two jobs, even if they take place on different days. This means that if the installation appointment needs to be changed, FLS will move the electrician appointment simultaneously. “Most software will do about 80% of what you need or really want it to do,” says Richard. “The ability to link jobs is a great example of the fact that VISITOUR will do a lot more.”
Winter is the busiest and most challenging time of year for HomeServe boiler installations. The company needed to go from concept to pilot to live very quickly, so that everything could be in place before the temperature dropped and the calls for new boilers started flooding in. Implementation happened in a much shorter timescale than normal. Thanks to strong teamwork between FLS and HomeServe’s in-house developers and back office teams, VISITOUR was live, integrated and scheduling hundreds of multi-disciplined field resources within just weeks.
“We’re so pleased by how well everyone worked to get VISITOUR in place for autumn,” Richard says. “It was a big team effort and FLS really helped us get it in the air. Our back-office staff deserve a lot of credit, too; they worked very hard and very quickly.”
He points out one reason why FLS is generally a quicker-to-implement program than many other scheduling software packages: “FLS is very good on configuration without the need for customisation. We didn’t have the appetite, time or the resources to develop our own boutique functionality. We needed a solution that was already fully functional, which we could tweak to fit our requirements without writing code. That solution was VISITOUR.”
A growth facilitator
HomeServe went live with VISITOUR in September 2018. Since then the company has been scheduling its people more optimally and cost-effectively and planning better, smarter routes to each appointment. This has enabled HomeServe to get to customers quicker. “FLS saves us time in the office, gives us total visibility of who is doing what, and has enabled us to get to our appointments 25% quicker than we were,” Richard says. “It’s really highlighted how efficient your scheduling can be when intelligent software does it for you. We see FLS as a growth facilitator. The efficiency gains are such that we’re now in a position to scale up.”
HomeServe plans to adopt more FLS functionality to better serve its customers, including form-capture on FLS MOBILE and automated email/text functions. “We’re a customer-centric company,” he explains. “That’s ultimately why we’ve done this. We wanted an easy, smart and efficient way of reshuffling appointments so that the customer gets a survey or installation appointment at a time that’s convenient for them. Now that we’ve enabled this, the automated emails and texts will be to keep customers in the loop at all times. We’re all about improving the customer experience and we’re grateful to FLS for helping us do that.”
Zinier’s Intelligent Service Automation and Control (ISAC) Uses Machine Learning to Help Field Service Organizations Optimize their Operations and Scale More Efficiently.
Zinier’s Intelligent Service Automation and Control (ISAC) Uses Machine Learning to Help Field Service Organizations Optimize their Operations and Scale More Efficiently.
Zinier has announced Intelligent Service Automation and Control (ISAC), an AI-driven platform enabling field service organizations to operate more efficiently. Through its machine learning and analytics capabilities, ISAC helps organizations optimize every aspect of their field service operations, resulting in the highest levels of automation-driven outcomes.
As the volume and complexity of field service requests continue to rise, field service organizations are looking for ways to drive efficiency and lay the groundwork for continued growth. At the same time, technology trends such as 5G in telecom and a sharp increase in the number of IoT-connected devices are creating a flood of new data streams, forcing organizations to move away from manual methods of collecting, analyzing, and acting on data.
Zinier’s ISAC platform uses machine learning to analyze data and provide real-time insights, driving productivity and enabling customers to inject automation into every step of the service delivery chain. By comparing a constant flow of field data against historical trends, ISAC is able to recommend the best course of action at any given time. And with a flexible, open architecture, customers can easily apply AI to specific use cases, whether it’s scanning a closeout package for anomalies or recommending a stock transfer by predicting parts required for a work order and an individual technician’s parts on-hand.
“After reviewing a number of solutions, we determined that Zinier was the only one that met all our requirements for flexibility and end-to-end automation,” said Luis Miguel Diaz Ortiz, Head of Telecom & Technology, Mexico at NCR Corporation. “ISAC's AI and automation capabilities will help us manage infrastructure and work more proactively. We consider it a terrific investment in providing better service.”
With ISAC as the foundation, field service organizations can easily build AI solutions for the use cases most important to them. All they need to do is determine the scope, criteria, and threshold for AI recommendations, and ISAC will take it from there.
“Most companies are looking for ways to drive automation and turn data into actionable insights, but execution remains a challenge,” said Arka Dhar, co-founder and CEO of Zinier. “With ISAC, we’re helping our customers fully embrace automation by giving them a highly configurable tool that can be applied to their specific needs, driving efficiency and providing recommendations based on real-time data and user feedback.”
Key features/benefits of ISAC include:
• Flexible, Configurable Platform: Unlike legacy solutions that can take months to update, ISAC was designed with flexibility and scalability in mind. Instead of being limited to a few use cases, customers can easily configure the features to apply AI to their operations by defining criteria and letting ISAC evaluate data accordingly.
• Real-Time AI Recommendations: ISAC is constantly running in the background, observing user actions and providing recommendations. In some cases, ISAC will immediately implement a recommendation once it has been accepted by the user. In other cases, it will suggest a course of action for a back-office coordinator or field technician.
• Seamless Integrations: Organizations can easily connect all of their critical systems using Zinier’s set of APIs and integrations, ensuring that all relevant information is factored into each recommendation and insight.
Edge is the highest-performing edge computing server on the market worldwide to manage data at the edge.
Edge is the highest-performing edge computing server on the market worldwide to manage data at the edge.
The BullSequana Edge has been designed to be used securely for the Internet of Things (IoT), in environments in which fast response times are critical - such as manufacturing 4.0, autonomous vehicles, healthcare and retail/airport security – where data needs to be processed and analyzed at the edge in real-time.
The embedded BullSequana Edge server securely manages and processes IoT data, close to the source where it is generated, so that it is treated immediately. It analyzes and runs Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in real-time for instant insight, so that actions and decisions can be made swiftly to optimize operations.
The BullSequana Edge enables businesses to overcome challenges such as limited bandwidth, intermittent network connectivity, securing data at the edge, and network costs. Key benefits are:
• Optimum security and privacy: both the data and the physical server are protected by an advanced chain of security measures • Immediate responsiveness: data analysis in real-time;
• Autonomy: reduced dependence on cloud and datacenter availability and connectivity, ensures that apps are not disrupted in case of limited or intermittent network connectivity. The BullSequana Edge can communicate via radio, GSM or Wi-Fi;
• Interactivity: both multi-source and multi-format data can be analyzed in real-time;
• Cost-effective: reduced datacenter infrastructure and networking costs.
“The exponential growth of IoT devices and how to best manage the consequent explosion of data is a challenge faced by many businesses today. To manage and harness this mass of data to our advantage, in a post-cloud era, we need to embrace edge computing. Atos brings together its expertise and experience as a leader in cloud orchestration, high-performance computing, cybersecurity and AI, to develop a unique edge computing product – the BullSequana Edge - which empowers businesses to take full advantage of the data deluge.” said Pierre Barnabé, Senior Executive Vice-President, Head of Big Data & CyberSecurity Division at Atos.
The BullSequana Edge already supports three main categories of use cases:
• AI: Atos Edge Computer Vision – this provides advanced extraction and analysis of ‘features’ (people, faces, emotions, behaviors) so that automatic actions are able to be carried out, based on this analysis. It enables a large set of intelligent cameras, for example in video surveillance, to collaborate holistically in real-time, enabling operations to be tracked without interruption;
• Big Data: Atos Edge Data Analytics – this enables organizations to improve their business models with predictive and prescriptive solutions. It hinges upon edge data lake capabilities to make data trustworthy and useable;
• Container: Atos Edge Data Container (EDC) – this all-in-one container solution is ready to run at the edge and serves as a decentralized IT system (from one individual rack up to a complete containerized data center). It can run autonomously in non-data center environments with no need for local on-site operation;
The BullSequana Edge is available today and can be purchased as a standalone infrastructure or together with a software platform, such as Atos Edge Computer Vision, Edge Data Analytics, or in a container system such as Atos Edge Data Container. The BullSequana Edge is Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT.
Managing tens of thousands of field service tasks per day in numerous locations requires enormous human resource capacity and generates significant costs. Additionally, with more than half a million network elements and thousands of employees engaged in the service delivery process, management of incoming issues is complex and time-consuming. MegaFon was looking to streamline these operations, minimize income losses resulting from network and service downtime, and improve field service quality. To reach those business objectives, Comarch implemented its Field Service Management system.
With the on-premises application of Comarch Field Service Management and the Comarch FSM Mobile app, the daily, paper-based responsibilities of engineers, managers and administrators have been digitized. In addition, subcontractors’ employees can now access the system and use its capabilities. As a result, field work management has been unified and centralized, which was crucial for the company.
Deployment of the software enabled MegaFon to automate field workforce management, optimize planning and scheduling, and introduce real-time reporting. With these features, the company is now able to manage tasks efficiently in connection with emergency incidents, planned works, customer complaints, energy systems and infrastructure problems from mobile and fixed networks.
“The implementation of the Comarch FSM solution in MegaFon is another opportunity to share our experience in the telecommunication sector and advise our client on how to optimize their processes. This project allowed us to build a strong presence on the Russian market,” says Szymon Uczciwek, Head of Field Service Management Consulting in Comarch.
MegaFon is one the leading telecommunication service providers in Russia, claiming 29.5% of the market share in 2017. The company and its subsidiaries operate in all Russian regions, along with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Republic of Tajikistan. Their subscriber base exceeded 77 million at the end of 2017.
Megafon’s company offer covers all telecoms market segments. Services include voice, mobile data, fixed-line telecommunication services, digital TV, IP telephony and innovative solutions such as mobile TV, OTT video content, M2M, mobile and financial advertising and cloud services.
MegaFon’s shares have been traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange since 2012, and on the London Stock Exchange since 2014.
Comarch is a global supplier of software and services for enterprises. It has over 20 years’ experience designing, implementing and integrating IT solutions for some of the world’s largest brands, including BP, Deutsche Telekom, Diageo, KPN, Orange, Telefónica, Unilever and Vodafone. Comarch has a specialist telecoms unit providing IT solutions to telecoms operators around the world. It builds technology solutions to meet the key requirements of telecoms companies, namely to increase revenue, grow business efficiency, simplify systems, cut costs, enhance the customer experience, build new services and shorten their time to market.
Comarch IT solutions for telecoms have been consistently listed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report, while its IoT offer has been evaluated positively by Berg Insight, IHS Markit and Gartner, who also named Comarch a “Vendor to watch” in the 2017 Market Trends: A Comprehensive Approach to CSP IoT Platform Selection Will Enhance Market Positioning.
The company has also been recognized for its work in the telecoms industry by other analysts, including Forrester, Informa and Frost & Sullivan.
Wearing a Mixed Reality headset, an engineer can share what they see and communicate with another engineer miles away. They might also be able to simultaneously call up manuals or other information through a heads-up display and view details provided by their assisting engineer.
Last month saw the launch of Hololens 2, the much-improved successor to Microsoft’s mixed reality headset Hololens. Microsoft is not a lone voice in the dark, with a plethora of other companies working on technologies with similar applications. Nreal and Zappar are just two of the start-ups trying to cash in on this emerging market. Are their investors just taking a gamble or are there good reasons for their investments?
This makes one wonder – is Mixed Reality just another gimmick or could it bring major benefits to Field Service operations? I suspect the latter, and here is why:
The adoption of new technologies tends to follow the S-Curve. As a product or technology gains traction in the market, its market begins to grow. At first, the growth is slow, almost imperceptible. It then develops more rapidly as consumers begin to adopt the technology. As the market expands, that growth continues. Finally, a host of factors cause the growth rate to decline and then gradually growth tapers off as it becomes a replacement market.
"The adoption of new technologies tends to follow the S-Curve..."
So where is Mixed Reality on the S-Curve? In his much quoted “Diffusion of Innovation”, Everett Rogers terms the first group to adopt a new technology as “Innovators”. Innovators are characterised by a willingness to take risks, have the highest social status, have financial liquidity and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Their risk tolerance allows them to adopt technologies that may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. I would suggest that the US military, who have just placed a large Hololens order, fits squarely into this category.
The next stage of adoption belongs to the early adopters. Early adopters have a high degree of opinion leadership as well as high status and financial liquidity. Whilst facts and figures are still sparse, anecdotal evidence suggest that we may already have started to move into this phase. The companies I hear about who are investigating Mixed Reality are in niche markets, very profitable and their engineers are highly skilled. They are happy to take some risks and try innovative solutions. This suggests that we may be about to accelerate fast up the S- Curve, but what benefits can we expect?
Well, wouldn’t it be nice if we could bottle skills and experience. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and wherever we look we encounter skills shortages. Be it HVAC, Gas Central Heating or High-Speed Printing; in Cornwall, London or Scotland – companies struggle to recruit experienced engineers. In niche sectors it is the worst. When baby boomer engineers are retiring they the take their skills with them and it’s hard to replace them. Would it not be great if a senior engineer could guide the engineer on site through fault-finding and repair from the comfort of the office (or even from home), in real time? How many senior engineers could you retain this way?
But then, do we need to stay with the traditional model of service visits. In many sectors it is common that the first visit is about identifying the fault and the parts required to fix it. We may try to do this over the phone but often without success. How often could this be done by customer staff with guidance from a skilled engineer delivered remotely via Mixed Reality? I imagine it would be a lot, if it was easy enough. How much would that improve engineer productivity and first-time-fix rates and fix-times? And what about inaccessible locations or when the fault occurs off-shore or on a ship? The benefits of Mixed Reality for fault finding and assisted repairs are massive. Of course sometimes it’s as simple as getting a second opinion about a tricky issue.
Then there is training. Ever simulated a fault and waited forever whilst six trainees take turns resolving it with their heads in a confined space? Wearing Mixed Reality headsets, they could be right there with the trainer inside the machine.
These are just a few examples. As technologies expand and become cheaper, their applications multiply. Just think what you could do with a mobile phone 10 years ago and what we use it for now. No wonder some industry analysts expect shipments of Mixed Reality devices to exceed five million in the next three years.
So, yes – I see Mixed Reality changing the way we do service, and soon!
Danny Wieder is a Field Service Consultant at HSO.
SigmaDots blockchain-based solution enables protection for IoT and IIoT systems.
SigmaDots blockchain-based solution enables protection for IoT and IIoT systems.
SigmaDots, a cyber-security startup and subsidiary of Essence Group, has partnered with Telit, a global enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT), to expand IoT security and strengthen business continuity leveraging SigmaDots technology. Essence Group is a market leader in developing LTE-based connected devices and IoT platforms.
SigmaDots has developed the first embedded, blockchain-based cybersecurity solution for IoT and IIoT systems. Telit, recognizing the need for enhanced solutions, is working closely with SigmaDots to improve resilience to cyberattacks. The companies are collaborating on the use of blockchain technology for routers, control panels, IoT gateways, and a host of IoT devices, drastically reducing device vulnerability to cyberthreats.
“The ubiquity of IoT devices makes them attractive targets for cyber mischief,” said Alon Segal, SVP of Software & Services, Telit. “Our collaboration with SigmaDots adds another layer of security and communications resiliency using distributed technologies to offer advanced, secure infrastructure solutions for our customers.”
SigmaDots software-based solutions harness the power of serverless architecture, bringing blockchain-based cybersecurity to the IoT ecosystem. With a scalable, interoperable, and secure platform uniquely adapted to the limited resources of IoT, SigmaDots empowers connected ecosystems to accelerate the machine-to-machine economy.
“IoT is finally delivering on its promises of complete connectivity – wearables, mobile apps, home safety, smart meters and in industry – generally anywhere” said Itsik Harpaz, General Manager of SigmaDots. “However, this connectivity brings significant threats – an attack on a single device can spread throughout the entire network.”
IoT devices without strong cyber protection can easily become part of a botnet to carry out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or fall prey to IoT-focused attacks like man-in-the-middle, data and identity theft, and device hijacking.
“SigmaDots technology was developed out of the need to strengthen the security of our IoT devices,” said Dr. Haim Amir, CEO and founder of Essence Group. “We’ve been creating innovative connected device solutions for more than 25 years, so we fully understand the challenges and the necessity of creating airtight cyber protection.”