In Part One of this report Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News looked at the latest developments in live video streaming. In Part Two, he explores three potential areas the technology has potential to make a difference.
User Case One: Driver training
It is well documented that improving the general standards of driving amongst your team of field engineers can lead to almost instant gains in terms of impacting upon your bottom line. Better drivers use less fuel, incur less day-to-day damage and wear and tear on a vehicle and as alluded to above can even lower insurance premiums.
Indeed the telematics market is full of driver training/driver behaviour monitoring tools designed to help field service organisations track who in their mobile workforce is performing well behind the wheel and who is regularly sitting towards the bottom of the pack when it comes to driving standards.
However, the cost of having a qualified coach sit in on a ride along can be prohibitively high. This is where one potential application of live streaming can come into play. With an in-vehicle camera providing the ability to allow a qualified coach to remotely view a driver’s performance in real-time, there's no need for a trainer to sit in with the engineer. Coaching can be given to multiple drivers across a potentially infinite geography in a much shorter amount of time, without the costs of getting your coaching resource to each individual trainee.
Use Case Two: Lone worker protection
By the very nature of their roles field workers are very often working in a sole capacity and this carries it’s own set of regulations and responsibilities for their employer.
The biggest challenge for the lone field service worker is that on a regular basis the job they may be called out to do can place them working alone in an unsafe environment, putting them in a potentially vulnerable position. Such risks are not just the more obvious settings of hazardous workplaces such as utilities plants or around heavy machinery but can also include those who may be working unsociable hours in an office or even domestic residences when working on an emergency call-out.
The technology now exists for a wearable camera capable of delivering live video streamed across either a 3G or 4G network...
Of course when we talk about wearables there is a lot of buzz and hyperbole at the moment and a large part of this excitement is around the potential to combine existing technologies into the wearable format.
We can start to explore a number of different opportunities around lone worker safety with wearables and one of such example could be to combine health monitoring (e.g. heart rate monitor) and a wearable video camera with live streaming capabilities to activate in emergencies – providing not just an alert but also vital insight into any incident again in real time.
Use Case Three: Parts Management
Another area for consideration regarding for the implementation of live streaming videos in a field service environment is as part of a parts monitoring system.
Parts inventory management out in the field remains one of the most challenging areas of good field service management. However, from a financial point of view the sheer lack of visibility into spare parts inventory, something that can often be the largest negative balance on a profit and loss sheet for a service operation, is a huge challenge.
Once again the use of live streaming can become part of the solution. Through the combination of a number of different technologies a camera could be utilised alongside the use of QR codes (or possibly even a simpler numbering system) that allows engineers to hold each part they remove from the van to the camera so it is logged instantly as it leaves the van.
Such technology already exists, of course. However, with the advent of the latest streaming technology this video data is available in real-time allowing for two-way communication when particularly expensive parts are being removed for example.
Not re-inventing the wheel
Whilst it is perhaps not a technological breakthrough on a par with some of the other technologies emerging currently such as 3D printing, IoT or Connected Vehicles,the advent of live streaming does present an enhancement to many tools we already have in place in a field service operation.
However, it is the ability to ‘log-in’ remotely to cameras in real-time that is the real innovation here and whilst in many instances this step forward in technology simply enhances and improves the solution, in others such as the potential use case of enabling two way communication for logging expensive parts out of a vehicle in real-time, then new solutions and applications for the technology can be found.
I’ve been quoted in the past as saying that good technology should be simple to understand and should just make our lives easier. As a technology, live video streaming really is a something that meets this description. It can be applied to a wide variety of problems from the outset and with an open-minded approach could also play a part in resolving other potential challenges whilst ultimately improving numerous workflows.