Mar 27, 2018 • FeaturesManagementArtificial intelligenceAugmented RealityJan Van VeenMachine LearningMichael BlumbergReactive MaintenanceBill PollockBlockchainDeep LearningSLA ManagementParts Pricing and Logistics

Field Service News' Big Discussion has a simple premise - we take one key topic, bring together three leading experts on that topic and then put three core questions to them to help us better understand its potential impact on the field service sector...

This issue our topic is the what to expect in 2018 and our experts are Michael Blumberg, Blumberg Advisory, Bill Pollock, Strategies for GrowthSM and Jan Van Veen, moreMomentum

The first question we tackled was What is the biggest challenge facing field service companies in the next 12 months?

Our second big question in the series was What is the biggest opportunity facing field service companies in the next 12 months?

And now onto the final question in this instalment of the Big Discussion...

What one technology do you think will have the biggest impact in the next 12 months?

Bill Pollock: Clearly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will have the biggest impact on field service in the next 12 months. In fact, while some field service companies are still debating whether or not to implement Augmented Reality (AR), the more progressive – and aggressive – services organisations are already embarking on their respective AI and ML implementation programs.

The application of AI for positively impacting key services-related areas such as customer experience and workforce productivity, while also allowing companies to move from a preventive maintenance to a predictive maintenance service model will be stunning! In addition, many organisations are already beginning to realise the benefits of using AI and ML for improving their overall service parts management activities, as well as for supporting data-driven decisions by allowing them to process, understand and share information that they didn’t even know they could cultivate as recently as just a year or two ago.

One caveat, though: services managers will need to closely align with their companies’ CTO and CIO before embarking on an AI/ML program, as their respective knowledge of the technical aspects of these “new” technologies will certainly help throughout both the decision-making and implementation processes.

AI and ML are not a fad – they are here to stay, and now is the time for field service companies to embark on that journey.

Jan Van Veen: I try to think of one technology that will impact on all companies. This depends on the industry and where the field service is on the continuum from reactive maintenance to advanced services. Also, the impact of new technologies will always be over a longer period of time.

I do observe that most field service organisations have little view on the impact of Augmented Intelligence and Deep Learning systems which can process and learn from unstructured information in writing and speech. These systems are now having practical applications in various sectors, including technical services.

We have already seen Doctor Watson of IBM massively beating the smartest people in the game ‘Jeopardy’ (search for it on YouTube). Dr Watson is already providing quite accessible web services to use the functionality and have their first field service solutions.

This technology will not only completely reshape our knowledge systems and the scarce skill sets we need for remote diagnostics, it will also be a crucial vehicle for developing advanced data-driven value propositions.

I hope to see more and more manufacturers engaging with a few trusted clients and the right data-driven partners to explore the opportunities from this technology.

Michael Blumberg: I think blockchain technology will have the biggest impact on the Field Service Industry in the next 12 months. A brief definition of the blockchain is that it is a decentralized and distributed digital ledger used to permanently record transactions across data, text, video, or audio files. It is extremely secure and scalable.

The blockchain includes within it the concept of a “smart contract”, a series of if-then statements related to a transaction.

This makes it the ideal technology for building an IoT platform. The blockchain can be used to record sensor data and then trigger service events (i.e., field service dispatch, parts shipment, corrective actions, etc.) based on smart contracts. These transactions can also be monetized in real-time; like a virtual cash register. Any disputes can be resolved by verifying the blockchain transaction itself.

This is just one of many use cases for block chain technology in the Field Service Industry. Other use cases include asset tracking, spare parts authentication, knowledge content sharing, and SLA management. 2018 will be the year where these use cases are implemented in field service and produce measurable results which eventually lead to large-scale adoption within the field service industry.

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