You may have heard a few murmurs that Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are the next big things for field service management. This may seem wild but as I mentioned in my field service management trends blog, innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already changing the landscape of the industry with AR and VR very close on their heels. In fact, tech in the field service industry is expected to keep growing due to the benefits and efficiencies it creates for businesses. Considering the AR industry is expected to be worth USD $340.16 billion by 2028 and the VR industry is forecasted to be sitting at USD $69.9 billion by the same year, it’s no surprise these technologies are being seen in labour-intensive industries such as trade and construction.
But can these technologies driving innovation in field services help business owners achieve field service goals? If the benefits we’re seeing from them continue, our guess is - absolutely!
What is Augmented Reality?
In its simplest form, AR uses the real-world and overlays it with computer-generated imagery to enhance reality. Real world examples of AR include interior design apps which place a piece of furniture in your room, Snapchat filters and even Pokemon Go.
What is Virtual Reality?
VR is the use of technology to create a complete 3D virtual environment. This simulated environment can be similar to, or completely different from, the real world. VR places the user inside this simulated environment and enables the user to interact with the virtual world. In this way, VR is different from AR which still uses the real world and places virtual information on top of it. VR has most commonly been used in gaming. You may have seen people gaming using a VR headset like Playstation VR. These VR games and headsets completely immerse users into the games enabling them to be part of the game.
Can AR and VR be Used Together?
Yes! Surprisingly AR and VR can be used together. This is known as mixed reality (MR). MR blends the real-world view (from AR) with computer-generated graphics (from VR). In MR you can manipulate and interact with both virtual and physical realities. A hologram is probably the most notable MR experience, however, MR is also being used in a variety of industries such as medical training and education.
How AR and VR Will Impact Field Service
So how will these technologies be utilised in the field service industry? VR and AR can be used for almost anything from staff training to project planning allowing building owners to walk through virtual versions of their builds. It can even be used to visualise potential changes made mid-way through projects if budget or time constraints are impacting work.
Main Benefits of AR and VR in Field Service
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using AR and VR in field service businesses.
Reduced Training Costs
With The Great Resignation hitting the field service industry, businesses continue struggling to hire skilled workers. Even in times when business is booming, training can be costly, time-consuming and potentially dangerous. However, with AR, field service businesses can simulate real-life training situations involving tools, equipment and various safety scenarios to provide a safe and cost-effective training environment for employees.
Improved Service Operations
While there are many ways AR and VR can improve service operations, one fascinating example is the use of AR on site. Using technology on their phones and tablets, field staff can superimpose instructions, information, or even pictures onto an asset in the field using technology on their phones and tablets. With this information in the palm of their hand, business owners can improve first-time fix rates and field staff can diagnose and solve issues faster than ever before thereby providing better customer service and more streamlined operations.
This technology can also be used to troubleshoot with customers before field staff attend the site. This helps businesses diagnose the problem and organise the equipment needed for the job before field staff get to site. Once again, this improves first-time fix rates and customer service.
Streamline Complex Procedures
Sometimes jobs can turn out to be more complex than first thought. AR/VR makes these issues a thing of the past. Using this technology, field staff can get help from particular contractors or decision-makers from any part of the world over a live video. This enables real-time problem solving without having to wait for the other person to be on-site with the field staff professional.
Improved Knowledge Base
In businesses, there’s always a wide range of skills among workers. AR/VR allows businesses to capture knowledge from throughout the company and make it accessible to all staff via content libraries that can be accessed on devices while in the field. While traditional methods of knowledge sharing are tedious and time-consuming to create, AR/VR allows businesses to save information from complex jobs or remote sessions which may help other staff solve similar issues in the future.
Top Technologies Driving Innovation in Field Service
If AR and VR seem a little out of reach for your company, there are other more accessible technologies driving field service innovation that you can implement short-term including drones, IoT and field management software .
Gone are the days when drones were used only for fun! Widely used throughout agricultural and shipping industries, drones are now becoming a must-have in field service. Drones are being utilised to inspect and assess a range of sites, especially those which are hard for field staff to access. Equipped with sensors and cameras, drones enable remote analysis of complex jobs. The data fed back to field staff in real-time then improves the maintenance processes for these jobs which would once take numerous staff hours to complete.
Now a part of our everyday lives thanks to devices like Google Home and Fitbit, IoT (the Internet of things) is becoming increasingly popular in field service management. No doubt this is also due, in part, to COVID-19. When faced with limited access to buildings containing assets, remote monitoring with IoT can be used as an alternative to on-site asset maintenance. This provides customers with peace of mind that their building assets are secure and allows field service businesses diversification opportunities through new maintenance services such as condition-based maintenance instead of break-fix.
Management software within the field service industry has increased in popularity throughout the past decade. It’s growing so fast that the field service management software market is expected to hit US $3.43 billion by 2024! And, when you look at the benefits such as time savings, cost-efficiency, increased productivity and the ability to communicate in real-time, it’s easy to see why.
Field service innovation is changing the industry. While it may seem bizarre to think about AR and VR so heavily involved with the field service management, they are actually already gaining traction with some companies. And let’s not forget, it wasn’t so long ago that drones, management software and IoT seemed like far-fetched ideas. So, while widespread use may take time, it’s clear AR and VR can shape the future of field service.