How Context-Aware Apps & BYOD Ease Field Service Constraints
Guest author: Kerry Doyle
It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of mobile applications and BYOD in field service. At the beginning, applications provided only simple forms. Now developers are building context-aware applications that understand business processes, technician location, weather conditions, and more.
A specific application can understand least-cost routing, technician skill level and qualifications, holiday and vacation schedules, hours worked, and so on. The use of context-aware applications in terms of field service offers other advantages related to task efficiency as well. For example, hazardous environments that require following safety procedures.
Context-aware apps can help mitigate regulatory issues because the app can alert a technician to perform the steps necessary to meet compliance standards. It also ensures that a technician has a safe environment to work in. From a compliance perspective, context-aware applications can make sure that all the correct protocols are followed.
In addition, with context-aware apps, a supervisor could actually rate a technician’s work and task proficiency. Let’s say you have a high-level mining operation that uses an expensive, premium drill-bit. You only want an experienced crew to work with that drill-bit. Context-aware applications ensure that certain technicians are assigned to specified projects. In addition, routing and reporting based on the field crew guarantees that only those specified technicians will handle certain equipment.
This leads to optimizing assets, making sure they are used properly and efficiently through the matching of the correct technicians with the right tools. Adding context to all these aspects of field service work helps make task performance more efficient and easier.
As the technology evolves, mobile applications are increasingly effective and they no longer function in isolation. Previously, simple form-based mobile apps were sufficient, now they’re context-aware in conjunction with the work process that a technician is doing. Such situational sensitivity can flow through the entire work process, depending on the task at hand.
The process of mobile application design also takes into account smart device context. That is, that the behavior of a technician using a tablet will be different than when they’re using a mobile device or desktop. For example, a worker may be responsible for six diverse business processes and within each one of those processes the behavior might be different.
Sitting at a desktop there’s little attention paid to the concept of starting and stopping. However, for a technician at a work environment in the field, that’s one of the prime motivations. Successful field service is based on completing a task efficiently, then moving on to the next one. Mobile applications are offering context capabilities and an awareness of what a technician is actually doing at a certain moment.
As context-aware apps continue evolving, the next stage is exploiting 4D data with mobile technologies to offer companies a competitive advantage. What are 4D strategies? While context-aware applications rely on GPS coordinates, 4D consists of those three dimensions (latitude, longitude, altitude) plus time.
There is power in integrating, analyzing, and visually displaying 4D data as real-time info-graphs. Such visualization of 4D information provides logistical awareness that extends to assets, resources, work crews, field assignments and equipment. The bonus is you get a fuller picture of operations in progress. It’s like an evolving snapshot that’s constantly being updated. You can make many important decisions as to how to optimally schedule, utilize your workforce and, at the same time, increase profits.