Even as the third richest man in the world, Warren Buffett has been famously slow to invest in even the most successful technology companies. Recently, he made somewhat of an uncharacteristic move. Buffett invested in a jewelry company called the Richline Group, which will soon release a line of smart jewelry.
"Jewelry is a centuries-old business that isn't going anywhere, so it's a safe bet,” Buffett said. “With the addition of technology, we're simply updating something everyone knows and loves to better fit our modern age."
In 2013, Business Insider predicted Google Glass sales would go ballistic. They were wrong. In 2014, consumer wearables took off. In the following year, everyone agreed wearables would revolutionize field service. But again, no dice. Now that 2016 has come and gone, many are suspicious of wearables ever making their mark.
But if Warren Buffett has his money on wearables, we do too. Similar to jewelry, field service is a centuries-old business that stands to be modernized.
Here’s how wearables can positively impact field service in the coming years.
1. Voice command empowers hands-free field tech communication
Aberdeen group recently reported that 75% of best-in-class field service organizations provide field techs with remote access to experts while at a customer site. In addition, this study reported more than half of best-in-class service organizations prioritize investments in mobile tools that provide field teams with better access to information in the field.
Service organizations wishing to gain a competitive edge should empower techs to use wearable watches, glasses, and rugged tablets, allowing for hands-free voice communication.
Common scenarios could include:
- Field tech calling to remote expert to aid in service diagnosis in real-time
- Field tech accessing knowledge center via voice command to search for deeper information on parts or equipment
- Field tech logging service details via voice technology in real-time, thereby streamlining documentation and reducing errors
In field service, streamlined communication between field techs, dispatch, and customers can result in efficiency and even greater return on investment (ROI). Voice command through wearable technology allows field techs to stay focused on the task at hand, and resolve jobs more efficiently. In turn, this means higher first-time completion rates, improved service resolutions, and ultimately more satisfied customers.
2.Tracking biometric data to improve worker safety
Field service professionals in oil and gas, capital equipment, rail, construction, and countless other sectors face dangerous work scenarios. Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on occupational fatalities and injuries. Unfortunately, the numbers have remained relatively unchanged for many years. Wearables stand to reverse these trends by giving management real-time access to biometric, weather, and service worker data.
Wearable devices could be used in the following scenarios:
- Workers are equipped with smartwatches that can track heart rate, body temperature, or other environmental factors
- A command center sets custom thresholds for heart rate, body temperature, and other biometric signals of field service staff, ensuring in real-time that staff remains under agreed upon thresholds
- Management and IT teams evaluate biometric data sets at scale to determine top preventative factors and recommendations
- Service teams scale safety recommendations based on field service biometric information
3. Improving route optimization and drive-time service communication
According to Aberdeen, changing customer demands and increased service competition are top pressures impacting field service organizations. This is why mobile workforce management and route optimization are top priorities for many field service executives. Improving service routes and communication means more jobs completed per day, which leads to more satisfied customers, and improved profits.
Wearables stand to significantly improve service route strategies and communication. Here are a few common scenarios:
- Through text-to-speech technology, smart watches could alert drivers of crashes, route changes, or customer questions while the tech is driving
- A smart watch, or even a smart car could notify service techs of re-routing opportunities in real-time
- Smart watches, or other devices could send a push notification or text-to-speech message containing a list of parts necessary for job completion. Field techs would review prior to beginning each service trip
While the impact of wearables may not yet be readily apparent—and the prevailing form factor not yet defined—field service organizations willing to adopt these technologies in novel ways will win big.