Would you rather a toolbox in the back of your van, or a drone? I read an interesting article the other day about drones in field service, and it really got me thinking. In fact, I was still thinking about it a few days later when Apple announced Apple Watch, and the two ideas couldn’t help but fuse together in the process!
While the little boy in me loves the idea of drones on the field, I don’t think field service is ready for the jump. Sure, imagination and innovation is what GE Ventures is famous for, but as things stand, I don’t think field service is ready to take to the air. Why not? Well, for a start, aerial work is pretty niche.
Most work is at ground level
Some field service work is carried out at a height, that’s true, but the majority of it is a little closer to the ground – and it needs a technician there right at the coalface. Until they start making drone/mini-chopper hybrids (I’m exaggerating here, but a small part of me thinks that would be pretty awesome), a drone by itself isn’t going to be much use in most situations. It could definitely come in useful if a technician needed to simply check (and not work on) a high-up location, but that’s a pretty small part of most technician’s jobs, and not one I think your everyday field service job is going to require.
It’s a pity, because as industries go, well…much as I hate to admit it, field service and route planning isn’t really the sexiest sector around. Field service drones would bring some much-needed excitement to the area, so I can see how GE – and the rest of us – jump on opportunities to investigate something new and interesting. As someone who makes a field service tool, however, I have to keep reminding myself what it’s really about – helping field service companies, not making life more difficult. As much as I like the idea of field service drones, I don’t think Synchroteam will be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon!
Fraught with problems
Why more difficult? Well, there are several problems. The biggest, and most significant, I think, are the legal implications. Some countries have very strict laws about who, where and when you can use a drone (I’m looking at you, UK!), and by flouting them, you’re committing a criminal offence. Then there’s the skill needed to pilot a drone – sure, flying up and down a pretty coastline to take a video looks simple enough, but manoeuvring and precisely approaching complex and often delicate machinery and installations are completely another. Correctly flying and professionally using a drone will take effort and training.
I was still thinking about the glittering lights of GE Ventures when Apple announced their watch. As I watched the news, I thought “Now THERE is an idea that field service can get behind!”. Field service wearables - perfect! Lots of potential to genuinely help thousands of field service workers do their job more easily, efficiently and quickly. It turns out that I’m not the only person who decided that wearable field service tools would be an awesome idea. I saw other articles spring up, each of them convincing me even more that wearable field service tech is the way to go.
Field service wearables would be perfect!
Field service workers are practical, hands-on people. Even when dealing with high-tech services, the work they are doing requires them to touch and physically interact with machinery and equipment. So imagine this: a device, not necessarily a device as smooth as an Apple Watch, but in the same realm, that allowed them to easily see information that helped them with their job – without having to lift their hand from whatever they are working on. This field service wearable could provide them with all kinds of extra information, from practical details about their schedule, updated information from the office, or even extra or urgent information about the job they’re currently working on.
Field service wearables – ripe for the picking
Like Suzie over at GetApp comments, not all industries are going to benefit from wearables to the same degree, but luckily for us, field services is one of the industries that could. In fact, we’re so convinced of the fact, we’re already working on incorporating more wearable technology into our research here at Synchroteam. When we’ve got something solid to share with you, you’ll be the first to know!