With the launch of the Apple Watch this week I thought it a good time to consider the evolution and benefits of smart wearables in the enterprise in 2015. Juniper Research has released a report concerning the market; it expects retail revenue from wearables to triple by 2016 and to hit £33 billion by 2019. While right now their use in the business environment is minimal, I think it will be organisations that provide services in the field that will drive their wider adoption.
Technology plays an important role in optimising the flow of information, people and parts out in the field to maintain maximum uptime for businesses like cable television and broadband providers, or to make sure health workers arrive at patients’ homes in a timely manner with the right information to provide a personal service. As devices have become more mobile, field service, or ‘service management’ organisations, have trail-blazed many ground-breaking and now familiar technologies. Enterprise mobility was pioneered in service management before it was a ‘thing’, before consumers even knew what a smartphone was. For the same reasons service management organisations (and their customers) will benefit more than most from wearables.
It is important however to emphasise that the true success of smart devices will not hinge on their individual features, more than that they will have to become part of a wider technology platform to provide more timely and better services to customers. The availability of real-time information on wearables will come from a variety of data-sources like asset management systems, parts inventories, customer relationship software and optimised scheduling engines – in fact to make this integrated approach much easier there are already ‘service management platforms’ that facilitate all field associated business processes.
Additionally considerable businesses benefit comes from collecting data out of the office and inputting it into enterprise or service management systems via smart wearable devices, from time clocks to photographs of assets.
When it comes to the specifics of which wearables enterprises will turn to, it is dependent on the kinds of tasks that employees are required to complete. Right now the early adoption of Smartglasses is low, especially with concerns about security and privacy. However we see potential uses and growth; glasses can provide fantastic Point of View (POV) video capture which can be used for analysis, this is especially true where tasks are ‘hands on’ or in cramped conditions. Gartner is optimistic, it believes that by 2017 smartglasses may save the field service industry $1 billion a year – we are seeing demand for photo and video capture technology, knowledge or evidence management, and added efficiency, but that estimate does seem aggressive.
Smartglass technology needs time to mature but savvy vendors are already building software so that they can accommodate the flow of information from smart glass platforms to the enterprise, and vice versa. Watches could have a more rapid adoption in the enterprise with immediate wins for those that want a simple and accurate way to view real-time information. There is the capability for status reporting or pre-triaged parts information that could be updated easily, in real-time, by a technician, adjuster, home healthcare worker or any other mobile worker. Not only is this very practical but it also drives added efficiency and productivity of the field teams.
While complex information delivery and communication such as forms, parts schematics and other detailed aspects of life in the field will remain better suited to tablets or laptops, watches will certainly be an interesting complement or replacement for certain functions. The basics for a 2015 smart watch strategy is to adopt this technology for real-time status reporting, access to selected job information, activity reporting and – potentially – the ability to place “instant help” calls to an expert. Imagine a scenario where a lone health worker visits an elderly patient that falls out of bed and hits their head. A single button on a watch could be used to rapidly deploy an ambulance to their exact location, or request a call from the next available accident and emergency doctor for expert advice to stabilise the patient.
Now is the time for field service organisations to look into wearables. Get it right and you can make life easier for employees, services better for customers and costs lower for the organisation. Procrastinate and your competitors could move and hold these advantages over you. However, as with any new technology make sure you are working with an experienced and well placed vendor to make the process as smooth and successful as possible.