Benefits of Wearable Technology for Field Service Businesses

‘Wearables’ are any kind electronic technologies that can be incorporated into clothing and other accessories and comfortably worn on the body. These wearables are essentially miniature computers that go wherever your techs go, measuring many different types of data that impact jobs performed by your field service industry business.

Two of the more prominent, mainstream examples of wearables in recent years are Google Glass and the Apple Watch, and in some ways both of these products have been viewed as failures. There is a genuine concern felt within the field service industry business world that wearable technology in the workplace is merely a trendy, experimental phase, and may not be able to generate any revenue growth in the long run.

However, the benefits of wearable technology in the field service industry are numerous—disproving the commonly held belief that wearable technology in the workplace is an ineffective, wasted investment. We talk a lot on this blog about the benefits of field service management software, so it is only natural that we should mention and explain other emerging technologies that can help increase your field service business’s bottom line.

As you read through this article, consider these possible applications that showcase the benefits of wearable technology for field service technicians:

Glasses or contact lenses: A field technician can use these state-of-the-art glasses or contact lenses to see customer data, warranty information, and/or manuals as he or she repairs a machine at a customer jobsite. Here is an example of a technician pulling up some information via Microsoft’s HoloLens—an augmented reality platform that involves wearing glasses:

If you ignore the potential blue of Facebook along the top of that photo and truly believe this man is hard at work, you can get a good idea of the benefits of wearable technology in the workplace and on jobsites. As NBC News recently noted: Smart glasses might be “dead” to consumers, but they’re thriving on factory floors.

Voice and gesture control: Using voice activation and gesture resignation technologies, an employee in your business’s back office could call up a series of invoices or a particular daily schedule hands-free. This is one benefit of wearable technology in the workplace: your employee can multitask, and focus on typing information into a work order without having to dive four to five clicks deep into another scheduling program to find the information for which he or she is looking. The picture below showcases hands-free, voice and movement recognition, and provides an example of what gesture control looks like—admittedly this image is not from a field service context, but it might give you a better idea:

For additional context, there’s always this:

Health monitors: The mainstream way to think about this type of wearable technology is in terms of a FitBit or the ‘Health’ area of an iPhone. However, these wearables could monitor breathing, heart rates, and other vital health data pertaining to technicians in working dangerous or enclosed environments. This is another benefit of wearable technology in the workplace: it allows help to arrive sooner in the case of emergencies, and gives these emergency personnel access to health information that could save an employee’s life. In this example, a field tech is wearing both glasses (from above) and a health monitor sensor contained within the glove:

And from a pop culture context, well …

Smart clothing: Similar to other wearable technology in the workplace like health monitors, smart clothing could signal if a driver is experiencing fatigue during a long day of jobsite appointments, or these garments could determine if employees are moving heavy items using incorrect form. (Not bending at the knees?) Here’s an example from Gadget Review:

This picture shows what is called a Flexi Freeze Ice Vest, and this wearable is just what you want if the air-conditioning system is broken! It comes with three removable, reusable ice panels that keep you cool and comfortable for a couple of hours—or until the ice melts. Field service technicians can reap the benefits of this wearable technology in the workplace and on jobsites when the temperatures are soaring above average, and they have to be exposed to the sun and extreme temperatures. We should also note that there are many pieces of smart clothing that trap heat for the opposite effect should your technicians be exposed to the elements during the winter.

Haptics: Haptics is the science of applying tactile sensation to human interaction with computers. When you type on your smartphone, haptics play a roll when the small vibrations from your fingertips touch your devices screen, and your device registers that you have typed a letter. The benefits of wearable technology in terms of haptics in the field service industry is best seen in products called ‘data gloves.’ Technicians can wear such gloves when fixing machines, and then the machines can provide feedback when the parts have been properly adjusted. Using haptics in the form of data gloves can increase first-time fix rates. Below is a basic illustration of what haptics looks like:

And while admittedly this is underwater (where only a small percentage of field service techs end up working), this is what a haptics get-up looks like on a person:

One of the more complicated set-ups you may ever feast your eyes upon:

Why does all this matter? These wearable technology developments are already big deals in some field service settings, especially in a training and development context. Utilizing wearables in the workplace allows your company to have access to data pertaining to how your technicians are performing in the field with clients—i.e. whether they are being effective at the various motions that make up any appointment. When you combine some of these wearables with concepts like augmented reality (placing a virtual world on top of the existing world you see) or virtual reality (creating a new world from scratch), the implications for training or scheduling are massive.

You can send a less-experienced tech to a big client job and a more experienced technician can guide them remotely through the steps required to complete the job using wearables and augmented reality. This is a major benefit of wearable technology: it reduces the scheduling pressure on your best techs, and makes it much easier to run your business in an efficient manner.

A lot of these concepts not only involve the idea of changing technology, but also mobility. Another benefit of wearable technology is that field service technicians on jobsites can be easily connected to office and customers via mobile. In fact, people agree that mobile is the biggest game-changer in the field service industry over the last few years—even more so than the Cloud. To learn more about the importance of FSM integration, mobile, and why you should invest in mobile-first solutions, check out the eBook below.

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