If CES 2016 was any indication, this is the year of smartglasses and augmented reality wearables. Vendors ranging from Microsoft to Vuzix presented their latest iterations of smartglasses or, in Intel’s case, smart helmets.
The question is, “So what?” Connected devices are nothing new, and smartglasses, while interesting on an enterprise level, have failed to meet expectations in the past. The difference today is that technology is reaching a point where the headsets and glasses can do some quantifiable good. They can save costs and increase profits.
Gartner has long been saying that smart devices, including smartglasses, are where the future of business lie. They predicted in 2013 that the field service industry could see cost savings of $1 billion per annum by 2017, thanks to wearables. They’re likely to be proved right.
Other industries, including TIC firms, are eying the prediction closely and responding with test projects of their own. In fact, Forrester’s principal analyst J.P. Rownder says smartglass pilots for back-end operations will outnumber front-facing ones by three to one. He adds that the verticals poised for deployments are oil and gas, transportation, manufacturing, utilities, warehousing, and logistics--all of which touch TIC at one point or another. Those investments aren’t because of fads or pressure to be “cool”; businesses around the world are adopting wearables in order to drive operational excellence and business objectives.
How could augmented reality positively impact your TIC firm? Check out these five reasons. We'll cover the other four in our next post.
1. Decreased Operating Expenses
Travel and labor costs add up quickly in any market, but perhaps more so in the TIC one. Inspectors travel all over the world. They might as well have a sign that says, “TIC Inspector, Will Travel.” They’re on the road--or sky--more often than not, and they’re often traveling to remote or hazardous locations.
With AR, powered by mobile devices such as ruggedized tablets or smartglasses, travel and labor costs would decline. Inspectors wouldn’t need to travel quite as often, yet still inspect as many sites as before, if not more.
2. Higher Operational Efficiency
Technology has been touted to increase operational efficiency, but it’s really integrated technology that’s the ticket. When software and data are integrated, managers can better prioritize tasks. They can also streamline and standardize workflows.
When software and data merge with smart devices, efficiency rises even higher. Managers can oversee and respond to inspectors and their needs in real time. The combination leads to proactive and predictive methodologies, what FierceMobileIT’s Adam Stein calls “context-based capabilities,” rather than reactive.
3. Higher Productivity
Efficiency gains tend to lead to increases in productivity, but that’s not the only way to improve the latter. An example is found with shadow audits. Normally, a senior inspector is sent out with a junior one to act as a) a form of quality control and b) an “on-demand” source of knowledge.
Augmented reality allows the senior inspector to shadow junior ones without leaving his workspace. He monitors the junior inspector; offers real-time guidance and instruction when needed; and reports on the employee’s ability to go solo for the next inspection. While this does decrease total travel expenses, its primary effect is on the senior inspector’s productivity. He can assess more junior-level employees, as well as inspect more sites that require someone with his level of expertise and experience.
4. Increased Safety
Inspections don’t always happen in pristine environments. They take place in mines or on oil rigs. They’re dangerous locations, where having one’s hands free is more of an essential than a nicety.
That hasn’t always been possible for inspectors. They have their hands filled with clipboard and pen or, in a more tech-savvy scenario, a tablet. But their hands still aren’t free, and that increases the risk of getting injured on the job.
Smartglasses and helmets are an ideal solution in such an environment. Inspectors can still do their jobs, but they can do it with less worry of getting hurt, not to mention being able to file their inspection report, along with supporting documentation, in real time.
5. Reduction of Mundane Tasks
The TIC industry comes with a lot of paperwork. Most industries do. People who work in them typically take the paperwork and input the data into some sort of online tool, be it some form of inspection software or a basic CRM.
It’s a lot of work for the employee who already has more than enough work to do. Technology again helps; with AR, plus a cloud-based data hub, inspectors can upload photos and videos directly, and access documentation or other information as they need it. In some instances, they can virtualize their clipboards and input the data when they’re at the inspection site rather than when they get back to their truck, office, or hotel suite.
Curious about wearables and their potential impact on your business? Call us at 855-545-3777 to take Pristine, our AR solution, on a demo.
Image: Ted Eytan (Creative Commons)