Wednesday, 20th January 2021

Field services industry readies plans for extended reality

By Stefan Spendrup, Vice President of Sales Northern and Western Europe at SOTI .

  • 08 Nov 2020 Posted in

Extended reality (XR) has become a hot topic across industries, and for good reason. The promise to remove longstanding barriers that limit the ways in which organisations work and create new methods of engagement are just two of the ways its application can lead to bigger ambitions.

The field services industry is perfectly situated to reap the benefits of XR technology. By their very nature field services operate in fluid, remote capacities, with decentralised management and remote workers reporting with regularity to a control center. Their remote functions have become more complex as the needs of customers have advanced and their expectations have outpaced applied technology. Common challenges include managing communications with in-field staff and having the right technology, tools and information to meet customer expectations. To stay ahead of customer demands, XR is the next step. Employing XR technologies in the field, such as augmented or virtual interactive experiences, would allow those working remotely to simulate the in-person experience.

How and where to apply extended reality

Extended reality provides either an interactive experience of a real-world environment enhanced by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) or blends the real world with the virtual world through mixed reality (MR) technologies. These can be used across multiple sensory modalities—touch, taste, smell, sight and so on. Functionally this technology can be used on mobile devices or by wearing powerful AR/VR/MR headsets.

XR technology has vast application potential:

  • In-field practitioners could use the technology to scan a component and get real-time data on it.
  • For the remote healthcare industry, which is already anticipating greater technology implications from the eventual 5G rollout, VR and AR headsets are being used for everything from remote consultations with specialists to prescribing and guiding patients through therapeutic exercises and treatments for chronic conditions.
  • Manufacturers can use extended reality to overlay digital imagery on physical spaces, simulating the experience of a physical construction without the cost, manpower or time needed to construct the space.
  • Industries that rely on spatial-mapping can now create a sensation of tangibility by employing mixed or augmented reality. For transportation and logistics where inventory management is vital to ensuring timely, cost-effective delivery, XR can eliminate the manual functions required to manage fleets, warehouse spaces and orders, which, in turn, reduces the potential for human error while also expediting time-consuming tasks.

The goal of any organisation is to find ways to expedite processes, continuously advance and to apply subsequent cost savings to the end client in order to retain an edge over competitors and deliver a better product or service. XR technology is able to unlock new value for businesses and has the potential to transform industries by:

  • Boosting productivity;
  • Eliminating geographic barriers or regional access to services;
  • Increasing complexity of tasks performed by field operators;
  • Extending training;
  • Providing real-time troubleshooting;
  • Reducing time spent in the approvals process;
  • Improving ease of reporting, communications, and real-time status updates.

As with remote and mobile technology before it, extended reality will become necessary if not required within business-critical operations and early adopters will yield first mover advantages. Whether you're just starting to explore extended reality or are looking to apply new technologies to existing processes, XR can open the door to new opportunities that will certainly impact and shape industries and business models for years to come.

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