The global augmented reality market is expected to grow by an average of 75 percent each year until 2024. With augmented reality (AR), virtual content merges with our reality. This will make our day-to-day lives significantly easier in the coming years, whether at work or in our private lives.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and SAP CEO Bill McDermott recently gave an impressive presentation of the potential that augmented reality has in store for business applications at SAPPHIRE NOW and gave insights into completely new application areas of AR technology. AR can be used to simplify and digitalize applications and processes as well as make them more accessible to field service employees.

An example of how AR optimizes field service processes can be seen by considering the maintenance of machines. When a technical problem arises, a highly qualified field service technician will normally identify the cause and solve the issue. They know the technical specifications of the machine and are well-versed on how to diagnose and rectify faults. A layman would spend hours, perhaps even days, trying to understand the individual components of the machine.

However, highly qualified field service employees and their working hours are both expensive and difficult to scale. Augmented reality enables the technician or even a less qualified user to analyze the machine faster in a virtual environment. All components are displayed via AR on a smartphone or tablet computer. The fault can be solved quickly and easily – maybe even without the need to consult a specialist in the future.

Augmented reality is a rapidly growing and increasingly sophisticated technology that should not be ignored by any field service organization.

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Before we get into the nitty-gritty and look at some exciting AR application scenarios in field service, here is a short summary:

Augmented reality (AR) helps service technicians to quickly carry out repairs on site, consult with colleagues, check a service case in advance as well as better prepare and accelerate field service. Virtual AR tools deliver significant cost savings, minimize travel time, reduce operating time for staff, increase expert reach and simplify training for new technicians.

In order to further optimize your technical field service and reduce operating costs, this blog post will show you the opportunities that the integration of augmented reality opens up for field service organizations.

IoT connectivity in field service

Before you go any further: In addition to AR integration, connectivity via the Internet of Things is another crucial component of field service digitalization. Discover the potential that the IoT offers your technical field service in our blog post.

Augmented Reality in Field Service

1. AR Enables Remote Support in Field Service

Imagine you are a new employee dealing with a complex technical task and you could call an experienced expert to help you. This colleague would see exactly what you see and could guide you step by step through the task using 3D graphical applications and illustrations. This way, you could complete the task without ever touching a single piece of paper and thereby bid farewell to complicated instruction manuals or other technical guidelines!

Remote support is made possible through augmented reality. Service technicians use a smartphone and point the camera at the machine so that an experienced colleague can help with diagnosis and troubleshooting. In addition, augmented reality apps now run on any standard tablet or smartphone. Smart AR headsets that enable hands-free operation are even more promising. For example, Google recently introduced the second version of its AR glasses, Google Glass, which is based on Android Oreo and has a much better camera that the previous model.

2. AR Improves Fault Diagnosis in Field Service

The goal of an effective and customer-friendly field service is to solve a problem in the shortest possible time. Nothing is worse for the customer than to organize for a service technician to come to their home only to find out the technician has to come back again because they don’t have the required tools at hand or because additional expertise is required.

With augmented reality, the problem can be displayed in real time and visually. The field service employee can prepare for the situation and, in the ideal case, does not even have to drive to the customer’s home. The focus here is also on minimizing costs and the corresponding time that the field service employee spends with the customer.

3. AR Facilitates the Training of Service Technicians

It is not uncommon for field service employees to have to maintain more than a hundred different variants of a particular component during their assignments. It is therefore almost impossible to train all employees to be able to deal with 100% of problems that could potentially occur. Both the technology and the errors and problems associated with it change far too quickly making it too difficult to keep up!

Remote support via augmented reality allows another expert to serve as a cost-effective safety net so that together you can find the solution to the respective problem in more complex situations. For example, the provider Scope AR has developed a solution based on the “See what I see” (SIWS) principle, where second-level support experts connect to the on-site technician’s glasses and handle the service process together.

The number one priority is the same here: solve the problem first time round and avoid a repeat visit, which will help reduce field service costs and improve the customer experience.

Crucial Factors for AR Implementation in Field Service

1. AR headsets or mobile devices?

Before selecting a device, analyze the situation in which your field service staff find themselves at the customer’s home when trying to solve the problem. Consider the following questions:

  • Do both hands have to be free when working?
  • Are they standing on a ladder or scaffolding?
  • Do they work indoor or outdoor – or even underground?
  • Which weather conditions prevail and must be considered in the decision?

For more complex problems, it may be necessary to have both hands available. This decision will significantly affect the cost as smartphones and tablets are cheaper than AR headsets.

2. Is there a business case for AR?

The costs and the added value generated by the introduction of augmented reality technologies vary significantly. Depending on the size of your field service team and the type of service you provide, you should calculate how often your technicians will use the technology and how much time and money you can save by using it.

3. Which tools do you already use?

Check out the possibility of upgrading existing smartphones or tablets instead of buying all the tools again. The cost implications are enormous and should be carefully calculated. Smart glasses are often not necessary in the first step. They are expensive and their battery life is often worse than that of smartphones or tablets.

Ideally, you should start by testing the new technology with 20% of your field service staff. If it is successful, you can then make the technology available to everyone.

4. What competitive advantages do you achieve through collaboration?

By integrating augmented reality into your field service, your company is able to combine the knowledge of all employees. This new collaboration, which the new technology offers your employees, gives you a decisive advantage. You can now do more field service work with fewer staff members. Don’t forget to take this factor into consideration as well.

Augmented reality is a rapidly growing and increasingly sophisticated technology that should not be ignored by any field service organization. Analyze your situation and use cases accurately by answering the questions above. This is the only way to turn your investment into successful added value for both your field service management and your entire company.

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About Tim Voigt
Mit über 10 Jahren Erfahrung als Consultant, berät Tim Voigt rund um die Themen Prozessoptimierungen und Digitalisierung unsere nationalen und internationalen Partner und Kunden. Privat beschäftigt er sich mit der Maker-Szene und bastelt immer, wenn es die Zeit erlaubt, gerne an seinem 3D-Drucker oder an anderen elektronischen Bauteilen.
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