With the Internet of Things expected to account for some 24 billion connections by 2025, field service management is becoming increasingly complex. To optimize processes in the FSM sector, technicians need access to mobile solutions and advanced technologies that can help them complete tasks accurately, and in the most cost and time-efficient manner.
First contact: chatbots in customer communication
The concept of using chatbots to handle customer queries is nothing new. Many companies across a great many industries have been using them for some time as a web-based first point of contact. However, as the artificial intelligence upon which these bots is based becomes more sophisticated, we can expect to see their use and scope expand. In FSM, this means it will be simpler for customers to contact call centers and technical departments – with the chatbots themselves equipped with AI/machine learning capabilities to address issues and provide solutions with increasing accuracy. The result? The company saves times and money, and customer satisfaction increases.
Knowledge is just a click away
AI and ML will also have a role to play in the way FSM technicians operate when they are on assignment. With access to a fully-digitized, AI-driven mobile knowledge base, technicians will have at their fingertips all the details they need about any given job or equipment – even when they are on site. Each technician will make increasing use of image-based object recognition and issue resolution data, all accessible from their mobile device. What’s more, the same AI/ML technology that drives chatbots for customer queries will play an important role if technicians find they need to interrogate the knowledge base for more detailed information.
The bigger picture
FSM technicians will in the near future use the camera and scanning functions of mobile devices in increasingly innovative ways to help them with their tasks in the field. For example, in large teams working on complex installations or maintenance tasks, mobile image capture and storage can keep track of a project and ensure any given technician understands the appropriate next steps. Mobile FSM will also make more use of images for verification purposes (providing evidence that the correct part/material was used in a given task), condition state recognition and issue resolution (identifying the state of a given piece of equipment and linking directly to the appropriate section of the mobile knowledge base for maintenance/repair guidance), and quality control (for example, by using real-time images for comparison with “ideal state” pictures stored in the database to ensure quality and position of equipment).
To reality and beyond
FSM technicians on assignment will certainly encounter more situations in which hands-free access to information and knowledge will be essential. To assist them, FSM organizations will make greater use of augmented reality solutions via smart glasses. These devices capture images in real time to connect the technician to a database of information that will help them locate even the smallest network element. In addition, the technician can receive full technical data and a 3D model of the element or device in question, which can be manipulated for inspection.