Last edited 27 Feb 2021

Top 3 tech disruptors in the field service sector



[edit] Introduction

Disruption is a way of life for companies in today’s digital age, where new technology often renders incumbent ones outdated and obsolete. Successful companies track potential disruptors and make changes to their business model to not just cope, but thrive with the disruption.

In recent times, disruptive innovators have capitalised on mobility, the cloud, the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, big data, and so on to launch innovative business models.

[edit] The mobility frontend-cloud backend combo

Uber, Airbnb, Tinder and many other companies have heralded very successful and innovative business models, profoundly disrupting the traditional way of rendering services in their respective sectors. These companies have forced a shift in the way businesses approach their clients and resources, leveraging the power of mobility, cloud, and algorithms to deliver customer-centric operational models.

With mobile data traffic across the globe projected to increase dramatically, the potential of the mobility-cloud combo to significantly disrupt the service sector continues to be very significant.

As cloud services mature, companies entrust them with more information, data and resources, to deliver services to precise recipients. Pay-as-you-consume or on-demand services, delivered through mobile apps will entrench themselves in sectors where they already have a foothold, and will conquer several other sectors. Doctors and emergency services on-call, cloud-based on-demand flexible education services from primary to doctorate levels, and more, are just some portents for the future. Many of these services will co-opt other emerging technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and more to offer cutting-edge services in a way that traditional brick-and-mortar establishments can only dream of.

For example, PillPack’s full-service, online pharmacy not only offers door delivery, but does so after sorting the patients’ medications by the dose. Livongo, another tech leader, helps patients take blood sugar readings online from connected devices, transmits the information to live specialists and engages with patients live for out-of-bounds readings.

The internet of things, and connectivity of factory machines and devices, will extend on-demand services even to the manufacturing sector, heralding the concept of machine-as-a-service. Repair of any machinery, or even the production of equipment, be it a watch or a lawn mower, could become an on-demand service, with the customer placing an order through their smartphone, a nearby 3D printer manufacturing the requisite product, and a courier delivering it to the customers' doorsteps. Ditto for repairs.

[edit] Algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine learning

Many companies now widely apply algorithms and machine learning to make intelligent predictions, offer proactive repairs, and deliver new cutting-edge innovative business models. The increasing amount of data generated by IoT linked machines, internet-connected people, and from other sources means such technologies will continue to offer insights, enabling stakeholders to make proactive and preemptive decisions.

For example, customer services can predict what a customer wants before they request it, a field service company can predict when a machine is likely to break down and schedule preemptive maintenance. Algorithms powering machine quickly detect patterns, indicating shifting customer preferences, allowing top management and strategists to alter their product mix, change pricing, or overhaul the business model.

Smart AI-powered field service software considers critical information such as a technician’s experience and expertise, customer location, device history, necessary tools, inventory availability, and so on when assigning a technician to a job, improving the potency of operations. Similarly, an AI-powered analytical engine can collate and evaluate students grades, hobbies, family background, net worth and so on to suggest the best courses for career advancement.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have now gone beyond gaming. Mobile devices and VR goggles allow field service technicians access to a wide range of critical information, or to collaborate with other far-away experts. AR overlays and RPA robots allow technicians to look and fix out-of-reach spaces inside machines. Holographic images bring teachers to the students' homes rather than students having to trek to the teacher’s location.

[edit] Data continues to disrupt

The importance of data has a disruptor cannot be understated. Big data analytics has been commonplace for a while now, and analytical tools are an integral part of most field management and other service sector systems. Data-driven decisions are already the norm. However, the potential for data to unleash disruption is not over.

Drones are already widely used to collect data and offer a new perspective. Another type of data is space and satellite data. Ever since the Apollo 17 crew photographed Earth a new dimension of satellite data has made its mark. Satellites are mimicking the trend that eventually led to computers becoming a household device, Spire, for instance, builds and deploys satellites no larger than a radio, at a fraction of the cost it takes to build government-grade satellites.

Companies are now increasingly sourcing data from drones and satellites, to collate weather, traffic,maritime, and other data, to make better decisions. Drones pinpoint congestion points in traffic routes. Satellite images of retailer parking help to accurately forecast business performance, counting cars as a proxy for customers. Rescue services use satellite data to locate stranded fishermen. Agriculturalists use satellite data to better manage their crops.

The financial sector offers a good microcosm of how technology continues to disrupt the service sector. The first wire services in 1918 rendered traditional forms of bills of exchange and transporting hard wealth irrelevant. The latest mobile wallets render such wire services obsolete. Likewise, online trading made traditional brokerages and auction houses a relic of another era, and now AI-powered trading threatens to make speculative-based online trading obsolete. Many fintech companies are busy leveraging technology to launch innovative products and capture underserved markets.

Success depends on how service companies can harness the disruption.

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