A Look Ahead – 2014 Trends in Mobility for the Field Worker

Rugged mobile technology will continue to transform the field workforce this year, according to Field Technologies magazine’s Field Mobility annual report – a projection of industry technology trends to watch in the coming year.

According to the report, improving customer satisfaction is ranked as the primary goal that successful field mobile solutions aim to achieve. Ease of use, reliability and durability are also important factors the field workforce will consider for its mobile device deployments.

As the report makes clear, tablets are the future. Currently, a mere 15 percent of the field workforce says they primarily use tablets for operations. Yet, that is soon to change. There has been a four percent drop in field laptop use from last year, according to the report. And, of the companies currently using smartphones, 40 percent have a strong interest in switching to tablets, while 55 percent of companies using laptops also desire the tablet upgrade.

The convenience and versatility of tablets allow field service professionals to take advantage of their enhanced functionalities and improve customer service. Tablets diminish the need for cameras, paper, and bulky laptops; they have rear-facing cameras, signature capture capabilities and screens in various sizes. Many professional grade tablets are also equipped with features including 4G LTE wireless broadband connectivity and long-life, user-replaceable batteries, which help field professionals stay connected and productive throughout their shifts.

According to the report, today’s field workforce exceeds one billion, and with a new era of mobile computing on the rise, technology that can endure extreme field environments is crucial. Direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, wet conditions and the need to work with gloved hands are common scenarios for many field workers.  The solution to these elements is realized through the investment of rugged tablets. Seventy-nine percent of respondents to the Field Technologies survey believe ruggedness is a crucial component in mobile devices. Devices are often dropped, exposed to extreme environments, and generally beat up when out in the field, and companies cannot afford the downtime and loss of productivity that result from a device being in need of repair.

Rugged devices also place an emphasis on security. In the field services industry, keeping vital information safe is a necessity. BYOD, or bring your own device is a pervasive trend in the enterprise in which individuals use their consumer devices for work. An outstanding 63 percent of companies are weary of BYOD, because many consumer devices often lack security features found in enterprise-grade technology and could potentially leave company and/or client information vulnerable to data breaches.

Another up-and-coming mobility trend is the use of cloud-based solutions. Twenty five percent of respondents currently use a cloud-based solution and another 56 percent are considering a cloud update for 2014. The benefit of operating with the cloud is that it functions as a middleman between the field workforce and headquarters. Work is streamlined and completed more efficiently due to real-time access to resources, which are stored in the cloud and available from virtually anywhere in the service region.

Service Management Software is being used by 45 percent of field workers, and another 20 percent plan to adopt the automation software this year. This software pairs well with tablets and can be customized to a meet company’s particular needs using a variety of applications. The software functions organizationally in regard to work order management, dispatch order assignment, scheduling and navigation solutions to workers in the field. With cloud-based service management solutions, communication between headquarters and field workers is optimized.

The field service industry is in store for a technological transition in the coming year. The increasing adoption of rugged mobile devices – more specifically rugged tablets – will help to ensure field crews stay connected to the data they need to remain efficient on the job. Customer satisfaction will increase as downtime and loss of productivity decreases thanks to these emerging technologies.

Panasonic offers a range of mobile computing solutions built to keep field service professionals productive and efficient no matter where their work takes them. For more information on Panasonic’s Toughbook and Toughpad mobile computers, please visit here.