As a sub-section of customer services and support, field services plays a critical role in the service delivery ecosystem of many businesses. As such, it is important to understand that a company’s success in field services is directly linked to the quality of service they provide.
As customer expectations continue to evolve, it is essential for field services to adapt and modernize their operations. To meet these changing demands, many companies are transitioning from traditional paper-based processes to digital workflows and incorporating the use of cutting-edge technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for training, diagnostics, and maintenance. This trend is rapidly growing, with 80% of service leaders now planning to utilize AR solutions to enhance their services.
AR and VR – what does it mean?
You may have heard of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), but what sets them apart?
VR completely replaces the real environment with a simulated one, requiring specialized hardware such as a headset or room display, and input devices like motion controllers or gloves for interaction. Despite its common association with gaming, VR has many valuable applications in industries like healthcare and safety training.
On the other hand, AR blends computer-generated content with the real world and doesn’t need special hardware. It is easily accessible using just a phone or tablet and becoming more prevalent in our daily lives. Retailers are increasingly integrating AR into their websites and apps, allowing customers to view products in their space using their phone or tablet camera, making it easier to imagine a pair of shoes on their feet, a color on their walls, or a chair in their room before making a purchase.
AR images can also be dynamic. For instance, Google incorporates 3D AR objects, such as animals, into its search results. Imagine searching for ‘hedgehog’ and observing one burrow into your carpet, or zooming in and examining it from any angle. In some cases, AR can be so immersive that the distinction between AR and VR becomes unclear, known as mixed reality (MR).
Enhancing Field Services with AR/VR Technology
AR/VR is revolutionizing the field services industry in two key areas: training and diagnostics.
AR/VR offers an immersive, convenient, and comprehensive training experience while ensuring safety. Key benefits include:
- Enhanced product visualization: Trainees can view and interact with products in ways not possible with physical objects, such as inspecting a large machine from any angle or zooming in for a closer look.
- Scalable, anytime training: Virtual training eliminates physical constraints and can be delivered anywhere with a secure internet connection. It is available 24/7 for self-service learning.
- Safe training environment: Virtual training eliminates the risk of injury or damage to products or parts being used for training.
AR/VR provides more reliable, safer methods of working and collaborating in the field for technicians, subject-matter experts, and customers. Key benefits include:
- Improved troubleshooting: Technicians can diagnose faults by comparing a virtual working version of the product to the real one.
- Enhanced safety: AR/VR helps minimize contact with the product during assessment, reducing the risk of injury for experienced technicians.
- Efficient collaboration: On-site technicians can share real-time AR overlays with remote subject-matter experts, reducing delays and travel costs.
- Reduced site visits: Customers can use AR/VR to show remote technicians the problem, resulting in a more accurate understanding and potentially avoiding the need for multiple site visits.
Overcoming Challenges in Implementing AR/VR Technology
Implementing AR/VR in field services, despite its clear benefits, can pose challenges. A crucial aspect of successful implementation is proper management of the technical information to be delivered through AR/VR.
However, the technical knowledge (such as instructions, annotations, and procedural steps) is constantly changing as new product versions are released, leading to a high volume of content that needs frequent updating and management across multiple products and channels. Traditional, unstructured content in the form of formatted documents like Word files or PDFs make updates complex and costly, and can prevent publishing to AR/VR channels.
The solution is structured content, which breaks down information into small, reusable components based on topics and managed from a central location, such as a component content management system (CCMS), for all channels.
Structured content addresses the information management challenges in AR/VR implementation by allowing:
- Up-to-date information: Quick and accurate updates ensure that the AR overlay displays correct information and reduces the risk of further damage or injury. With unstructured content, updates require tracking and modifying multiple documents, while structured content allows for updates to be made in one central location and replicated everywhere.
- Findable information: Accessible information is key for technicians to perform their job effectively. Unstructured content makes it difficult to search for information, while structured content, with its granular tagging, enables filtered search results and improved search function through semantic AI.
- Offline accessibility: Field services often require information in areas with limited internet access. A CCMS with offline capabilities allows for full mobility.
- Publish on any device: AR relies on portable devices with a camera, including phones, tablets, glasses, etc. Structured content management allows for a “headless” system, which is not tied to a specific presentation format and can store information in reusable components, making it easy to publish on any device in any format.
Achieving AR Success with Tridion Docs: An Intelligent Content Platform
Tridion Docs, as a headless CCMS and intelligent content management platform, provides the technology necessary for field operations to utilize AR/VR in their training and diagnosis processes. With Tridion Docs, you can:
- Establish a centralized, easily updatable source of truth for field service information.
- Effortlessly find and access content through its advanced semantic AI search capabilities.
- Automatically distribute the right information in the right format, on-demand and offline, to the correct location.
About the Author
Fraser Doig is Associate Product Marketing Manager at RWS.
RWS is the global leader in content management and translation technology and services. 90 of the top 100 global companies work with RWS. Tridion Docs provides streamlined end-to-end component content management. It includes easy web-based authoring, reviewing, versioning, translation, and publication management, underpinned by the DITA XML standard. As a true collaborative environment with a familiar Microsoft Word-style interface, subject matter experts (SMEs) in your organization can contribute their knowledge.
Authors and reviewers can work simultaneously in the same document providing comments to each other, tracking and merging changes. Tridion Docs supports global enterprise use cases including single sourcing, product documentation, learning and training, policies and procedures, and efficient translations with delivery to multiple end points such as documents, PDFs, knowledge portals, Intranet, customer facing websites, apps, chatbots, and IoT devices.