The Apple Watch (available April 24) has garnered the most attention for its use in the consumer world, but one can imagine skeptical thoughts of the smartwatch’s relevance to field service:
- “It’s not tough enough for the daily wear and tear of field service.”
- “It doesn’t replace either a phone or tablet for technicians in the field.”
- Another device to charge, and the battery life doesn’t even last a full day.”
These are all fair points. In fact, there is not really a differentiating feature that sets the Apple Watch apart from other smartwatches already in the market — besides the sexy design we’ve come to expect from Apple products.
So why do I believe the Apple Watch will impact field service? There are three primary reasons:
1. Simple and quick actions: The same way that apps on our mobile phones forced developers to create a simplified experience for those who were used to laptops and desktop computers, we should expect to see another level of simplification for the user experience on the smartwatch. The experience of smartwatch apps will have to focus on quick and simple actions. This bodes well for field service technicians who are multi-taskers by nature and who just want to see a notification on the watch and immediately respond through a quick touch or voice interaction.
2. Hands-free operation: If anyone values having two free hands to do a job, it would be a field service technician. A smartwatch is practically undroppable. You don’t accidentally leave it in the car. You don’t even need to reach into your pocket, which can be a big deal considering studies have shown people check their phones for messages more than 100 times per day. With a smartwatch, a field technician will have less of a chance missing that important text message from a team member while his hands are occupied on the wheel or doing work at a customer’s site.
3. A rising tide raises all boats: The previous two points are benefits that apply to smartwatches in general and not exclusively to the Apple Watch. But when Apple throws it hat into the ring of wearable technologies, everyone takes notice. We will see thousands of developers race to build the most popular apps on the Apple Watch. And, as we’ve seen in the past with iPhone and iPad, when the app ecosystem grows in iOS, growth in other app ecosystems will follow. Many of the apps built in this coming universe of smartwatch apps will focus on improving the experience and productivity of the workforce, including field service.
Though I have ideas, I’m not sure what that killer app will be that will justify the wide adoption of a smartwatch in field service. Given the mobile and multi-tasking nature of field service technicians, I fully expect to see creative apps introduced first on the Apple Watch platform that will measurably improve the productivity of field technicians — and I’m very excited for the possibilities.
A version of this article originally appeared on ServiceMax’s blog.