Field Technologies Magazine recently released its Field Mobility 2016! report identifying the latest field technology trends among its reading audience. The report contained more insights than you can shake an Android tablet at, so for the purposes of this article, we’ll simplify the data into two domains: fleet management devices and fleet management software. These domains have, in recent years, become more and more connected to two buzzworthy acronyms: IoT (Internet of Things) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). In the context of fleet management, these two concepts would suggest an interconnectedness of dispatch, automation, telematics, and back office devices and software – an interconnectedness that could potentially take place through consumer-grade products.
This dynamic may sound complicated at first, but, it’s not. The three capabilities that survey respondents sought most from both their device and software domains were actually quite simple, basic, foundational fleet management needs:
- Work-order management
- Basic scheduling
- Knowledge management
And apparently, something is going right in the world of fleet management, as more than two-thirds of those surveyed (68%) reported that they currently use such a software solution to help manage their field services, and more than half (57%) of those who aren’t using a software solution plan to soon.
Bring Your Own Device – But Which One?
When you think fleet management devices, perhaps you think of bulky, heavy, industrial, ruggedized boxes that resemble bomb-diffusing robots, with track wheels and a metal antenna extending out of the top. To the contrary, roughly half (49%) of the handheld/smartphone-oriented participants surveyed by Field Technologies indicated that they indeed use consumer-grade handhelds/smartphones to conduct business (only 20% reported using “rugged” handhelds/smartphones). This piece of data hints at relatively new BYOD technology trends, as many consumer-grade fleet management handhelds and smartphones are owned by the technicians and dispatchers themselves. Fleet managers seem to be happy with their decision to use handhelds/smartphones in the workplace, as 63% of them note intentions of sticking with handhelds/smartphones the next time the decision presents itself.
Tablet user sentiment was similar to smartphone/handheld user sentiment in that 42% of those surveyed by Field Technologies noted that they currently use consumer-grade devices (7” and 10”), and 92% of standard tablet users intend to repeat the decision in the future (only 8% plan to consider rugged or semirugged laptops at all).
Advanced Software – Traditional Needs
When tablet users were asked which feature most influenced their device selection, their top answer was, paradoxically, software-related. The device’s native operating system was the most compelling standard, followed by its user interface, and then cost. And while Windows-based OS’s made the top spot in survey respondents’ preferences (38%), the Android OS took second (18%) among single-OS solutions.
On the topic of software, four key functionalities exist on 50% or more of survey respondents’ currently-utilized, industry-specific software applications:
- Dispatch/work order assignment (72%)
- Service/work order assignment (68%)
- Basic scheduling (50%)
- Routing/navigation (50%)
Not surprisingly, these functionalities correlate closely with the three basic, foundational fleet management needs mentioned previously. (Note: “Knowledge management” was barely under the halfway mark, appearing on 46% of currently-utilized industry-specific software applications). And while these functionalities are relatively traditional needs in the realm of field services and fleet management, the deployment of these software solutions is not: 62% of survey respondents currently use a cloud-based (as opposed to a traditional software-based) solution. While cloud-based software offers a bevy of benefits pertaining to price, configurability, and technical capacity, nearly half (49%) of cloud-based solution respondents say they opted for a cloud-based solution simply because it could be deployed faster than traditional alternatives. (Read more about Cloud vs. Traditional Fleet Software Licensing)
The Field Technologies report gives fleet managers much to think about, but don’t knit your brow over these new technologies just yet – because even newer technology trends are on their way! (To wit: In the same Field Technologies report, one author describes a county that is “testing how wearables can fit into its mobile device mix.”) The key to staying ahead of IoT, BYOD, and all of those other sexy new acronyms is to implement a comprehensive fleet management framework that is flexible and scalable based on your company’s needs. Ensure that your company can easily add solutions as your fleet’s capacity to automate grows, and you will be prepared for whatever new device and software technology trends arise.