Monday, October 26, 2009

Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, Part 2

This is the second in a 2 part series on Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation. Part 1 can be read here.

Field Service Technicians spend much of their time working at remote customer sites. Often the job expands or they get dispatched to a new job where they don't have the right equipment, expertise, tools or parts to complete the job in a timely manner. This can result in delays and inefficiencies that result in higher costs. Let's ponder some ideas on how a peer-to-peer mobile computing environment along with LBS (location based services) could improve these situations.

Location based services allow you to identify locations, objects and people with GPS coordinates. Based upon these GPS coordinates, various actions can be programmed or configured. Once you are within 1 mile of a shopping center, you begin to receive product sales and discount information as an example. In a field service context, you could activate a database query, or activate a series of automated business processes. Let's consider a scenario.

A field service technician carries an inventory of equipment, tools and parts in his van. It has only storage space for a limited inventory. Different field service technicians carry different tools, equipment and parts in their van's inventory. Perhaps if all of the vans had GPS tracking, and all of the van's had identified inventory, then a field service technician could view a complete mobile inventory from all 6 vans within a 5 mile radius.

Why would viewing the inventory from all 6 vans be useful? If a van with the right equipment, tools or parts was closer than the company's warehouse, then you could save time and money by meeting the van and exchanging inventory. The company van with the right equipment or parts may be only 1.3 miles away from your location, while the warehouse may be 25 miles away.

It is also good cash management to turn over your inventory. You don't want your field service technicians purchasing more of a particular part, when your warehouse or other vans already has that unsold part in inventory.

How does mobile peer-to-peer or P2P computing come into this scenario? Each mobile handheld computer can be configured to communicate directly with all the other company's mobile handheld computers so their locations and associated parts and equipment inventories can constantly be surveyd.

I have not yet seen a a work order management or field service automation system utilize these emerging LBS and P2P technologies, but I believe this is a very intrigueing new area. If you have seen examples of this kind of solution in action, please share in the comments section below.

If you would like to exchange ideas on this subject please comment on this article or contact me.

Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant