EXPERT VIEW: Technology catalyses change for utilities
Two-thirds of utility employees work in the field for most of their day, and equipping them with effective mobile IT systems has proven successful in creating efficiency gains and cost savings. Here are some key considerations for procurement teams looking to refresh mobile technology for field workers to ensure maximum productivity, reliability and longevity.
Security is among the top criteria when selecting technology. Field workers generate huge amounts of highly sensitive data which must be protected against hacks or infiltration when at rest, in use or in transit. Encryption and security measures improve the ability to control devices, enforce security policies, provide audit trails and enhanced reporting, while reducing support and cutting maintenance overheads.
2. Fit for purpose
Field-worker equipment faces drops, vibrations, spillages, extreme temperatures and chemical damage. Mobile rugged devices undergo standardised tests to assess their toughness. IP ratings and military standards (MIL-STD) are the most widely recognised ratings because they tell a lot about the reliability and performance of a device in the field.
3. Consumer vs enterprise devices
Consumer mobile devices have become smaller, lighter, thinner and more powerful, but will quickly fail in harsh utility environments. Today, rugged devices offer more of a consumer-like experience and boast the same powerful technologies, but offer greater protection.
Devices must integrate well and run the proprietary software and applications that field workers need to do their jobs. Staff need real-time access to a host of information and tools such as fleet tracking, accurate site location, job management, images, 3D mapping, vehicle checks, customer surveys, mobile printing, RFID, scanning, camera, watermarking, signature, asset management and stock control.
5. Total cost of ownership
Often the price of a rugged mobile device is higher than consumer grade devices, so simply looking at list price is an ineffective means of understanding the total cost of ownership. Utility organisations should consider longevity (usually rugged devices are built to last five years), shared use (shift workers, for example), support for connectors and components, software support, updates and add-ons, as well as warranty options.
Utility organisations can now rely on technology to respond to problems faster, improve operational efficiency, keep customers informed in real time, and comply with stricter safety and environmental regulations. Putting the right rugged mobile technology in place can significantly improve field worker productivity and efficiencies, as well as customer engagement, by arming them with better and more timely data and devices that can support a range of tasks all day long.
Chris Bye, president, Getac UK