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A New Reality in Tech Support: AR Poised To Disrupt Field Service

By Cynthia S. Artin
October 23, 2018

The operational costs of providing in-person support to address the growing number of connected appliances, devices and services in our increasingly hyper-digital world are unsustainable, and while “bots” and self-service may solve for some trouble-shooting requirements, human experts, assisted by technology, are the way forward.

Today, a company which has been innovating in cloud-based solutions to enable online support and collaboration, introduced the 14th – yes 14th – version of a platform and application that has increasingly embedded Augmented Reality into their offering.

IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT) implementations are raising the bar on service and support, and Oliver Steil, CEO at TeamViewer is obsessed with innovating new combinations of connectivity and software to enable humans to interact efficiently with “the machines” to keep systems up and running and serving up value.

Based in Göppingen, a town in southern Germany, part of the Stuttgart Region of Baden-Württemberg, TeamViewer is focused in laser fashion on pioneering AR technology designed to solve problems and close “trouble tickets” faster.

“Many new features and performance improvements above and under the hood of TeamViewer 14 underscore our role as global industry frontrunner,” says Oliver Steil, Chief Executive Officer at TeamViewer. “The new version offers a compelling combination of breakthrough AR, accelerated performance, and boosted productivity. With TeamViewer Pilot, we step into the real world as universal AR solution for remote assistance, work and training in any use case scenario and industry.”

TeamViewer 14 gives access to TeamViewer’s new AR implementation, TeamViewer Pilot, “productive AR experiences for remote assistance, work and training that expand the power of TeamViewer beyond IT support.”

The solution enables users to see through the eyes of others via remote camera sharing and guide them interactively through often complex processes, environments and operations with AR annotations.

By drawing, tagging and highlighting objects in 3D space on smartphone or smart glass screens, users can assist on-site staff, customers, friends or family step-by-step through remote troubleshooting, problem resolution, product setup, etc.

“People have collectively used the technology from TeamViewer in billions of instances where distance and time would have otherwise prevented them from accomplishing their goals,” the company’s press release claims.

The company also says TeamViewer has been installed on over 1.7 billion devices, with each device generating a unique ID, and with approximately 750,000 new IDs being created every day.

The solution supports more than 30 languages at present.

“With more and more connected devices, and sophisticated digital products, it is challenging to offer live remote support for all of them,” Steil said. “Service providers are less specialized than they used to be, and to create value and remain competitive, a new way of working, combining centralized experts with physical experts in the field makes tremendous sense. We’re enhancing our already powerful platform with augmented and virtual reality, connecting the expert with the in-person tech, and providing visual displays and live support via instant collaboration.”

Steil sees this as fundamental to the success of Industrial IoT, particularly, saying “with the overall proliferation of sensor-based systems, whether applied to high value legacy equipment or new factory builds, real time data will be created which can support preventative, predictive and even prescriptive maintenance, or can trigger alerts if a piece of equipment is about to go down, or has stopped working. While some issues can be fixed remotely, in factory of the future settings, companies like ServiceNow will be able to orchestrate fast, precise field service when a human tech is required.”

There is an upside to productivity and safety, Steil explained, and significant gains economically when “production businesses take advantage of real time monitoring and management, to optimize their yield while keeping equipment and factory floors safe and compliant.”

Asked about the difference between industry vertical solutions and more horizontal solutions, Steil said their platform enhanced with AR/VR and mixed reality is a horizontal solution applicable across any industry that is being made more efficient and profitable with sensor-based systems and interested in improving performance and yields.

“Whether an automotive factory using robotics to manufacture better cars more cost competitively, a hospital tracking expensive medical equipment location and performance, or a shipping company using a combination of automated pick, pack and ship systems, improving field service can mean the difference in millions of dollars that could be lost, and compliance failures when systems are unavailable for hours at a time.”

Industrial IoT may be the biggest opportunity for TeamViewer and their competitors. Why?

Enterprises, governments and other organizations who own and operate large numbers of physical assets are aware that failure among these assets could cause systems to shut down, including critical infrastructure, leading to lost productivity on the one hand, and catastrophic failures and security breaches on the other.

These entities are also facing a growing lack of qualified, skilled technicians who can be deployed in the traditional fashion. Being able to address complex problems in the field by combining an expert or expert team to resolve issues, with even a basic tech in the field to implement instructions, has potentially dramatic outcome improvements.

The intersection of IoT and AR has the potential to transform industrial maintenance and field service by capturing data in real time and converting this data into recommendations, allowing for failures to be diagnosed and acted upon, quickly and efficiently.

AR complements the skill set of field technicians and increases their productivity by providing them through cloud-based or mobile app-based diagnostic information, service instructions, tutorials and other information directly over the technician’s view of the asset requiring service.

A technician wearing a smart viewer can see an animation of the repair operation overlaid on the area of the machine where the operation is required.

Steil also reported that “Insurance companies we’ve spoken with are extremely interested in our systems and the data collected and analyzed, as this can help them assess risk and manage that risk: data that is collected on a shop floor level is valuable to many parties.”

Steil also previewed their vision for smart cities, where “vertical assets” (which used to be called “telephone poles”) now can include a dozen or more different sensors for applications including public safety, traffic management, weather forecasting, gunshot alerts and more. We’ll be covering that vision in a future story.

TeamViewer 14 also includes smart adaptive compression that analyzes connection quality and automatically adjusts compression makes the new version work significantly faster especially in low-bandwidth environments. The new release also leverages newest technologies for hardware acceleration and processing of computational intense tasks.

Additionally, to reflect its dynamically growing footprint globally, TeamViewer upgraded its server architecture resulting in faster routing connections and increased stability of TeamViewer’s signature high-performance remote connectivity.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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