It’s incredible that, even in the middle of a global pandemic, you can have an expert show up ‘on site’ at a factory, warehouse, retail store or restaurant in a matter of days – or, in some cases, minutes – to help design, implement or maintain complex technology solutions. Then again, it is mostly because of the pandemic that this has become possible.
Though remote IT teams have been leveraged for years to help configure, manage, and diagnose systems for geographically dispersed organisations, there has often been an expectation for someone to be available on the ground if needed to assist with requirement definition, solution planning, implementation and scaling. When lockdowns started and travel was restricted, technology providers such as Zebra had to find ways to support deployments and service equipment without being physically on site at customer locations. In fact, business continuity in this regard was mission critical.
Essential healthcare providers, retailers, warehouse operators, manufacturers and logistics companies were under extreme pressure to expand and scale their operations at a lightning pace. Even utilities, public safety agencies and government entities had to adapt to help protect their workers and the communities they serve. They all needed their technology systems online and running optimally at all times if they were to keep up with demand without compromising anyone’s safety. So, we moved quickly to put people and systems in place that would enable us to “be there” for – and with – customers as they were conducting facility walk-throughs, setting up new equipment, configuring software solutions and even training their workers.
In other words, COVID-19 may have disrupted many things, but it didn’t interrupt delivery of our professional services thanks to our creation of Zebra Remote Expert.
This is Far More Than Just “Virtual Assistance”
Customers all around the world rely on us to help guide them through the discovery, design, development and deployment of very complex technology systems. I’m not just talking about multi-layered mobility architectures, either. In a typical day, we will:
- conduct discovery workshops with retailers who want to put intelligent automation solutions to work in their stores;
- facilitate solution design sessions that must factor in the people, places, processes and systems impacted by the technology platform within the scope of dozens of safety, security and performance criteria;
- collect data from implementations to help inform recommendations on solution and process refinements, resolve issues, and improve performance.
Each of these actions are very strategic and require input from multiple stakeholders with widely varying skill sets, experience and know-how. That’s why we created the Remote Expert enablement service tool utilised today. We wanted to be able to have all hands on deck anytime we were called in to help, whether the experts were coming from within Zebra or our global channel ecosystem.
The Very Real Benefits of Augmented Reality When Engaging with Remote Experts
Anyone can pick up the phone and try to help someone troubleshoot an issue. But resolutions can be achieved a lot faster, and with far less challenges, when the experts are actually seeing what you’re seeing. Video chat tools aren’t always the most efficient way to collaborate with front-line workers as many may only have access to handheld mobile computers and, even then, may need both hands free to show our engineer, IT and professional service teams how something is working.
That’s why we are increasingly using the Zebra HD4000 head-mounted display to give remote experts complete visibility into the current situation.
When synced with the right augmented reality (AR) software application, front-line teams can send a video feed to Zebra’s remote experts in real time so they can walk those on the ground through the best next steps to take. In fact, we recently employed Remote Expert technology to complete a solution design survey for a manufacturer in the Czech Republic. Live video was streamed through the HD4000’s head-mounted camera allowing two local engineers to give a remote Zebra expert a virtual tour of the facility. By using augmented reality and onscreen annotations, the team was able to confirm the site design and record the observations for further analysis. This enabled solution implementation to continue in the middle of the pandemic without delay.