We all know that Augmented Reality (AR) is on everybody’s lips nowadays. But honestly, what would AR be today if it weren’t for smart devices? Probably still the futuristic concept that we all dreamt about when we were watching “The Jetsons” back in the day. Although we are not there yet with the flying cars part, technologies like smart glasses have the potential to change the automotive industry quite significantly, especially when it comes to frontline workers. [By Anastasia Costin]
The pandemic situation of the recent years has made automotive companies, dealerships, and workshops more aware of the importance of having access to work related information and support in real time from any location around the globe: Digitalized instructions for repairs, immediate access to remote experts, and step-by-step guidance all leverage the potential to positively impact both worker’s lives and operational processes. But, have frontline workers in the automotive industry reached the same conclusion? Are they ready to be digitalized in the same way that desk workers already are?
Have Frontline Workers Been Left Behind?
According to a study by the Handelsblatt Research Institute, commissioned by TeamViewer, 71 out of 100 office workers expect that digital technologies and collaboration software will become relevant to their profession in the future. Among non-office workers, only less than half of them believe that this statement is true: Just 45%
At the same time, 80% of the global workforce is deskless. So, why are frontline workers not recognizing the benefits of digitalization the same way their colleagues in the office do? Some of the most common reasons are related to the fact that their needs are not taken properly into consideration. What do frontline workers actually require? And how can you make sure that you fulfil these needs during your company’s digitalization process?
Simply put, workers want to do their jobs. They wish to avoid wasting time searching for information. This causes unneeded frustration and can greatly impact the quality of their work. Smart glasses can be an easy way to ensure that information is always available whenever they require it. They don’t have to wear the devices all the time. Just pick them up whenever they need to and put them back when they solved the issue. According to Fortune Magazine, technology is the No. 3 item workers said can help reduce their stress and become more effective, after better wages and paid time off.
We all know that new processes mean we have to learn new things. In an environment where workers are always very busy, nobody is willing to allocate even more time to learn how a new tool or gadget works. When it comes to introducing new technologies such as smart glasses into the day-to-day processes, companies need to look at ways to integrate them into regular activities in such a way that workers would immediately be able to see benefits.
Frontline Workers Need Reassurance, Their Knowledge Is Appreciated
Digitization is continuously transforming our cars and other vehicles into full-blown computers on wheels. Servicing of these cars is becoming ever more complex. This can be a challenge for veteran technicians, since solving some of these new issues sometimes requires a new set of skills. Just adding a new piece of technology won’t do the trick. Workers need to understand that their skills are not being simply replaced by a smart device. They should be reassured that this change will add and build onto their already rich knowledge base, without them having to throw away anything from their vast experience.
A survey by Gartner shows that “half of employees who are not knowledge workers want their organization to provide them with greater control over when, where, and how much they work. Currently, less than a third of this group reports having flexibility in any area of their work.”
Technologies like smart glasses powered with AR-powered remote support solutions can help with that: When workers have all the information, they need to do their job available in their field of view, right when they need it, and both hands free for the actual work, then they can work in a more self-determined way: No need to wait for the only colleague in the company who knows this or that car model best to arrive and assist in person. No need to search for old manuals or serial numbers of spare parts. Everything is right there in real-time.
Address Privacy Concerns and Invest in Secure Solutions
Privacy concerns have been raised in the past with smart glasses like the original Google Glass, or similar products by Facebook. These concerns do mostly relate to consumer products, suspecting everything that is filmed via the smart glasses’ camera or registered by its microphone would be harvested by the above-named data companies.
Why shouldn’t frontline workers fear the same for industrial-grade smart glasses their employers want them to use? First, inside a work environment, different laws apply for workers safety and data protection in most jurisdictions. Additionally, the employer usually has a self-interest in protecting this data from being leaked, so security measures are way higher already compared with consumer devices. Finally, there are solutions out there that encrypt all data traffic in a way that not even the company providing the smart glasses’ AR software – let alone the employer – can decipher it. This way of encrypting data is called end-to-end encryption.
According to McKinsey, cybersecurity is becoming a new dimension of quality for automobiles. As we are on the verge of introducing connected, self-driving cars on our streets, no carmaker, related dealership, or workshop can afford to fall short on cybersecurity. This, of course, includes all hardware and software that is used in producing and servicing cars. But no technology or security measure is invincible without the people using it. So, it is again key to get automotive frontline workers on board to embrace new, secure digital technology: AR and smart glasses with integrated remote support solutions, can make a real difference for both companies and workers, in an auto world that is becoming digitalized faster and faster.