How to Elevate Digital Field Data Capture with Photos, Markup and Sensor Data

field service photo capture

The benefits of digital transformation for field service organizations are too great to number, and I don’t need to reiterate them here. Instead, I want to talk about an area of field service management that doesn’t get much attention as of late: field data capture and collection. Specifically, the past few years have seen marked improvements to the functionality available on mobile devices. Such developments are a compelling event for field service organizations to embark on the digital transformation journey. Here, I’ll detail how to elevate digital field data capture with photos, markup and sensor data.

Automatic Field Data Photo Capture vs Manual Upload

As we’ve learned through four years of developing field service management software, some customers can take hundreds of photos for one work order or job. You can imagine the significant loss in productivity and efficiency if a technician had to manually upload and attach each photo to the form. The reality is that is the case for the majority of field service organizations even today, not to mention the heavy volume of paper-based forms.

The alternative is digitizing everything, from the work order form to the photo capture, and automatically attach it upon job completion. It makes sense, seeing as how most field technicians have a mobile device—BYOD or company-issued—from which they take the photos. With direct access to a field service management mobile application, the entire process can be automated. Now, everyone from the field to the corporate office and back-office system, has the same, accurate and digitized information.

Markup, Annotations and Site Sketches for Work Orders and Assets

It’s not uncommon for field technicians to markup or annotate field data captured photos by hand. And, in some industries, creating site sketches is a requirement to denote assets, asset-related details or the location on a piece of equipment that requires repair. It’s not always easy to hand-draw or markup data captured in the field and not everyone has legible hand-writing.

Being able to take a photo with a mobile device right in the field and then turnaround and digitally add markup or other annotations can be a huge time saver, as well as brings clarity to the issue at hand (no pun intended). Some field service management software even has the capabilities that allow you to upload your own custom symbol library for your specific field data capture needs.

field data capture site sketches

Sensor Data Capture for Real-Time Range Validation or Compliance Procedures

I recently penned a blog post, The Promise of an Interconnected World: The Impact and Challenges of IoT on Field Service Organizations, where I discussed the benefits of linking sensor data through IoT enabled devices. Today, this is fairly common required information for such industries as oil and gas, utilities and inspections.

There are two main business workflows we see time and time again. The first is where temperature or pressure readings are captured manually via the field service management software work order form, when there are no sensors. The data is then exportable to third-party analytics tools for further analysis.

The second is where IoT sensor readings are captured automatically and synced via an integration to the field service management software. The integration provides the ability to see the manually captured readings with the automatic sensor readings right on the technician’s mobile device in the field, including good, warning and error range alerts, trending readings on a chart and comparing current situational readings to the past for inconsistencies.

The ability to capture field data related to sensor-based or manually-captured enables real-time monitoring of range validation or compliance procedures. The intelligence gained via digital methods enables accessibility to the data via integrations with back-office analytics tools (i.e., PI, Tableau, Spark, Python, OSIsoft PI System) for further analysis. And all of this information provides insight into the health of equipment in order to avoid outages or failures. Additionally, real-time access to the data while in the field helps the operator make better decisions. The field service management solution now becomes a decision-making tool.

asset management and monitoring

These are a few instances where digital field data capture can increase the productivity and efficiency of your field technicians. An added benefit is the precipitous increase in accuracy. When we’ve talked with our customers, we calculated that with Field Squared they’ve achieved a 90% improvement in field data capture accuracy. In general, it’s worth it to digitally transform your field service organization and this is one of the best places to start.