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Better Data Makes For Better Decisions

20 June 2017

Study to examine emerging technology in industrial and logistical settings. Image: unsplash

A two year UTS study led by Associate Professor Andrew Johnston Co-Director, Creativity and Cognition Studios, will gain deeper insights into the actions and preferences of field technicians working with emerging technologies.

Sponsored by Retriever Communications, a global provider of mobile automation solutions for enterprises in the industrial space, it will explore the use of new technologies in real-world contexts, mapping out their strengths and weaknesses, and considering how to improve the experiences of mobile field workers.

“We are a strong, practice-focused team in interaction design at UTS and will work directly with industrial and manufacturing companies to examine the use of innovative technology and its effectiveness and efficiency in a real world setting,” Andrew said.

The study will examine technology use in two key areas: user experience, and the Industrial Internet of Things (a subset of IoT specific to manufacturing).

For users, the fundamental research question is whether new technologies are able to improve field user productivity, or are they immature and an encumbrance?

“For example, what is the impact of using voice technology to interact with a mobile apps in industrial settings?  Mobile workers often work in environments which are not well suited to touch-screen interaction – situations where they are required to wear gloves for example, or are working in very bright outdoor light.  Voice-based interaction might improve the situation, but what are the real-world implications of adopting it?” said Andrew.

“For IIoT, we will investigate how to best integrate and present relevant data, such as air conditioning readings for example, so that technicians have access to the information they need in a format that is most useful to them.”

The study will also examine the benefits and drawbacks of centralizing technical expertise.  New technologies such as augmented reality can help remote field workers draw on technical expertise of people based at head office for example, but could lead to  loss of worker proficiency. Is this approach feasible, or will it have a negative effect on either productivity or quality?

 “With the exciting emergence of new technologies, the fundamental question for our industry is how they can be used effectively by field staff,” said Mary Brittain-White, CEO of Retriever Communications.

 “History has demonstrated that the best technologies are completely ineffective if not designed centric to the field worker. This is more important than ever, as field staff serve as the front line of communication with customers in a world where differentiation is hard to achieve.”