Can AR Help Home-Service Pros Socially Distance?

Tech Vision is LSA’s series that spotlights emerging tech. Running semi-weekly, it reports on new technologies that LSA analysts track, including strategic implications for local commerce. See the full series here.

One of the emerging subtopics of the broader CV-19 discussion that’s consuming our attention and stalling global commerce is how can technology support “high-touch” local businesses? We’re talking everything from industry conferences to routine medical procedures to cosmetics sales.

Elsewhere on that expansive list is home services. Clearly social distancing protocols preclude, or at least challenge, the traditional ritual of service pros visiting your home to fix something. This is where emerging spatial computing tech (a.k.a augmented reality) can assist.

One example we’ve examined in a different light is Streem. It brings the industrial AR concept of remote assistance (a.k.a. “see what I see”) to home services. The way this plays out is that a given remote expert or home services pro can literally see a service issue through your upheld smartphone.

In the vast range of home services, this means that everything from setting up a wi-fi router to fixing a dishwasher can be assisted (or at least diagnosed) remotely. Picture a cable company phone rep visually walking you through a router setup including spatially accurate visual annotations.

New Light

This goes back to the concept of AR remote assistance. It’s gaining lots of traction in industrial settings to reduce travel for experts and machine specialists to fly in to fix a given piece of equipment. That plus machine downtime is a big cost that’s alleviated through AR remote visual instructions.

For home services conversely, this can reduce a different pain point: preliminary technician visits. Otherwise known as a truck roll, this includes an initial home visit to scope and price a given job. Streem can turn two visits into one, and has claimed to reduce truckrolls by 42 percent — meaningful savings for any SMB.

And it’s not just fewer visits but more streamlined ones. In other words, the standard practice of showing up with a big truck with all possible tools to handle any job can be replaced with advance knowledge of the exact job. That means a lighter dispatch, clustering like-jobs or ordering parts faster.

All of these benefits are present in normal times — and validated by Streem’s recent acquisition by Home Services giant and Home Shield-owner Frontdoor — but are now pronounced and viewed in a different light given social-distancing protocols.  Things can still get fixed as you shelter in place.

Inflection Point

This could also be the inflection that AR needs to get over early consumer and enterprise adoption humps. Though there are better things to worry about these days than the health of the AR industry, it and many other technologies could benefit in the long run from new perspective and adoption-by-necessity.

And we could all end up better off for it. Even in non-quarantine times (fingers crossed for near-term arrival), technologies like Streem can bring better customer experiences and more efficient logistics & operations for local service providers. It may just take a global crisis force that realization faster.

We’ll see many more technologies and practices for which that statement applies… thus a hopeful silver lining to an otherwise difficult time for the world. We’ll be back later this week with other such technologies and practices that could follow this pattern, and impact local commerce.

Meanwhile, here’s a recent analyst roundtable where we discussed some of the above principles and dynamics.

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