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Microsoft Copilot AI enhances field worker deployment

Microsoft Copilot AI joins Dynamics 365, boosting fieldwork efficiency but also sparking surveillance concerns. Updates and 3D annotations add to the mix.

Microsoft is integrating its Copilot AI assistant into its field services platform, revolutionizing how frontline field workers operate. While this integration promises streamlined workflows, it also introduces a level of supervision that allows managers to closely monitor technicians' on-the-job activities.

Initially introduced in March, Copilot has been making strides within Microsoft 365 enterprise platforms, assisting desk-bound employees by generating text for PowerPoint presentations. Distinct from the similarly named GitHub service, Copilot is now expanding its reach to the Dynamics 365 service, tailored to field workers, encompassing roles such as cable technicians, electric repair personnel, and professionals in facilities, manufacturing, and healthcare.

This expansion brings about notable advancements. Service requests conveyed via Outlook will trigger automated pre-population of pertinent information, including the customer's previous service interactions. Supervisors gain the ability to review work orders before dispatching them to field workers. By this autumn, work orders will also offer recommendations for specific individuals based on factors like travel time, availability, and skill set.

For technicians on the ground, Copilot affords the capacity to update their work status, indicating whether they've arrived at the designated location, commenced issue resolution, and detailing the nature of the problems encountered. This real-time transparency empowers managers with project insights, aiding in task prioritization. Additionally, Copilot expedites accessing job location information, minimizing navigation efforts. Moreover, Copilot assists in crafting recaps of services, facilitating a comprehensive managerial understanding.

This dynamic also grants customers heightened visibility into technicians' whereabouts while significantly diminishing administrative overhead for field workers. However, as technological tools evolve to render worker activities more transparent, the potential for increased scrutiny arises. A pertinent example is the concern expressed by Google employees regarding alleged surveillance via novel calendar tools.

Addressing technical hurdles, Microsoft introduces 3D spatial annotations to Teams video calling through mobile devices. This innovation enables technicians to emphasize issues during video calls—such as highlighting a defective screw—by encircling the problem, sparing them the intricacies of verbal explanations. The annotation automatically adjusts as the camera's perspective changes, resembling the remote assist capabilities in HoloLens 2 Teams video calls.

Lili Cheng, Corporate Vice President of Business Applications and Platform at Microsoft, underscores the transformative potential of introducing generative AI to fieldwork. Cheng highlights that field workers often rely on manual methods, leading to fragmented workflows and prolonged task completion times. Copilot seeks to remedy these inefficiencies by streamlining and optimizing their operational processes.

The integration of Copilot into Dynamics 365 is currently available to existing users. During the testing phase, Microsoft collaborated with global clients such as Hitachi Solutions, the 9altitudes Group, and TechLabs London, showcasing its commitment to refining and tailoring the product to meet real-world demands.