Guest Column | February 4, 2021

5 Trends That Are Shaping The Future Of Field Inspections

By Boris Glushkov, Canalix

Field Service Utilities

What changed in the field inspection methods?

2020 reshaped the future vision for performing field inspections. The reason is the usual suspect – COVID-19 and the need to protect public health. Many organizations now are transforming their operations to become more effective in the new normal. Among them are inspection agencies and inspectorates.

In the first months of the pandemic, a variety of practices in restructuring the process of field inspections were observed. For instance, the on-site inspections had to be performed in compliance with the new social distancing rules, remote inspections were introduced, and third-party carriers were involved.

The Old New Alternatives

Long story short, inspection agencies had to find new alternatives for performing inspections. As a result, regulatory authorities started accepting third party inspections. Others started processing complaints only about high-priority cases. Depending on the response, a couple of alternative methods prevailed among the observed practices in the US, Canada, and the EU.

On-Site Inspections On High Priority Cases Only

Performing on-site inspections by inspectors only on high-priority cases was a practice widely accepted by many local government’s inspectorates. For example, the Permits and Inspections Department of the city of Norfolk performed on-site inspections only for final inspections, electrical inspections, and gas line inspections. However, such prioritization of inspection cases in the backlog may be a struggle for organizations that have not digitally transformed their processes.

Virtual Field Inspections On Low Complexity Cases

Tools such as FaceTime, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc. can easily mirror the regular field inspection process. And that's exactly what some inspection agencies started using them for. That’s why virtual inspections turned out to be widely accepted as a good alternative to regular practices during covid-19.

Field Inspections By Third-Party Carriers

A third-party inspection carrier can be hired to perform inspections on mid-level complexity cases. Just as the regular field inspections, the virtual and third-party inspections require some level of technical hedging, even though they mirror the regular process. That's why the adoption of alternative field inspection practices requires serious planning and adoption of new technologies to make the new processes unified and compliant with the field inspection guidelines.

Local governments, inspection agencies, and other digitally mature regulatory authorities can easily implement digital solutions to transform their field inspection model. They are the ones shaping the field inspection trends. Their counterparts who are not that digitally advanced are going to follow them in the next months and years.

So, what are these trends?

Trend #1: Increase In The Use Of Self-Service Modules

To enable the workflow of field inspections no matter the circumstances, inspection agencies are turning more to the use of self-service modules. Very often this is the first step toward the digitalization of public sector organizations. The implementation of self-submission portals that allow citizens to file complaints online is one relatively easy to make a digital step. It was a relatively popular digital transformation practice before the pandemic and now we see it surges.

The most obvious benefit of having a digital self-submission portal during COVID-19 is that it is a working alternative to the paper-based complaint filing that requires live contact between people. But this benefit is only on the surface. What’s beneath it is a solid ground for more digital solutions to build on top of it.

Trend #2: AI As An Extra Pair Of Eyes

The availability of a self-submission portal is an entry point for collecting user data in digital format. It solves the problem with social distancing. But it also has the potential to solve other efficiency problems. To be able to perform remote field inspections effectively, inspection carriers must quickly get good use of this data. This is where AI algorithms can do their magic.

Let’s take a step back and think of the ways AI is influencing our everyday lives. From watching shows on Netflix recommended by an algorithm to sorting through our emails - AI helps us to get to the most valuable and actionable information. The trend algorithms are setting in field inspections is similar – AI brings to the surface the most actionable information from the backlog of field inspection data.

AI And Risk Assessment Guidelines

Inspection carriers usually have their guidelines for assessing the most prevalent risk factors and complexity markers – previous inspection score, size of the inspected field, geolocation, local population, etc. The digital gathering of this information allows the use of AI as a smart assistant that analyzes hundreds of data points and categorizes them automatically.

AI To Optimise How Inspectors Receive Inspection Data

AI algorithms can read the signals received during the data submission process and easily tag this information with relevant complexity score. While this application of AI has been widely applied by digitally mature organizations, it’s still unexplored territory for many late adopters of AI. Among them are many government agencies overseeing field inspections.

AI has a long list of benefits and it’s not limited only to enabling risk categorization. It is used to improve safety, compliance and bring long-term cost optimization – definitely important for the public sector after the pandemic.

Trend #3: Digital Checklists & Automated Inspection Reporting

The results of field inspections must be accurate, precise, and readable. The quality of inspection reports is crucial for remote inspections or third-party inspections. This matter is being addressed by introducing digital checklists, mobile devices for field inspections, and automated reporting.

Paper-based field inspections are prone to more errors compared to a digital checklist inspection. It’s simply so because 10 different inspection carriers may produce 10 different outcome reports for the same field inspection and data is not always accurately written. When a third-party inspection carrier is involved (as it happened to be a popular practice during covid-19), the old-fashion pen and paper method for field inspection becomes problematic.

Inspection Reports Have To Show, Not Just Tell

Digital checklists go hand-to-hand with mobile devices such as tablets. Some inspection agencies are already making a step further and are taking photos and video during field inspections with tablets. The images are later attached to the outcome report. To tell is one thing, but to show is even better. And it’s a trend that’s going to become more widespread in the future.

Trend #4: Configurable Workflow Integration

Self-service modules, AI-assisted risk scoring, digital checklists, and outcome reporting - mentioned together these applications sound like small parts of a large platform. So here comes the question - why invest in just one inspection optimization module? Why shouldn't inspection agencies look for the full package and transform everything in their workflow at once?

The truth is that the roadmap to digital transformation is not something that can be accelerated for a week. Especially when we talk about regulatory agencies and inspectorates. That’s why these organizations are looking for solutions that can be implemented stage-by-stage at different points of the workflow.

Trend # 5: Rising Use Of Cloud-Based SaaS Solutions

According to Gartner, the SaaS (software-as-a-service) segment is the largest in the cloud services market. It is forecasted to grow to $ 117.7 billion in 2021. By the end of the year, this will account for 45% of all software options.

These figures are impacting the public sector and more government CIOs are turning to a cloud-first strategy. A trend that has a reflection on field inspections as well.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to quickly focus on three priorities: preserve cash and optimize IT costs, support and secure a remote workforce, and ensure resiliency. Investing in the cloud became a convenient means to address all three of these needs.” – Sid Nag, Gartner Cloud Leadership Council.






Cloud Business Process Services (BPaaS)





Cloud Application Infrastructure Services (PaaS)





Cloud Application Services (SaaS)





Cloud Management and Security Services





Cloud System Infrastructure Services (IaaS)





Desktop as a Service (DaaS)





Total Market





Source: Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Grow 18% in 2021


The global pandemic is surely going to be regarded as one of the points that changed the business model for both the private and public sectors. Field inspections are no exception and their migration to a cloud-based model is already evident in many regulatory agencies. Enterprises and governments are going to keep their sight and spendings on public cloud at least through 2024 (Gartner). Which means that these trends will evolve. What’s most probable is that they’ll bring more innovation and technologies into the workflow of field inspection management. So, our eyes should be kept on them.

About The Author

Boris Glushkov is a digital transformation expert in Canalix - Advanced Inspection Management Platform. His expertise is to help public sector regulators to adopt transformational efficiency improvements. With configurable data and rules-driven casework automation and AI optimized task orchestration, Canalix is transforming field inspection in line with the best-known practices.