The global utility mobile workforce is predicted to more than double in the next six years and spending on mobile workforce devices and applications will hit $421m, according to new research.

A report from Navigant Research states that this investment in mobile staff – field workers who handle maintenance, repairs and installations – will be driven by companies looking to make long-term cost savings.

Navigant forecasts that the number of mobile employees will rise from the current figure of 1.2 million to more than 2.4 million by 2020.

Bob Lockhart, research director with Navigant Research, said: “Utilities realize that mobile workforce solutions can help them overcome some of the largest challenges they face, including efficiency gains needed to cope with an aging workforce and enhanced preparedness for emergency situations.”

“Along with increased capabilities and technological advances, the spread of smartphones and tablet computers is also causing utilities to re-evaluate their investment in this space.”

Navigant says that “although the challenges of implementing and upgrading mobile workforce management solutions for growing mobile workforces are significant, some utilities have already seen the value in these solutions”.

It adds that “those in developed regions that have implemented workforce management solutions are evaluating strategic upgrades, while those in developing regions are budgeting for initial deployments that will lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings”.