By Naaman Shibi, Techs4biz (Pervidi Softeware)
The popularity of Android-based phones and tablets has changed the market, with estimates of greater than 20 million monthly global activations of Android mobile devices at the beginning of 2012.
Despite the huge popularity of the Android smart phone and tablets, only a few Android applications seemed to be focused on business needs; in specific, managing field technicians, and capturing inspection information.
Since fire equipment inspection and testing applications have been available on other types of mobile devices for the past few years, expanding these applications to the Android platform seemed to be the "logical" evolution of smart phones, shifting from social-networking "toys" to readily available business tools.
The demand for fire equipment inspection software running on Android tablets and phones has also increased due to their low cost and the availability, compared with other PDAs currently used for business applications. Since the majority of field technicians already carry phones, using their Android phones for data collection during their inspection and testing does not require additional expenditures.
When using an appropriate implementation of an Android app, the process of collecting inspection and testing data in the field is easy and captures all the required information.
The application must be easy to use. As it is used in the field, field inspectors must be able to rapidly master it, learn how to navigate to their desired screen/function, and adopt the app as an extension of their business tools/gadgets.
I am a strong proponent of "offline-mode" field applications, where inspectors can use their app without depending on connectivity. The app is therefore replacing paper forms with a significantly better tool -- but without the need for continuous connectivity and increased costs.
So, how would an offline app work without the need for connectivity? It's pretty simple. The user can send and receive all the required information and pictures wirelessly at any time. But, once data is sent or received, users can record all required information directly onto their device while it is offline. Similar to an email client, the field technician controls when and how data is sent back to the office. This eliminates dependency on connectivity in remote locations or in areas without connectivity (e.g. basements) and reduces costs because data can also be transmitted using Wi-Fi.
Barcodes are integrated into the application using the Android's built-in camera, which may be very useful for identifying the fire equipment. Inspectors can scan fire equipment to quickly access relevant information. The scanner can be used in conjunction with the inspection software to retrieve information such as: last test level performed, last defects identified, next major level as well as the current task (e.g. weekly, monthly etc.) to be performed.
Taking a picture and integrating the image with the test and inspection results is also essential. Inspectors must be able to snap images and 'doodle' on their pictures as required (e.g. identifying the defect or the non-compliance). In addition, wireless transmission of pictures must be done efficiently and securely without exposing your server to security breaches.
Simplifying data collection by standardizing functions and drop-down lists is also important. The user must be able to select values from as many dropdown lists as possible, and therefore minimize data entry.
Based on current trends and the fact that Android is based on the Linux kernel, which already powers a large range of computers and devices, I suspect that there will be many more Android devices than any other smart-phones in the near future. As such, expanding the use of Android devices to support mobile business application such as fire equipment inspection and testing, is already happening.
Techs4Biz Corporation develops and sells technology solutions for improving work related activities and processes, managing and tracking corporate resources, along with combining software with handheld devices. Since 1999 Techs4Biz has been implementing Pervidi™ within various organizations, business models and processes. Pervidi enables a shift in focus from paper-based administrative tasks to improved management and informed decision making by migrating from manual activities to automated practices.
For more information, visit www.techs4biz.com.