Mobile computing solutions for the field

June 1, 2011
Mobile computing is going nowhere but up. Everybody wants in and there are plenty of tablets suitable for field use entering the marketplace this year. However, the 10-in. Apple iPad has the advantage of a library of 300,000+ applications already written to run on it.

Mobile computing is going nowhere but up. Everybody wants in and there are plenty of tablets suitable for field use entering the marketplace this year. However, the 10-in. Apple iPad has the advantage of a library of 300,000+ applications already written to run on it. Among them is Note Taker HD 5.0 for iPad ($4.99 at iTunes), which enables user to take and organize notes or create sketches/layouts on the iPad using a finger or an iPad-friendly stylus. Users can also input text via an electronic keyboard that can be pulled up on the lower portion of the iPad screen.

There are two screen choices, Edit 1 and Edit 2. Edit 1 is a full-screen page, an ample surface for writing or sketching. The input can be resized by pinching or spreading fingers. Edit 2 splits the screen into a page view on the top and a close up view/writing area on the bottom. In the page view portion of Edit 2 there is a detail area which you can move around the screen. Whatever area it covers is shown in close-up on the lower view writing area. When writing in close-up view in Edit 2, as you write across the screen from left to right, pressing an advance button moves the text to the left so you have a new surface to write on or you can select automatic advance so that as you write across the screen the text moves continuously to the left.

Sketching features include the ability to use drawing tools such as lines, grids, and 40+ customizable shapes, as well as multiple colors and pen widths. You can also use the different colors for highlighting and the different pen widths for emphasis in handwritten notes and diagrams and work on thin or thick lined "paper." The app can be set up so that the more you need to fit on the page the finer the pen you would use to input the info. Also, it is possible to write large on a page and shrink it down to show more on the page but then zoom in for reading or editing. Users can easily erase by swiping a finger over the writing/area to be removed or by using the eraser on the stylus, or users can delete by Undo.

When you turn on the application, you see thumbnails of all pages generated to that date. Tap on the thumbnail and it opens to a larger preview. Tap again to open it fully to work with it. While working, you can add pages and staple them to existing pages.

Each thumbnail, or post, can be named. You can use the default custom thumbnail view or can customize the thumbnail for instant recognition. Applying tags to each note facilitates pulling up all related notes at once.

The notes are electronic versions of hand-written notes or hand-drawn sketches, but they are not converted into editable text. However, you can convert the text to PDFs for e-mailing or add notes to PDFs sent to you and then e-mail them back to the sender.

Cloud-computing solution
Cloud computing enables multiple users in a company to access software applications and data from a common location from anywhere via various mobile computing devices.

Trimble GeoManager WorkManagement,, available the second quarter of 2011, is a cloud-based field service work management solution that uses a combination of positioning technologies and wireless technologies to help ensure a tight coupling of field and back office operations. Designed to manage fleet productivity, it provides on-demand visibility into vehicle and mobile worker utilization.

Used for routing, scheduling and dispatch, the solution helps service-based contractors maximize the efficiency of multiple crews in the field who have mobile computing capability to provide better customer service and reduce overall operating costs.

Utilizing several "intelligent" tools that facilitate real-time communication of data, Trimble WorkManagement lets dispatchers monitor crew progress against the actual plan for the day in order to effectively resolve daily complications, such as changes to appointment times, sick drivers, emergency trips or route overruns. Key features of the software include:

  • Work Advisor and In-Day Planner, which provides visibility to arrival time, distance traveled, stops made, and overtime, and enables rapid response for communicating at-risk tasks. By enabling route optimization, a contractor can reduce overall travel time and lower fuel costs. By adjusting schedules and reassigning work based on information generated throughout the day, a contractor can improve quality of customer service.
  • WorkManagement Mobile, which provides electronic dispatch capabilities that improve communication between drivers and dispatchers. Contractors can use browser-based smartphones, tablets and ruggedized PDAs to deliver information to the technicians in the field, who can use the maps on a smartphone to access driving directions, helping cut driving time and reducing late arrival at appointments.
  • Performance Manager, which provides real-time analysis of the mobile work status to help keep customer commitments on track.
  • Fleet Management, which assists in managing overall crew productivity.
  • Optional Web Services, which integrates with third-party systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to exchange task and service activity information with Trimble's WorkManagement solution.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

William and Patti Feldman

Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products.

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