Compared to most tools taken to and used on jobsites, an iPad or other tablet benefits from extra-special protection from a sturdy case designed to withstand inadvertent hard knocks and hazard-duty environmental conditions. Case manufacturers design in protection that addresses protection when toting a tablet and using it on the job in diverse ways and using various materials. For example, here are two ruggedized cases for the iPad Air.
Otterbox Defender Series case, www.otterbox.com, for iPad Air, featuring three levels of protection, consists of a two-part internal polycarbonate shell that snaps together to cover the tablet completely, rubber backing that encases the shell, and a hard polycarbonate external cover. The case, when closed, deflects impact. Internal foam cushions the tablet and prevents movement. A clear membrane screen protector on the internal shell guards against scratches, scuffs and scrapes when the screen is exposed.
The cover detaches to become a two-position stand against which the back of the iPad rests, enabling four viewing/typing angles (two portrait, two landscape). The cover can also snap onto the back of the back cover, creating a handheld tablet. The case is not protected against water.
The Pelican ProGear Vault, www.pelican.com, for iPad Air meets two stalwart ratings, IP54 and MIL-STD 810G. The IP54 rating validates the case for water resistance (protection against wind-driven rain and momentary immersion) and protection against intrusion of dirt and dust while the Military Specifications Test Standards (MIL-STD 810G) validates bump and drop protection. The outside of the case is made from polycarbonate and aluminum. The cover features rubber edge seals. Closed, it protects against impact to the screen and seals out dust, rain, snow and other moisture. The impact absorbing elastomeric liners inside the front and back sections of the case protect the tablet’s electronics. The rear camera lens is protected by an optical grade, shatterproof lens cover. When the tablet is on a hard surface, rotating the cover backward creates support for multiple viewing angles. The case comes with a small screwdriver for taking out and putting back the 15 screws that hold the rubber edge seal at the bottom of the case in place.
Locqus Field Manage app and platform for small and medium-sized businesses, www.locqus.com, offers a suite of services for Apple iOS, Android, and other software platforms which can be administered from a company’s office desktop. Capabilities include the ability to generate quotes and digital invoices for customers; schedule jobs directly within Google Calendar for all mobile techs; and accept credit card payments in the field with the proprietary credit card reader.
The app offers electronic time clocks that, in addition to allowing workers in the field to clock in and out, can issue customers real-time updates of arrival time of service personnel in transit. The app automatically sends a customer an e-mail or text message of a map, an identification photo, and the estimated arrival time of the service tech prior to the scheduled appointment provided the service personnel is within range of the geo-fencing boundary. The map and arrival time update approximately every five minutes. Once the appointment is completed, the customer will no longer have access to the driver’s location. The app will also support the e-mailing or texting to customers the night before or the day of a dispatch to remind them of the appointment with service personnel.
Contractor administrators can control employee access to various categories of data, supporting information dissemination on a need-to-know basis. Management has the ability to instantly communicate client details and tasks to anyone approved to receive that data and send and receive status updates on the work from the field. When on the job, service personnel can take and upload photos of each job and store them in applicable customer records.
The app is free for 20 users per group for up to two groups and 2GB of photos, but does not include SMS (Short Message Service). With the inclusion of an add-on service, such as payment card acceptance or OBD (on-board diagnostics) tracking, premium services are free, allowing for an unlimited number of users in an unlimited number of groups, unlimited photo storage and unlimited SMS.
ProntoForms, www.prontoforms.com, for phone or tablet provides ready-made HVAC and plumbing forms for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices in several categories, enabling personnel in the field to collect data and submit it back to the office in real time. Templated forms are available for dispatching, GPS and Time-Stamps, Signature Capture, Photo Capture, SketchPad (drawing on a blank canvas or atop a photo, with the ability to add the sketch to a form), and Embed Office Data, which enables adding inventory, parts or price lists to a form. ProntoForms also offers custom branding, the ability to brand the mobile app, file outputs (PDF and Word documents) and Web Portal.
For HVAC contractors, specifically, the forms library offers forms for equipment service report, service invoice, new orders, clock in or out with time and location stamp, small building checklist, and large building checklist. Pricing is subscription based, monthly or yearly per user.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].