The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1, www.panasonic.com/toughpad/M1, is a thin, lightweight rugged enterprise-grade 7-in. tablet designed for indoor and outdoor use in harsh environments and challenging conditions. The tablet weighs 1.2-lbs. and is 0.71-in. thick. It runs Windows 8.1 Pro, affording touch screen operation and access to legacy Windows programs and full-featured Internet browsing. Sporting a magnesium alloy chassis, heavy-duty plastic bumpers around all sides, sealed port covers, and an anti-reflective display viewable in direct sunlight, it works off a 4th generation Intel Core i5 processor.
The Toughpad is powered by a user-replaceable rechargeable Lithium-ion battery that will accommodate an eight-hour workday. The quick-charging technology reaches 100% capacity in 2.5 hours when off and in three hours when on. (With an optional high capacity battery, a user can get 16 hours of power in the field.) A standard hot-swap bridge battery switch-out of the battery without powering down the unit.
Classified as a full-rugged device, the fanless Toughpad FZ-M1 meets specifications for ingress protection (IP-65), making it dust and sand resistant and impervious to spray water from any direction. It also meets specifications for the MIL-STD-810G standard for environmental conditions and can endure drops up to five feet, shock, vibration, altitude, humidity and extreme temperatures. Because the tablet uses passive cooling technology, it runs very quietly, without the annoying hum common in units with fans.
The high-sensitivity, 10-finger multi-touch screen is equipped with glove technology, enabling input by users wearing thick gloves. The screen includes automatic rotation for use in horizontal and vertical modes. There is a 720P front-facing webcam with mic (WXGA 1280 x 800 display) and an 8MP rear camera with autofocus and LED light. Controls for power, volume, screen rotation and a user-programmable key are on the top edge.
The tablet is available in a broad range of configuration options, including 128GB or 256GB solid-state drive and from 8GB to 64GB storage. Contractors can choose to include dedicated GPS, a barcode reader, an Ethernet or serial port and their choice of near-field communications (NFC), SmartCard reader, UHF radio-frequency identification (RFID) up to 10 ft. range or magnetic stripe reader. The configuration area is on the top of the back of the tablet. An optional stylus is available for signature capture and similar applications.
The Toughpad FZ-M1 supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and also offers 4G LTE multi-carrier embedded wireless broadband connectivity, enabling IT administrators to switch carriers via software to select the best 4G LTE carrier for any geographic area. The unit also includes encryption for security.
Various optional enterprise-grade accessories are available, including cases, mounts, printers, BlueTooth keyboard, and multi-unit storage and charging solutions.
Here are some apps for use on tablets in the field:
Construction Calc, www.snappyappz.com, (free from the Windows App store) is an onscreen full function calculator for tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktops that performs standard calculations in feet, inches and fractional inches with precision down to 1/64” or in metric measure. Listed features in the Windows version include the ability to add, subtract, multiply, divide, power and root with measurements in feet, inches and fractional inches; automatic rounding of results to a user defined precision (i.e. 1/16”); and the ability to reduce fractions and fractional inches to their lowest common denominator. The app has a full memory feature including add, subtract, set, recall and clear. A split screen can show decimal value, feet/inch value, memory and settings all simultaneously in large (easy-to-read) fonts. The app can also calculate square and cubic footage easily.
Box, www.box.com, is a cloud storage platform, accessible from any computing device that provides a secure workspace for managing content in the field, including stored photos, documents, CAD/CAM files, RFIs, change orders, updates in job status, and other details of a project or job.
Notevault, www.notevault.com, is a cloud-based subscription solution for the commercial construction industry that enables users to post real-time notes throughout the day by typing, texting or speaking into the device. Professional transcribers familiar with the construction industry transcribe spoken notes and a professionally created PDF of the daily report is provided. It works on tablets, smartphones and computers.
The app enables field personnel to easily provide various types of data required in daily reports including labor tracking, materials tracking, change requests, general comments and added photos and videos. The reports can be made available to management and other project stakeholders through email or a web-based interface and through integration with major project management software such as CMiC, ConstructWare and others. Through the NoteVault app, crew chiefs and other personnel can take photos of time cards, delivery tickets and inspection notices and document RFS and change orders. Data is encrypted and stored for ten years.
NoteVault also includes the ability to create safety reports and offers AlertMe Instant Incident Reporting that places simultaneous phone calls to designated stakeholders in the event of a reported incident.
Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected].