Choosing the correct mobile device for your compliance software

Techs4Biz

By Gareth Higgins, Pervidi
Thursday, 10 August, 2017


Tablet

Choosing the correct hardware for your inspection software is vital in order to perform rigorous and effective inspections.

As inspection software is adjusted to match the requirements of the business, consideration of the mobile device must be given in order to complement the inspection software and allow inspectors to optimise their time spent performing inspections.

Organisations should understand and consider the ramifications of their choice of mobile device. In order to decide which mobile device will be most appropriate for your business, there are many factors that need to be considered:

  • Consumer vs enterprise — If the device needs to be made for industrial use for both functionality and/or cost savings.
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO) — The total costs related to a mobile device over the expected life of the device.
  • Rugged vs non-rugged — If hardware is suitable for use in a range of environments.
  • Company policies — Companies’ preference and previous experience in similar hardware and electronics.
  • Screen size — What is the optimal size for correct software use?
  • Industry-grade Wi-Fi — If the device is needed to connect to the internet constantly.
  • Ease of use — The ability for employees to learn and navigate the different functions of the hardware most effectively.
  • Accessories — If the hardware has the ability to include additional features and be adjusted for a specific reason.

Consumer vs enterprise

There are numerous reasons for your business to consider opting to commercial/enterprise-grade, such as durability, security, maintenance support and hardware features, all of which can benefit a business through time and cost savings.

Consumer mobile devices often provided businesses with a cost-effective solution to complete inspections. These devices are often available at local retail outlets or through mobile carriers on a monthly plan.

  • Increased IT time securing data on employee devices.
  • Reduced time training staff individually to suit their mobile software.
  • Consumer goods are often fragile and have a short product life cycle.

For many businesses, commercial/enterprise-grade mobile devices are needed to effectively conduct inspections through their specific features that consumer goods aren’t equipped with, such as:

  • NFC (near field communication) and RFID (radio frequency identification);
  • extended battery life and ability to swap batteries;
  • Intrinsically Safe certifications (Zone 1 or Zone 2);
  • durability, ie, IP (Ingress Protection) sealing;
  • ability to include accessories such car mounts, lanyards, holsters;
  • dedicated barcode scanning — using a dedicated barcode scanner as opposed to the camera/imager that consumer products use.

Company policy

Companies often have a culture and preference for operating systems and opt to use a certain brand and/or operating system to better sync with the company’s and its employees’ workflows and operations.

When a new mobile device is introduced into the company, time must be invested in training employees on how to use the device and recommended workflows. It must be acknowledged that employees may have existing experience and knowledge of certain hardware which allows the employee to begin inspections in the field more quickly.

Device

Mobile devices differentiate with the product’s specifications and capabilities. Inspectors must consider what is needed for an effective inspection to be made and consider how different features can optimise an inspection. Device factors that should be consider are:

  • Touch screen: Ability to draw and make notes on the screen (eg, using gloves, or in harsh conditions).
  • Speech to text: Ability to create and store notes verbally.
  • Camera ability: Zoom and high-resolution imagery.
  • Screen size: How big the screen needs to best host the software and operate.
  • Mobile device size: The convenience and mobility when working with the device — what is the best device size for the task?
  • Storage: Ability to store large files and data banks.

Rugged vs non-rugged

Inspections are often performed in the field and exposed to numerous elements that may damage or break the device. Consumer devices that are robust, such as smartphones and tablets, are simply not made for harsh environments. As such, industrial-grade mobile devices provide inspectors with a more durable option. Alternatively, rugged cases can be used to protect consumer devices but users need be aware of overheating. Inspectors opting for a rugged device may allow for the following:

  • Cost saving: A protected device can last longer. Researched by Venture Development Corporation 2003 and Total Cost of Ownership 2007 models surveyed a broad range of mobile device deployments and reported that the cost of ownership lead to annual savings of up to 17% for in-field profession applications and 32% in supply chain application for rugged hardware deployments.
  • Access to harsh environments: Rugged devices provide employees the ability to use hardware in certain environments where an unprotected device wouldn’t be recommended. An example of this is that consumer devices can only operate in ‘normal’ temperature; once hardware is operated outside its temperature range, it may lead to premature failure. (Some examples are cold warehouse or open pit mine sites.)
  • Increased productivity: Equipping employees with durable hardware allows them to focus on the tasks and inspections at hand. Unprotected hardware is prone to be damaged and may break, which can disrupt and even halt workflows.

Summary

The size and scale of the inspections at hand can definitely play a role when choosing the correct hardware. For a cafe owner inspecting and recording inventory, their mobile phone/tablet can be fitted with the appropriate inspection software. In comparison, a large organisation may have a fleet of inspectors and require them to conduct inspections that last hours in harsh environments and which require transferable batteries and rugged devices.

For many businesses, consumer products may seem like the correct solution due to their cost, accessibility and established awareness of the product; however, these products may have some obstacles. If businesses wish to continue to implement these devices due to company policy, cases can be equipped on the device to strengthen them and make them compatible in industrial environments, ie, Intrinsically Safe, Ingress Protection sealing etc.

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