Tag: Handheld Devices

Will NFC help change safety compliance?

If you haven’t noticed, we at Field ID are phone geeks. When someone gets a new handheld in the office, we all play around with it. One of our software developers, Kumana, recently picked up the Samsung Galaxy S II.

As we were talking about it and testing it out, we remembered that it has Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities. And NFC means it works with RFID – the same standard technology that our customers use every day to track safety compliance for millions of assets.

Naturally, we were running around scanning slings and harnesses around the office with Kumana’s phone, having some fun with features, and exploring how this would complement our inspection software.

Why didn’t we try this before?

We’ve written about NFC being the same technology that we use for RFID tags in fall protection equipment in the past. So, what’s changed? Well, it was only last week that we actually fired up an NFC scanner and tested the tags. We headed to the Android Market in search of an NFC test application. We tried three of them, but it wasn’t working. Then, after waving the tag around trying to find the antenna…

“I think it worked!”

I was at my desk and Kumana sent me an instant message: “It worked!” I ran over and, sure enough, it was scanning one of our test tags. With any RFID reader, you need to find the sweet spot in the antenna to scan. The first tag was easy though; it was a sticker tag. We thought, “No way will this scan the tags embedded metal.” Sure enough, we scanned the metal tags too.

More testing, to be sure

Before we can absolutely certify that this use of NFC will work with Field ID (reliably, in the field), we need to do some more testing. We’re hard at work on the Android and iOS Field ID applications right now, so this random test came at the right time. It’s very exciting to uncover details like these.

Think about it. With many new NFC-enabled phones coming to market, we can harness the scanners on these devices to make Field ID even more powerful. Anyone will be able to put the power of electronic inspection management and safety compliance into the palm of their hand, and carry it conveniently in their pocket as they head into the field.

Stay tuned for more NFC testing in the New Year!

Field ID Device Preview: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

As we all know, Samsung releases some great superphones. Google also has their own superphone known as the Nexus. Now the two have teamed up and released the most anticipated phone of the year (for me anyway), the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This device is amazing. With a 4.65 inch 720p contoured screen, both your personal information and your mobile inspections will look dazzling since the device has a contrast ratio that rivals most TV’s. The 5 Megapixel camera has zero shutter lag, so capturing those special moments or the deficiencies during your safety audit will happen literally with the click of a button. The 1.2 GHz processor along with 1GB of RAM means that this superphone is truly super-powerful and will blaze through whatever you throw at it. The only thing that will hold this device back is the cellular network and with an LTE radio in the device, your data speeds will be like lightning fast. This device may not have an IP rating or pass rugged devices standards but it is defiantly more durable than an iPhone with its Kevlar lined back plate and Gorilla Glass screen. I may be a Samsung fanatic, but don’t just take my word for it, take a look at the specs and video below.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Specifications

  • Network: HSPA+ 21Mbps/HSUPA 5.76Mbps 850/900/1900/1700/2100, EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Dual-core Processor (OMAP 4460)
  • Display: 4.65-inch 1280×720 HD Super AMOLED
  • OS: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Main (Rear) Camera: 5MP AF with LED Flash with zero shutter lag and fast shot2shot
  • Sub (Front) Camera: 1.3MP for Video Call
  • Sensor: Accelerometer, Compass, Gyro, Light, Proximity, Barometer
  • Memory: 1GB RAM + 16/32GB Internal memory
  • Size: 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm, 135g
  • Battery: Standard battery, Li-on 1750 mAh.

Device Preview: Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Sometimes when performing your mobile inspections you need a device that’s bigger than a smartphone but you don’t want to haul around a laptop all day long. To fit in the space between smartphones and larger tablets/laptops, Samsung has introduced the Galaxy Tab 7.7. With a 7.7 inch display it’s big enough to work on but small enough to be portable. Also packed inside is a 1.4 GHz dual core processor for great performance and lots of internal and external storage options.  This thing can hold and handle everything!  A couple other features include GPS, cellular connectivity, dual cameras and up to 10 hours of battery life.

This device runs Android.  Think of this device as a small tablet but large phone. It will enable you to place both voice and video calls using a carrier of your choice or you can communicate using Skype. This tablet is a true multitasking powerhouse, combining the features of both and blending them together.

RFID Beyond Inspection Software – Google Launches "Wallet"

On Monday Google officially launched Google Wallet.  Google wallet is an ambitious project that aims to completely replace your wallet for financial transactions.  I am personally very excited about this project and feel that the e-wallet has been a long time coming.  In the simplest terms, this allows you to link a credit card (or pre-paid Google card) to your Google Wallet account and then use your phone to automatically pay for purchases that you would typically pay for with your credit or debit card.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well there is a lot of infrastructure that needs to be in place for this type of system to work.

The Technology

Google is using NFC (a form of RFID) and mobile phones to make this all possible.  NFC is something we have written about in the past.  It is essentially the same high frequency RFID that many Field ID customers use to conduct inspections on slings and fall protection.  The difference is that, in this scenario, it is being used to identify the mobile phone the tag is in.  When you tap your phone against a NFC payment reader it automatically applies the payment against your credit card associated with your Google Wallet account.  This is not the first time this type of technology has been rolled out.  If you have used the “speed pass” payment system offered by many gas stations, this is a very similar application.

Beyond Payments

Google Wallet uses the NFC technology beyond just providing the ability to pay for a purchase.  They are also linking coupons and deals through Google Offers.  The “Daily Deal” business is huge these days, and this gives Google an even tighter link to this market.  I am sure this is just the beginning of what Google plans to do with its wallet application.

Currently Google Wallet is limited to a very small roll out, only working with the Nexus S 4G on Sprint with a Citi Mastercard OR a Google pre-paid card.  Clearly this needs to work with other phones and cards, but I suspect Google will increase these options very quickly if the initial program is successful.  There are already other phones coming with NFC in the near future.

Will Microsoft Make a Tablet Come Back?

Earlier this week all the tech blogs were ablaze with news about Microsoft Windows 8.  I personally read about 6 – 7 articles about their new operating system.  Before you get too excited, it’s not ready yet and will not be ready until some time next year (and I suspect later next year).  Yesterday Microsoft released a developer preview for software engineers to download and start playing around with.  By far the best article, and the one I agree with the most was entitled “Sorry Apple, Windows 8 ushers in the post-pc era“.  The author captured my exact feelings about the current state of tablets right now.  Good for certain tasks, not for others.

Good for Inspection Software

The current generation of tablets are great for tasks that are intended to be conducted in the field as well as casual computing and note taking.  Job site audits are a great example of a task that works great on a tablet device.  In general, inspections and quality assurance tasks are something that works very well with tablets.  That being said, wouldn’t it be great if you were using your tablet to run your safety inspection software and then you could have full PC functionality to work on that whitepaper or proposal?

Bad for Writing Essays

Have you ever tried to write a long document on a tablet computer such as the iPad?  It just isn’t that suitable for that type of task (in my opinion).  Sure, some people will argue that you can get a keyboard for it and some sort of app for Word documents, but it’s not ideal for power computing.  Let’s assume you could squeeze out a simple Word document.  How about running Photoshop?  Not happening.

What Windows 8 could (hopefully) represent is 1 platform to rule them all.  A great tablet user interface and a form factor that would allow me to run all of my full featured applications is something I would pay for in a heart beat.  It may be just what Microsoft needs to get back in the tablet game.

Device Preview: Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

The world of consumer smartphones is becoming more lifestyle oriented. There are phones to suit the way you work and play. The outdoors demand devices that can take some abuse and still work. This is the exact type of device that mobile field inspections demand. While looking into the latest devices I found one that meets those requirements.

Say hello to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active. A small but rugged phone made for the outdoors but capable enough to perform mobile inspections. With an IP 67 rating this device is dust-proof and can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water for up to 30 mins. On top of that Sony has added something call Wet-Finger Tracking. This feature allows you to still use the 3-inch LCD screen even if the screen and/or fingers are wet. The 5 megapixel camera allows you to take pictures  or HD video of your inspections. Also with a 1GHz processor, 1GB of internal storage, and up to 32GB in expandable storage this small phone can handle any task it is set to accomplish. Lastly, it has a removable hand strap to keep it attached to your arm so that you don’t inadvertently drop the phone.  Take a look at the video below!

Device Preview: Samsung Galaxy NOTE

As you can probably tell from my blog posts, I LOVE new gadgets. With the world of field service devices coming very close to the consumer side of things, many consumer oriented devices can transition well to mobile inspections. I’d like to introduce you to the Samsung Galaxy NOTE. The most noticeable feature is the screen size. At 5.3 inches, this thing is huge but still small enough to carry around for everyday use. Despite its large screen the phone is only 0.38 inches thin and weighs 6.3 ounces. That is key for this superphone-tablet hybrid. Also inside this beast is a dual core 1.4Ghz processor for blindingly fast power and an 8MP camera for awesome pictures.

The feature that will have the biggest impact is the stylus. Even though it doesn’t need a stylus, the stylus can be used for writing notes and adding detail to pictures and calendar items. This has the potential to become the greatest dual purpose device for mobile inspections now that most companies prefer to give employees one device instead of two. Take a look at the promotional video from Samsung below.

Rugged Inspection Device Preview: Motorola Defy+

By now you are well aware that Google plans to buy Motorola. What you may not have heard is Motorola’s new device that was announced the same day. It’s the Motorola Defy+. It is an update to the original Defy, a device marketed as life proof. True to the Defy name this device is even more life proof.

Web browsing is faster and better with Flash capabilities thanks to a new Android 2.3 and a 1GHz processor. A 3.7 inch Gorilla Glass display is awesome as well as scratch resistant and a 5 megapixel camera makes capturing pictures a breeze. The best thing about this device is its IP67 compliant, making it dust proof and water resistant in 1m of water for up to 30 minutes

This will be an amazing device for mobile inspections (or mobile audits). Its form factor is smaller than your typical rugged device making it a must have for people who want only one device that is comfortable and easy to use. Its ruggedness means that it can take a beating and your device will remain unharmed and running Google’s Android means it can handle multiple tasks with ease. With a release date of sometime this autumn this is a phone to look forward to.

Rugged Device Preview – Samsung Galaxy Xcover

For today’s device I have a snippet, a small preview of what mobile inspection devices will be like in the near future. I have for you the Samsung Galaxy Xcover. It is fully functional 3G phone that runs Android and the best part is that it is rugged. Yes I said rugged. It is IP67 certified. This means that it is completely dust proof and can be submersed in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. It also comes with a scratch-resistant touchscreen and a 3.2 megapixel camera with an LED photo light.

Sadly, this device is going to be launched in Germany alone so far!  However, the future possibilities are the most exciting thing about this device.  The prospect of a fully rugged device for inspection field service that is on par with consumer level devices is great. You get the workability of the device with all the personal aspects. With more companies giving employees devices that they use for business and personal use, this device represents the future for those in rough environments.

Field ID Device Preview: Motorola MC55A0

When you are performing inspections on a mobile device with inspection software there are a couple key points a device must meet including being lightweight, rugged and ease of use.  Today I would like to introduce to you the newest device to join the Field ID team: the Motorola MS55A0. A wonderful device with lots of power, an amazing form factor, great size, super rugged and extremely simple to use. Please take a look at the video below for a quick overview of the device and decide if performing mobile inspections on this device is right for you.