Near Field Communications (NFC) technology has been one of many differentiators between Apple and Android devices for a few years. Long-time readers of Modern Safety know that we’ve hoped NFC technology would one day become part of the Apple approach to smart devices.
And we may be a step closer to a world with even more NFC-enabled smartphones and tablets. Read More
There’s been a lot of rumour, and just as much real news about smartphones and tablets this fall. It’s only been a few days since we blogged about the official launch of the iPad Mini and the iPhone 5 before that. Now Google has officially revealed some great new Android devices that could be of interest to mobile safety professionals.
The battle between Google and Apple is certainly an interesting one. The fact that Apple released a 7-inch tablet only months after Google achieved such success with the affordable Nexus 7 is still amusing when you think about it. And now, Google has announced a larger tablet (with Samsung) which could be a very attractive alternative to the original 10-inch iPad. And on the same day, Google adds another smartphone to its Nexus line. Read More
Did Casio just come out with future of rugged mobile hand held computers? They are certainly pushing the boundaries with the G’z One Commando. I am not sure about that name, but this hand held looks incredible.
There have been smartphones in the past that claim to be rugged, but all too often this means they are heavy, slow and somewhat dated. Not the G’zOne Commando, it definitely appears to have the rugged part down. This device has a MIL-STD-810G rating which pretty much means that it can stand up to almost anything. I am not sure if this is available in intrinsically safe environments. Mashable made a great video of this device taking a beating.
This hand held is running Android 2.2 with some customizations from Casio geared towards active people as well as the workforce that are in tough environments. You will get the great user interface and speed of Android along with the ability to easily get your email and make phone calls. For those who do not know Android is a smartphone operating system for phones and tablet devices made by Google. There is currently not a Field ID application for Android, but we are really hoping to provide one sometime this year. Android plus the GzOne Commando provide you with:
– GPS Mapping with Google Maps and Compass
– 3.6″ WVGA Touch Screen Display
– 5 mp Auto Focus Camera
– Pre-installed 8G microSD Card
Notably missing is NFC support, but hopefully this will be added in future as the technology matures. As much as we see Android taking over the commercial smartphone market, it has yet to really penetrate the rugged space. Hopefully the G’zOne Commando is a sign of things to come for safety inspections.
Good morning everyone! I’d like to share with you a recent experience I’ve had with our Field ID team here. We were discussing the new Google Translate for the mobile, and everyone who had an Iphone was quick to download it to try out the text-to-speech functionality.
The sad truth was, while everyone was having fun with Google Translate, I turned to find out that my Android phone was incapable of supporting the text-to-speech functionality. You can imagine my disappointment that I don’t get to be a part of the fun. Now it could have been a setup issue, or maybe I didn’t know how to properly install the application. I spent 20 minutes sitting at home, trying to figure it out.
This brought me to a revelation. No software should ever be this difficult to use or to install. It also made me realize that I’ve been promoting inspection software without considering this one key feature. For those of you who think that ease-of-use isn’t very important. Think again. Can you imagine if there was a piece of inspection software that took you 20 minutes to start up? Or if it didn’t work offline? What if there was no way to change the checklists on the software? Or if you had to call support every time you wanted something changed because there was no way for you to change it yourself? Would you want to buy it? Inspection software is fantastic for traceability but if it was extremely hard to use, I don’t think that you would give it a second look.
Your best reason for using paper, is that it is easy to use. You pick up a pen and a piece of paper, and you can start your inspection, no bubbles no troubles. Unfortunately paper is not very reliable in terms of traceability and just about every other aspect besides ease-of-use. With Field ID, we keep ease-of-use in mind for everything that we do. Our goal is to create an inspection software solution that is just as easy to use as paper, but also provides more stability than what you get with paper. Not only that, we do our best to ensure that you can make your own changes. Every feature we implement into our system is designed so that you feel like its just as easy as picking up a pen and a piece of paper. We know that not everyone is a computer genius, with Field ID, you don’t have to be. Everything is always a click away.
By the way, I gave up after 20 minutes. I didn’t get Google Translate working. It was a very sad moment for me. For a second, I was angry at my Android phone (I still love you Google). I’m almost sure that if I spent another 4 hours trying to fix it and find out how to install it properly, I would have succeeded. Unfortunately, I have no patience to spend 4 hours getting software to work. I’m sure that if you had to spend 4 hours getting inspection software to work, you’d keep using paper too. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame you.
Happy Holidays Everyone! To give you some insight into our meaningful and intelligent office conversations, I’m going to tell you the hottest topic around here behind safety compliance and inspection software. At the Field ID HQ, there has been an ongoing feud regarding Android vs. Apple. Like many of you, we each have our own choices of phones, and we each have our own opinions of which is better. I seem to be sole loyal fan of Android phones, while most of the office is pretty content with the Iphone. But we seem to all agree that both Iphones and Android phones are pretty great, regardless of which we think is more superior.
This is the holiday spirit that we would like to extend to all of safety compliance industry this season. Regardless of how you are going about your safety compliance procedures, whether you are already a Field ID user or still undecided about inspection software; you have to admit its pretty great. The ultimate goal is to stay safe. The truth is that we all have the same goal here. We just want to make sure that everyone is staying safe and that safety compliance procedures are properly completed. How do we reach that goal? How do we make sure that everything is done right?
The one thing they never tell you about paper and pen is that it allows unlimited flexibility for your staff. Most of the time, flexibility is great. The fact that you can fill in just about any detail you want is actually quite perfect. But there are other times where flexibility causes problems. If the serial number is scratched out, then what happens? They may fill in something temporary like “no serial number”, but how do I know which equipment that is, after I go back to the office? How do I find the previous inspections of this equipment if I don’t know the serial number?
With inspection software, questions of flexibility or traceability disappear. We can ensure that even without the serial number, we can identify this asset with RFID tags and will never lose traceability just because the serial number is unreadable. You can also regulate the format of staff-input to avoid any confusion about the content recorded. These are just some of many ways that inspection software can benefit your business.
We may disagree with the best way to go about safety compliance procedures, but ultimately if it was guaranteed that serial numbers will never fade, or if your staff had a system in place to regulate what they write down, this would not be a problem. But we cannot guarantee these things. If you are still unsure about inspection software, your doubts are valid. It is a very different work flow than what you usually do. But certainly, you can see the value, and we definitely see the value. So for this holiday season, let’s stop debating and just agree, Field ID would be a pretty great Christmas present regardless of if you are an Apple or an Android fan.
Last week, all of the technology blogs I read were writing about how fast the Google Android operating system was gaining market share on RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iOS. This information was posted by comScore and focuses on smartphone usage from July 2nd to October of this year. The quarter before this Android had 4% growth, and this report had Android with 6.5% growth. That is really fast.
Field ID Mobile is currently available for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 and is big part of our total solution. While the iPhone and the brand new Google phone get all the headlines, there are thousands upon thousands of Windows Mobile devices scanning barcodes and RFID tags, getting dropped to the ground and stepped on, and running offline where no Internet signal makes it. The truth is, the cool devices that you use in your personal life, are not suited all that well for field service work. That being said, things are slowly starting to change.
I am a Phone Geek
I admit it, I am a big time phone geek. There are at least 4 other people at Field ID that are really into phones, and probably more. There isn’t a single day that goes by where the words Blackberry, iPhone or Android isn’t mentioned. As you can imagine, this sparks some friendly debate about the merits of all these different platforms. Our ultimate goal at Field ID is to make our product available on as many different devices as possible. But what platform, if any, will give Windows Mobile a run for its money in these rugged, field service-oriented devices?
Android is Well Positioned
Android is clearly making huge gains in the true smartphone market, but Android is also starting to make some appearances in traditional Windows Mobile places as well. Both Bluebird Pidion and Trimble advertise Android working on their devices. I have also read about Android in some partner forums I get involved in. In the places where Field ID is used, Android seems like a possible competitor to Windows Mobile. It’s open source, so it should be easier and faster to write drivers for barcode scanners and RFID scanners. It doesn’t look like Research in Motion or Apple will be licensing their operating systems any time soon. This really only brings one true competitor to the space – Android. We will keep a watchful eye on all these different platforms as they continue to evolve.
RFID seems to be sneaking into our everyday lives more and more these days. Below are three RFID applications that show us RFID is going mainstream.
I now officially carry around an RFID tag most of the time (no, I am not wearing an Evotech harness around) ; I applied for a Nexus card. For those of you who don’t know, the Nexus program is a “trusted traveler” program that allows residents of Canada and the US to cross the border quicker than usual. When driving over the border, I hold up my RFID card and point it at a reader. An LED display then shows the number of cards scanned in the car. What’s really neat about this program is the fact that identification is performed by an eyeball scan when crossing airport security.
It has been rumored that the next iPhone (the iPhone 5) will have NFC ability. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, and is a type of RFID. I recently read on Boy Genius that the NFC may be used to support portable computing. To be clear, this could mean that the your iPhone will store information about your user profile on your Mac. When you wave your phone near another NFC enabled Mac, your settings about applications and some data are copied to the other device. It will be like sitting at your computer at home, even though you’re out. Instead of using VNC, you would just need your phone.
If NFC becomes more popular in smart phones this will be a huge step forward to making RFID as accessible as barcodes.
What does this have to do with safety compliance? Well, directly not much, but indirectly quite a bit as you can easily use the Field ID web site with the iPhone 4. We would still like to provide an official Field ID version for the iPhone, but currently you have to use the regular Field ID website. So, although this post is not a focus on safety compliance or forklift inspections, we obviously pay close attention to trends in the mobile world (and more importantly love gadgets).
Yes, I Lined up to Buy it
But no, I was not in the line in this picture. In Canada, the iPhone 4 just went on sale July 31st. Apple stores were opening up at 7 am to handle all the people who wanted to buy one. I decided to check out a mall (Yorkdale) that is slightly up town, as opposed to going to the mall right downtown Toronto (Eaton Centre). I anticipated a line, but thought if I was there by 7:00 am I would maybe be number 50 in line. Boy was I wrong; I showed up to a line up of 300 – 400 strong! I checked Twitter and sure enough, this was happening at most Apple stores in the Greater Toronto Area.
I stood at the back of the Apple line, felt really dumb and started to head home. I then walked by a Rogers store (like AT & T in Canada) and there was a small line there. I was told it was opening in an hour, so decided to wait. An hour later there were about 40 people behind me, and I got one of the last ones. Overall not bad considering people waited much longer and did not get a phone.
Yes, It is Amazing
I was coming from a Blackberry Bold (with the old trackball) and I must say, this is an entirely better experience. The screen looks absolutely amazing, the multitasking works quite well and the device is extremely fast. I downloaded a few games and they look stunning on the screen as well. I had an original iPhone 3G and I would say what I am most impressed about on this new phone is the speed. I can go from browsing the web, to listening to the iPod, to writing an email extremely quickly. The multitasking implementation is quite good (even though it took them 4 years to get this done).
So What About Field ID?
I have used the Field ID website on this quite a bit since getting it, and it works well. Although Field ID Web is not optimized for mobile browsing, the browser on the iPhone 4 works so well it is definitely usable. Most of the functionality that I have tested works perfectly. There is a little extra zooming and scrolling, but reporting specifically is very useful here. We still believe that most people actually performing inspections would benefit from a rugged device. The iPhone is still not properly sealed for dust or water, is not drop tested and the barcode and RFID capabilities are shotty/non-existant .
Overall, I love my new phone. I was even happier with it after 3 or 4 days. If you are doing safety inspections with Field ID (not a lot of assets) or reporting I would recommend it for Field ID use for sure. If you find yourself in rugged environments doing a large number of inspections, I would keep the iPnone in your pocket and stick to a purpose built rugged hand held for the foreseeable future.
I recently posted an article about how the iPad is going to change the way we do inspections and manage safety. I received a couple comments:
“There is no way we can use the iPad, it’s not rugged enough for field work!”
“We need an indestructible case for the iPad to be effective!”
These comments are absolutely right. There are many devices out there that are great to use and ideal for inspections, but just aren’t rugged enough to withstand the environment. Our customers conduct field and safety inspections in mines, oil fields, offshore oil rigs, etc. So if you don’t have a rugged device, what can you do?
Rugged Cases for your Handheld Device
So you have an iPad and you want to use it to conduct your inspections. What do you do? Rugged cases have been around for a while. A company that sticks out is Otterbox. They’ve made rugged cases for just about every commercial smart phone out there. They about to release an iPad case and I think it looks great.
3 Reasons why we need to use Rugged Cases
So why do we even need rugged cases for our handhelds? Why not just buy a rugged device to begin with. With our experience with Field ID, there are basically 3 reasons.
1. You already have Handheld devices
Many organizations have deployed 100s of handhelds to their workforce. People already have a handheld device such as a Blackberry. For these types of organizations, it really doesn’t make sense to go out and buy a whole new set of handhelds.
Realistically speaking, the cost of a rugged device is usually much greater than, for example, an iPad and a rugged case. Everyone is cost conscious, and using a rugged case is a much more cost-effective solution.
3. You like your iPad!
Let’s face it, some people just like using consumer handheld devices. People love using their iPhones, iPads and Blackberry devices and are used to using them. People are comfortable typing on them, doing work on them and to have to use another device just doesn’t sit well. For these people, using a rugged case is the only solution.
Bringing it back to Safety…
Our goal is to get people to modernize their inspection and safety compliance management process. Using rugged cases is just another great way to enable people to conduct electronic field and safety inspections!