Mobile Devices as Field Tools

In May 29, 2017

For most people that work in the field regularly the business case for the use of mobile devices (smart phones & tablets) is both obvious and compelling! However, it is often not so easy to articulate to your accountant and IT Manager.

Generally when a small business owner understands the basic functionality of a tablet computer they jump in very quickly as they can see an immediate impact on their bottom line. So what should you tell your boss, accountant and IT Manager to justify the purchase of mobile devices and applications?
The primary benefits for field use include:

Navigation
If I could only have one app on my tablet computer it would be Avenza Maps. By loading geo-referenced PDF maps into the app I am able to navigate when driving and walking much more efficiently than with paper map and compass. Usually I save at least 30 minutes per day because I always know where I am. No wasted time finding my way into a work area and much more efficient travel when on foot. GPS apps such as GPS Kit are also terrific because I can cache Google Earth images within the app for use offline.

Document Management
When I had to use paper maps, project documents, safety plans, checklists, etc. I could end up spending hours preparing for a project that required fieldwork. This preparation time almost completely disappears when using digital versions of these documents. Copy – Save – Sync and all of the required information is loaded on my mobile device. In my case this is an iPad and Documents To Go and Dropbox are used to transfer the data from my PC to the iPad.

Data Capture
Whenever possible I capture data digitally. If I can do so with a database this is even better. Databases applications such as Time Master, Forest Metrix and Quick IMS are not only efficient ways to capture data but will make pulling this information together back at the office much faster. As an example I used to record my billable time in a paper diary. At the end of the month I would spend about 2 to 3 hours per client going through my diary entries to create a spreadsheet to summarize my time. By using the app Time Master this process now takes 20 to 30 minutes.

There are many other financial benefits to using a mobile device but if you are looking for the most significant benefits I think the three listed above are heavy hitters.

I hope this can help you develop a sound business case to move ahead with the use of mobile devices as an aid for fieldwork.