Could Tablets Improve My Project?

Could Tablets Improve My Project?
Amol Daxikar Associate, Big Data expert
Here are five questions to answer before investing in a tablet for field work.

In today’s digital business environment, tablets are being used to meet mobility needs across a variety of engineering and infra­struc­ture projects and programs. Tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ments, such as cloud databases and expanded Wi-Fi coverage, are opening new doors. Engineering and construc­tion field staff can now input, collect and analyze project data at the job site, with unpar­al­leled efficiency. Tablets are eliminating the need to keep a physical log book, take photos on a separate device and manually upload data at an offsite office. Depending on the type of project you're working on, how much data you’re collecting and the location of the project site, answering these five questions will help you select the tablet that’s right for you.

How much pro­cess­ing power do your tasks require?
The nature of your tasks will drive the tablet you need. Certain tasks require more pro­cess­ing power than what the average tablet can provide. For pure data cap­tur­ing tasks (i.e., what you would need to replace a log book), we rec­om­mend a standard tablet. If, however, you are planning to crunch data on site, through tasks such as 3D modeling, you’ll have to rely on some­thing more tech­ni­cally equipped to handle the job. For instance, the Pana­sonic ToughPad has enough com­put­ing power to perform almost any task. Make sure the tablet you choose is com­pat­i­ble with the RAM, storage, res­o­lu­tion and security re­quire­ments for the programs your company uses. For ease of access, you might want to consider a tablet that can be syn­chro­nized with your desktop. 

Which op­er­at­ing systems works best with your IT ar­chi­tec­ture?
If the programs you use are more com­pat­i­ble with Windows or Android over Apple’s iOS, that will filter your tablet options. Some field work appli­ca­tions, however, are not available across certain op­er­at­ing systems nor are all software tools con­ducive for field collection. Dedicated field appli­ca­tions ("apps") typ­i­cally work better than browser-based tools because these field apps are designed for easy data capture (e.g., finger swiping, minimal typing, small screen size). Make sure you check with your IT and project team to ensure com­pat­i­bil­ity before making an in­vest­ment. 

tablet detailPro­tec­tive gear will help prevent your tablet from being damaged from falls or other harsh con­di­tions. 
What are the con­di­tions at your job site?
Health and safety are not just personal matters. Working under extreme con­di­tions might affect the per­for­mance of your tablet. If you work in a hot climate, you may need ven­ti­la­tion gear to keep your tablet from over­heat­ing. Outdoor field work may require a tablet that can adjust easily to prevent glare. Other harsh con­di­tions might ne­ces­si­tate shock re­sis­tance or water proofing to maintain func­tional in­tegrity of the device. It's important to reach con­sen­sus with your team on whether you prefer a lighter standard tablet that’s easy to carry around or a rugged tablet that can with­stand harsh con­di­tions on the job site. 

How much room is in your budget?
Tablets suitable and most cost efficient for field work range from $100 to upwards of $3,000 or more. As the price in­creases, ca­pa­bil­i­ties follow. It might be tempting to opt for a cheaper unit, but it might fall short of your quality and ap­pli­ca­tion needs. For example, the tablet’s built-in camera might not take clear site photos, or it may not offer enough RAM or storage needed to run advanced ap­pli­ca­tions. Higher quality tablets offer better per­for­mance, longer battery life, enhanced pro­cess­ing power and improved bright­ness/clarity. De­ter­mine the features that are most im­por­tant to you to narrow down the options in your price range.

Do you have the right support systems in place?
Once data is inputted into your tablet, you’ll need suitable in­fra­struc­ture to support it. Consider whether your IT systems are com­pat­i­ble with the device you choose, as well as evaluate the options you have for data back-up and recovery. Whoever owns the data will also have to approve the use of tablets to capture it. Be prepared to field questions about access and security as it might drive the op­er­at­ing system you can use on the project. Make sure that your device is able to suf­fi­ciently protect in­tel­lec­tual property. Coor­di­nat­ing with the right parties is crucial to the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of tablets for field work.

 Steps to tablet deployment

Having a clear un­der­stand­ing of your team’s ob­jec­tives and de­ter­min­ing whether tablets can help enhance pro­duc­tiv­ity is the first step. Next is setting you and your team up for success by creating a tablet de­ploy­ment plan. In so doing, you will ef­fec­tively align your project pri­or­i­ties with new tech­nol­ogy.

 Amol Daxikar, GISP is an expert in big data analysis and applying an­a­lyt­ics for im­prov­ing project per­for­mance. He spe­cial­izes in program man­age­ment and the de­ploy­ment of in­for­ma­tion systems. Amol has led the charge in de­ploy­ing tablet programs on several large in­fra­struc­ture projects in the U.S. as well as the Lusail Ex­press­way program in Qatar.

The nature of your tasks will drive the type of tablet you need.
Amol Daxikar, GISP Associate, Big Data Expert
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