Using Tablets in Field Work Environments

Image source: Giatec Scientific Inc.

Image source: Giatec Scientific Inc.

In today’s digital world, tablets are growing in popularity in the business environment as a means to meet mobility needs across engineering and infrastructure projects/programs. By utilizing technological advancements such as cloud databases and expanded WiFi coverage, engineering and construction workers are able to input, collect and analyze project data in the field and subsequently share this data with ease. No longer required are tediously filled-out physical log books or the need to manually upload data at an off-site office. Giatec Scientific is taking advantage of these benefits in a variety of its smart concrete testing devices such as SmartRock2™, XCell™ and iCOR™ products.

These advances are most recently observed in the newly released Smart Concrete technology. Smart Concrete™, as an IoT solution in the concrete industry, combines wireless sensors with mobile and cloud applications to enable contractors obtain real-time concrete strength results on the jobsite, and make field data available to ready-mix producers. This data can be used for the smart analysis of concrete performance.

In order to ensure that the tablet you choose is the right one for the job, it is important to have a clear understanding of your team’s objectives. A number of factors need to be weighed in such as the type of project you’re working on, how much data it is that you’re collecting and even what the location of the jobsite is like. Below is a break-down of five questions you should answer before selecting the tablet that is right for you.

How much processing power is required?

It is important to understand that certain tasks will require more processing power than others. For instance, for pure data capturing tasks (what replaces the physical log book), a standard tablet is often recommended. However, if you are planning to analyse data on site such as with 3D modeling, you would require something that is more technically equipped. Ensure that the tablet you choose is compatible with RAM, storage, security and resolution requirements for the programs your company uses. It may also be helpful to consider a tablet that can by synced with your desktop for ease of access.

Which operating systems work best with your IT architecture?

Some field work applications are not available across certain operating systems and not all software tools are favourable for field collection. Field apps are typically better than browser-based because they are specifically designed for ease of use in the field with finger swiping and minimal typing required.

What are the jobsite conditions?

Performance of your tablet can be affected by the conditions of your jobsite. For example, if working in a hot climate, ventilation gear may be required in order to keep your tablet from overheating. Outdoor work may require a tablet that adjusts easily to prevent glares on the screen. You may only require a lighter, standard tablet that is easy to carry around or you may need to invest in a rugged tablet that can withstand harsh jobsite conditions.

What is your budget?

As tablets that are most suitable for field work can range from $100 - $3,000 dollars or more, you may be tempted to choose a cheaper tablet unit. However, it may not meet your quality and application requirements. You must determine the features that are most important and relevant to your project in order to help you narrow down the options in your price-range.

Are the right support systems in place?

Once data is inputted into the tablet, you need to evaluate your options for data back-up and recovery. Are your IT systems compatible with the device you have chosen? Be prepared to ask questions about access and security and make sure your device can sufficiently protect intellectual property.