Over the past couple of years, the explosive penetration of Android-based mobile phones and tablets has changed the marketplace with an estimated 6 million weekly activations of Android devices at the beginning of 2012.
Safety inspection applications have been available on other types of mobile devices for the past few years, expanding the safety inspection applications to the Android platform seemed to be the ‘logical’ evolution of smart-phones.
The demand for safety inspection software running on Android devices has also increased due to the low cost and availability of the mobile devices. Since the majority of safety inspectors currently carry phones, using the safety inspection Android App for data collection does not require additional capital expenditures.
In which industries we can use safety inspection software?
There are many professionals who perform safety inspections and collect data ‘in the field’ on a regular basis:
- Property service providers’ record data related to a variety of activities including property audits, assessments, safety inspections, and similar types of data collection.
- Retail chains may require their stores to conduct regular safety inspections and submit them to head office. Additional corporate inspectors/auditors may travel between different locations to perform a variety of facility and safety inspections and assessments.
- Food establishments are required by law to conduct food and safety inspections on a regular basis.
- The Transportation industry including rails and ports is required to adhere to many rules and regulations including safety personnel conducting safety inspections or maintenance staff recording their activities.
- All higher education institutions are required by law to perform safety and property inspections and maintain detailed logs. Their facilities and Physical Plant departments manage large campuses which require tracking equipment, inspections and work orders.
- Almost every manufacturing plant has sign at the front – displaying the number of hours operating without injuries. This is a good indication for the effort manufacturers put into safety-related activities including safety inspections.
- Construction sites are required to conduct safety inspections and site audits.
When using the ‘proper’ implementation of an Android App, the process of collecting safety inspection information in the field is easy, efficient, and captures all the required information:
- The App must be easy to use. Since it is used in the field, safety inspectors must be able to quickly ‘master’ the App, learn how to navigate to their desired screen/function, and adopt the App as an ‘extension’ of their business tools/gadgets.
- I am a strong proponent of ‘offline mode’ field applications, in which inspectors can use their App without being dependent on connectivity. The App is therefore replacing paper forms with a significantly better tool – but without the need for continuous connectivity and increased costs. So, how would an ‘offline’ App work without the need for connectivity? It’s pretty simple. The user can send and receive all the required information and pictures wirelessly at any time; but once data is sent or received, users can record all required information directly onto their device while it is ‘offline’. Similar to an email client (but more sophisticated and specifically designed for safety inspection data collection), user control when and how data is sent back to the server. This addresses eliminating dependency on connectivity in remote locations and reducing costs since data can also be transmitted using Wi-Fi.
- Picture-taking and integrating the image with your safety inspection data without additional ‘manual’ procedures is also essential. Safety Inspectors must be able to snap images, ‘doodle’ on their pictures as required, and assign the picture to the appropriate line item on their inspections with minimal number of ‘clicks’
- Simplifying data collection by standardizing functions and drop-down lists is essential. The user must be able to select values from as many drop-down lists as possible, and therefore minimize data entry.
A screen shot of an easy-to-use Android Safety Inspection App:
Based on current trends and the fact that Android is based on the Linux kernel, which already powers a large range of computers and devices, I suspect that there will be many more Android devices than any other smart-phones in the future. As such, expanding the use of Android devices to support mobile safety inspection is already happening