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Choosing the correct mobile device for your inspection requirements

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Choosing the correct mobile device for your compliance and inspection requirements is vital in order to perform rigorous and effective inspection. As inspections software is adjusted to match a businesses intended means of use, consideration of the mobile devices must be given in order to complement the solution and allow inspectors and field personnel to optimize their time spent performing inspections.

Mine operators must understand and consider the ramifications of their choice of mobile device. To weigh in which mobile device be most beneficially, like most decisions, cost analysis is an important tool to analyse whether a device will benefit a business and allow comparisons to alternatives. Accordingly, when deciding which mobile device will be most appropriate for your mine operations, factors such as ease of use, rugged / non-rugged, intrinsically safe, RFID capabilities, consumer / enterprise, company policy as well as mobile device specifications such as screen size, industry grade Wi-Fi and other specific features must all be considered.

1. Rugged vs. non rugged

Inspections are often performed on the field and exposed to numerous elements which make damage or break the device. Consumer devices such as smartphone and tablets although robust are simply not made for certain environments. As such, industrial grade mobile devices allows inspectors a more durable option.

By inspectors opting for a rugged devices it may allow for the following:

- Cost saving: An industrial device simply last longer, research by Venture Development Corporation (VDC) of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) models surveyed a broad range deployments and reported TCO annual savings were up to 17% in Field Profession applications and 32% in Supply Chain application for rugged hardware deployments.

- Access to harsh environments: Rugged devices provide operators and employees the ability to use hardware in certain environments where an unprotected device wouldn’t be recommended. An example of this is that non rugged devices can only operate in ‘normal’ temperature, once the mobile device is operated outside the temperature range it may lead to premature failure.

- Increased productivity: Equipping employees with durable mobile devices allows them to focus on the tasks and inspections at hand. Unprotected / non rugged hardware is prone to be damage and break which can disrupt and often halter workflows.

2. Consumer vs. Enterprise 

There are numerous reasons for your mine operators to consider opting to commercial / enterprise grade such as durability, security, hardware features all of which can benefit a mine through time and cost savings.

- Increased IT time securing data on employee devices
- Reduced time training staff individually to suit their mobile software
- Consumer devices are often fragile and have a short product life cycle
- Company policy- companies may preference a specific system to sync with existing infrastructure

Consumer mobile devices often provided business with an effective solution to complete inspections. These products are often available at local retail outlets initially seem like the logical and most cost effective solution. However, for many mines, enterprise grade hardware is needed to effectively conduct inspections through its specific features that consumer devices aren’t equipped with, for example features such as:

- NFC (Near Field Communication) & RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
- Battery Life
- Intrinsically Safe
- Durability i.e. IP (Ingress Protection) Sealing
- Ability to include accessories
- WIFI grade

- Bar Code Scanning 

3. Mine policy

Mines often have a culture and preference for operating systems and opt to use a certain brand and system to better sync the mine and employees workflows and operations.When new mobile device is introduced into the mine, time must be invested in training employees of the new device and recommended workflows. It must be acknowledged that employees may have existing experience and knowledge of certain mobile devices and operating systems which resulting, allows the employee to begin inspections in the field more imminent. Additionally, if employees and key decision makers aren’t considered in the deciding process of new software it will deter them of the chosen products use if they have preference of a certain device. 

4. Device features

Mobile devices differentiates with the product’s specifications and capabilities. Inspectors must consider what is needed for an effective inspection to be made. Device factors that should be consider are:

- Touch Screen: Ability to draw and make notes on the screen while having glovers on

- Speech to Text: Ability to create and store notes verbally when there is background noise

- Camera Ability: Zoom and high resolution imagery

- Screen Size: How big the screen needs to best host the software and record data

- Hardware Size: The convenience and mobility working with the device

- GPS/Time/Date stamps: Ability for automatic GPS/Time/Date stamps

- Storage: Ability to store large files and data banks.

Summary

In conclusion, mines must firstly identify the means of use for their inspections, determine clear expectations of mobile devices life and consider what factors are needed to be catered to. The correct choice of mobile devices will have huge influence on the productivity of inspectors and operators, reduced rates of device failures and wireless transmission failures and a high percentage of maintenance covered by warranty.

The size and scale of the inspections at hand can definitely plays a role when choosing the correct mobile device. For storage facility inspecting and recording inventory, their non-rugged mobile phone / tablet can be fitted with the appropriate software. In comparison, a large organization may have a fleet of inspectors working remotely and require them to conduct inspections that last hours in which require transferable batteries.

For many mines, consumer products may seem like a solution due to their accessibility and established awareness of the product however; these products ultimately can provide mines with a range of obstacles and problems. If mines wish to continue to implement these devices due to company policy, cases can be equipped on the device to strengthen them and make them compatible in industrial environments i.e. Intrinsically Safe, Ingress Protection Sealing etc. 

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