By now, it’s well-known that mobile inspection apps are big time-savers and productivity enhancers for field workers. And many enterprises have recognized that building mobile apps for firstline workers — such as for doing field inspections — are key to their digital transformations.
It’s easy in theory to talk about building mobile inspection apps. But doing it in the real world is another thing entirely. Given the complexities of field inspections and business workflow and processes, it’s easy to get wrong.
We’ve got help for you --- tips from Mark Zuniga, Senior Vice President and CIO at UniversalPegasus International, which provides field inspection services to monitor the construction of oil and gas pipelines. In a blog post for Forbes, “How to Disrupt an Industry with an App,” Zuniga offers great tips on developing a killer mobile inspection app. Following are the highlights, based on his experience building an inspection app which revolutionized the way his company does pipeline monitoring.
How to Build Better Mobile Inspection Apps: 3 Tips to Consider
First, he says, you need to clearly define the problem you want the app to fix. In his case, that meant using mobile technology “to replace the existing, voluminous, paper-based process with a system that uses push technology to ensure the most current documents and drawings are available in the field at all times.”
How can your business best identify the problem that needs fixing? Zuniga puts it this way: “If there's an antiquated, time-consuming process that is plaguing your company, bring it up with your IT or development team to see if there are steps you can take to create an app that will actually help fix the problem.”
2. Provide Real-Time Data
Once you’ve clearly identified the problem, he says, you need to make sure that when you build the app, it provides access to important real-time data. Here’s how he explains how he did it in his app: “For our system, we knew it took a long time for the paper forms to be uploaded, summarized and reported. We set out to provide owners with near real-time access to data for construction and compliance activities via digital data capture, reporting and distribution. Our solution integrated software, a geographic information system, an enterprise database and a compliance engine -- all on a tablet for portability and ease of use.”
As for his advice about how to apply this to your inspection app, here’s what he says: “Regardless of what issue your app is aiming to solve, it's critical that both your employees and your customers can access data on the fly to either improve workplace productivity or enhance the user experience.”
3. Make It Scalable & Adaptable
Finally, he says, the app needs to be scalable and adaptable. In his case, the new system “will analyze half a million data points on a 200-mile pipeline and typically flag 50,000 exceptions, and we've applied our solution on pipeline, electrical transmission, wind farm and solar construction projects.”
For your app, here’s what he says you should do: “While it's key to hone in on one specific problem, your app should be able to be applied to other issues nested within that primary issue. During the development phase, if you realize your app can't be extrapolated to other areas of the business or be expanded on in future updates to grow with the demand of your company, then you should reconsider the problem you're attempting to tackle.”
Here’s a bonus tip for building mobile inspection apps: Get the best platform possible.
Alpha TransForm is ideally suited for helping enterprises build mobile inspection apps and scale their digital transformation. The Alpha TransForm mobile app development environment helps users craft online or offline mobile apps in minutes that utilize the latest mobile features (camera, GPS, etc.) for fast, accurate data capture. While offline operation and integration are built-in, developers have the flexibility to further customize the apps for advanced security, integration and workflow. View some inspection-related construction apps.