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Inspection App for Automating Fire Equipment Inspections

The popularity of smart phones and tablets has changed the market with an estimated over 120 million monthly global activations of mobile devices at the beginning of 2015. Managing fire and safety inspections has become more efficient with the introduction of mobile devices. Automation enables effective equipment tracking, scheduling, service management, and management of parts and inventories.

As mobile devices become smarter and more advanced, they are increasingly being used to automate inspections. Mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets have been transformed into everyday tools deployed by service organisations such as fire equipment inspectors.

Automating fire equipment inspections using an iPad or Android mobile device

Most smartphones and tablets operate on the iOS (Apple) or Android (Google) operating system, with both platforms capable of handling fire equipment and safety inspection applications. Apps designed for paperless inspections have to provide information that already exists on paper forms and log books. For example, if the inspection involves filling out a weekly sprinkler logbook, the iPad paperless app can fulfil the same function electronically including allowing the fire inspector to select from a list of possible choices, type in information, or use the voice to text function according to the logbook and regulatory requirements.

Paperless fire and safety inspection apps allow the inspector quick access to current, past, and future information. Easy-to-use screens and functions are necessary in the fire inspection apps to enable user-friendly and efficiency operation by the field service personnel. Simplifying navigation buttons and minimising keystrokes will allow fire equipment and safety inspectors to easily and quickly familiarise themselves with the paperless inspection app.

When using the ‘appropriate’ implementation of a paperless inspection app, the process of collecting inspection and testing data in the field is easy and captures all the required information:

  1. The Application must be easy to use. As it is used in the field, field inspectors must be able to rapidly ‘master’ the Application, learn how to navigate to their desired screen/function, and adopt the App as an ‘extension’ of their business tools/gadgets.
  2. 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, including reference material 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, the field technician control when and how data is sent back to the office. This eliminating dependency on connectivity in remote locations or in areas without connectivity (e.g. basements) and reducing costs since data can also be transmitted using Wi-Fi.
  3. Barcodes are integrated into the application using the mobile device’s built-in camera, which may be very useful to identify the fire equipment. Inspectors can scan fire equipment to quickly access relevant information. The scanner can be used in conjunction with the inspection software to retrieve information such as: last test level performed, last defects identified, next major level as well as the current task (e.g. weekly, monthly etc.) to be performed.
  4. Picture-taking and integrating the image with the test and inspection results is also essential. Inspectors must be able to snap images and ‘doodle’ on their pictures as required (e.g. identifying the defect or the non-compliance). In addition, wireless transmission of pictures must be done efficiently and securely without exposing your server to security breaches.
  5. 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.
Paperless recording of safety inspections using rugged mobile device.

Paperless recording of safety inspections using rugged mobile device.

The fire and safety inspection app can include validations that allow or disallow data entry and make data entry mandatory when identifying defects and other non-compliance findings. The fire inspection app can also provide the safety inspector with historical information pertaining to previous inspections and tests.

Mobile device features such as camera, NFC, Wi-Fi, clock and GPS can be integrated with the app to execute multiple functions such as enabling quick identification of equipment, or points of entry and exit, providing audit trail, documenting non-compliance, recording photographic evidence, improving efficiency, and minimising human errors.

Techs4Biz offers Pervidi products, which combine service management, asset management, maintenance management and inspection management functionalities to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs. Techs4Biz develops and provides technology solutions in 7 languages. Techs4Biz has offices in Australia, Canada and the U.S.

For more information, go to www.Techs4biz.com

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Naaman Shibi is Vice-President of Techs4Biz, has over 25 years of experience in the software industry and has worked with a number of large public and private businesses to automate OH&S inspections.