Upgrading to New Tablet and Camera Models

Our clients often ask us for recommendations as to what hardware we use as we employ TPAS™ for the collection and cataloging of facade conditions data. We recently upgraded our tablet PCs to the  Motion J3500 model.  Its screen is optimized for outdoor use and its two batteries can be “hot swapped” to maximize productivity in the field.  Our new cameras are Panasonic DMC-TS20s.  As with the Motion tablet, the camera is built with durability and ruggedness in mind.  As we continue to develop the software side of TPAS™ to make condition surveys and field reporting more efficient, the new hardware will likewise add to our field productivity.

The Motion F5v with EyeFi: the site test

Over the past week, while surveying three buildings at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, I tested out our new TPAS  setup on site: the Motion F5v tablet computer running with EyeFi wireless capture and a Pentax WG1 camera.  After 7 years of working almost entirely with TPAS on site, I didn’t think there was much room for improvement.  I was proven wrong.

First, the tablet.

The Motion F5v weighs only 3.3 lbs.  Even though the weight wouldn’t seem to have much of an effect when you are hanging from ropes, it turns out it does.  I could easily hold the tablet with one hand (instead of with a forearm) while taking quick notes, not something I do with the bulkier tablets.  Also the molded handle at the top of the screen is a nice feature.  I often hooked my thumb into the handle to bring it closer to my face while looking at the screen.

Our biggest concerns when choosing tablets are screen visibility and battery life.  I found the screen on the F5 (with the ViewAnywhere option) great to use.  It is easy to control brightness and has great visibility in all kinds of light conditions.  The battery life is more than adequate, as well.  I have not gotten a backup battery for the F5 yet so I was working on one battery and charging up at lunch time and that was more than enough.

I LOVE wireless capture

The people at EyeFi have come up with an amazing concept that (most of the time) works really well.  EyeFi is an SD card that works with some cameras to create an ad hoc network between a computer (in this case, the F5) and the camera.  The network is very easy to set up and in no time I was wirelessly capturing images from my camera directly onto a designated disk on the F5 hard drive.  The only glitch here is that even with all of the newest software and hardware the connection is a bit inconsistent – you don’t ever lose photos, you just don’t always get the immediate satisfaction of seeing the photos transfer right after you take them.  As soon as I got used to it, I was very comfortable turning the ad hoc network off while I surveyed, only turning it on at the end of drops or while I was doing backups.  The time stamps of all of the photos don’t change so there is no change in how TPAS deals with the RESOLVE function.

It is a huge step in the right direction.  After tripping on the USB cord more times than I’d like to imagine, I’m incredibly excited to move towards EyeFi.