Surveying And Mapping, Inc. (SAM, Inc.), a provider of geospatial data solutions, has recently become a global leader in tablet-based data acquisition technology by deploying state-of-the-art Trimble Tablet Rugged PCs to its entire staff of over 80 field crews in North America. SAM, Inc. is the first company to implement this technology on such a large scale.
The tablets bring practical improvements to every type of fieldwork that the firm conducts, with benefits of increased speed and productivity in data collection and data management enhancements derived from a friendlier user interface.
According to SAM, Inc. founder and president Sam Hanna, "These tools will improve our operational efficiency across-the-board for the whole range of surveying services we offer. They are an important evolution in our efforts to continue maximizing our value to clients."
The Intel-based tablet hardware is fully network communication-equipped for cellular 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and wired connections, to both Internet and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. Data exchange between field and office operations can be conducted in real-time and includes the ability for office staff to operate the tablet as a remote desktop. This feature will greatly increase the efficiency of office support for field operators.
According to SAM, Inc. Global Navigation System Specialist Tim Tong, "One of the huge impacts of the tablets on how we work is that our office techs and field crews are now fully merged. We can collaborate on field activities in real time, while sharing the same data display. That's a game-changer for supporting issues in the field."
Several useful third-party applications will be deployed as part of software tools on the tablet, including Google Earth for direct field access to satellite imaging and DeLorme turn-by-turn navigation software for better route planning. Trimble also offers a Software Development Kit (SDK) for their field software that will allow SAM, Inc. technicians to produce and deploy custom software solutions for unique client or project needs. The availability of the SDK will likely spur the development of other innovative software.
Other useful tablet features include the integration of a digital camera for both still and video images. Field personnel will be able to document project details with geo-referenced images as part of the overall data set.
Tong said that "the most exciting thing about these tablets for a field crew is having everything they need in their hands all the time. The integration of a laptop, data collector, navigation system and camera all into one lightweight, rugged device will make our workflow a lot more streamlined."
The deployment of tablets was staged over a period of weeks. Because they include several new software applications, training was required for operators. The tablets run the standard Windows 7 Professional operating system, with other proprietary software applications used for data management and support operations. When connected to a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver, the tablets will provide instant access to several Virtual Reference System (VRS) and Real-Time Correction Message (RTCM) networks throughout the nation, for high-accuracy, real-time kinematic positioning.
The process to obtain the 80 state-of-the-art tablets required an investment of several hundred thousand dollars and resulted in the purchase of a substantial portion of the early production-run of the Trimble product. Close cooperation with the vendor, Martin Instrument, and Trimble representatives was required in order to get early access to the product. As with almost any new technology, SAM, Inc. did have to work through some early technical issues with the tablets, such as problems related to wireless communications compatibility with third-party hardware, but these were quickly resolved with the assistance of representatives from Trimble and the wireless card manufacturer.
SAM, Inc. is committed to remaining an industry leader in the use of leading technologies for surveying and mapping services. The firm has already deployed several other Trimble surveying solutions across its operations, including outfitting all field crews with Trimble Total Station and GPS packages. The Tablet Rugged PCs integrate seamlessly with those resources to allow for faster implementation.
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