Author: David Nakamura

Rapid Prototyping for Field Inspections

Rapid Prototyping for Field Inspections

Rapid Prototyping for Field Inspections

When it comes to designing and developing for new form projects for field inspections, one of the greatest project tools has been the use of rapid "paper" prototyping. This method involves a direct collaboration on the presentation and capabilities of a form directly with form users who are subject matter experts (SMEs). When it comes to any project, this interaction is crucial for project success.

In my most recent projects, I've seen how this collaboration has improved outcomes. Here are a few examples:

Beyond the PDF

Most new project work starts with a PDF that is currently being used on paper out in the field. This PDF or similar document is a great start to understanding the data and the field maintenance inspection process. However, having SME input on actual usage improves overall user satisfaction, adoption and data quality. Furthermore, rapid prototyping should also open the opportunity for improving upon the entire field maintenance inspection process—not just replacing a previous process.

Access to the Actual On-site Work

At Transport for London, I had the opportunity to meet directly with technicians for a process that involved battery backup systems. During the on-site visit, we opted to use the current digital form prototype while interacting with the actual battery test units as if the inspector was using the form in a real scenario. He filled out the form while pressing buttons and switching battery test modes. At one point, we discovered a possible area of confusion where the form stated, "all LEDs illuminated in red" whereas on the actual test unit, only the *labelled* LEDs were actually illuminated in red. There was a reserve LED that was not illuminated. In actual usage of the digital form, this could potentially have led to the inspector failing the battery test.  We could easily adjust the form requirements and user instructions on the form without a cycle of receiving this type of feedback after deployment.

Get Prototyping!

In my experience, a close interface between developer and inspector is a critical piece to ensuring that projects are successful. As you begin your next project, don't underestimate the advantages to taking every opportunity for your inspectors to participate in the rapid paper prototyping process!

Mobilizing Operations for TIC: Why Your Growth Depends on It

With an increasing global economy and international trade opportunities, there has been an increased need for adherence to global standards. The Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC) market has grown in this scenario as has the climate for mergers and acquisitions in the TIC space. To trade locally and internationally, advancing their growth trajectory, companies need an end-to-end inspection management process that’s both fully digitized and laser-focused on data accuracy, quality and velocity.

Typically, inspections are conducted in areas of extreme conditions by highly skilled testing engineers. But even the most skilled and tenured engineers can miss the mark or fall behind if they don’t have the most up-to-date tools in their toolkits. While capturing TIC information, engineers face challenges such as repetitive data entry, network availability requirements, and avoiding data consistency errors. Automating and streamlining the inspection process is critical to their work and your company’s success.

To be successful in the high-growth TIC space, you need to focus on building strong customer relationships and delivering greater value in your solution offerings. In that regard, it’s almost a mandate in today’s world that your products are completely digitized. With digital transformation, you can deliver more value to your customers including:

  1. Quicker inspections
  2. Faster access to collected data
  3. Immediate data analysis

Using one enterprise mobile solution to schedule, conduct, and report on inspections delivers all this and more. Engineers can capture data in the most efficient way possible with optimized data entry fields. They can work with offline mobile forms, and enter less data by performing in-the-field data lookups as if they were connected to a backend data source. Digitized TIC forms can also have business rule validations with easy navigation so that TIC engineers can enter data accurately at a faster pace.

Remaining competitive and compliant with the rising global business environment is critical to the vitality of many companies that rely on a robust TIC process. Finding the right enterprise mobile solution is the key to making your inspection management process a success and building your own growth story.

4 Important Functions You Should Expect from Your Field Inspection Software

Field Inspection Software

Field Inspection Software

Your field inspections are important and critical to the vitality of your business. More than just data points, the captured data provide valuable insights into operational deficiencies and, in many cases, can really improve your performance versus budget. Streamlining the entire process of implementing your field inspection software is a crucial choice that will have an impact for years to come.

Here are 4 important functions of field inspection software that you should consider during your evaluation of mobile inspection software.

1) It allows you to easily design forms.

Scenario: Your supervisor just informed you that there's an immediate need for a site safety inspection questionnaire with a requirement of capturing field engineer location data to a new form. Creating this mobile form should be easy and straightforward, with minimal training needs and no dependence upon developers to make costly implementations. Expect the field inspection form design process to be a simple matter of dragging and dropping the field types you need and adjusting a few properties in an intuitive and user-friendly interface.

2) It delivers real time insights.

Scenario: Your team has chosen a suite of forms for collecting field site, facility safety, and commercial compliance data but now you need the ability to view the big picture on what's really happening. You need a real-time dashboard of your aggregated data that is easily manipulated to gain perspective and prospective insights. Building, maintaining, and generating reports for this dashboard should be easy and straightforward. Expect the ability to view your mobile field inspection data in a new and impactful way!

3) It provides for easy integrations with other systems. 

Scenario: Your organization is sitting on a treasure of historical data and systems, and you need to bring this wealth forward to the field, while still allowing your field engineers to work offline. Having an easy path to integrations with existing data sources and your infrastructure is possible with the right tools and a field inspection software solution that’s build with integration in mind. Expect an integration that is easy to implement, adjust, and maintain.

4) It allows you to quickly capture data.

Scenario: You've invested heavily in your field team and running your field operations smoothly. Expect that your field operations inspection software should empower your team to operate at their best! Having access to backend data sources while offline means that users do not need to enter data twice. Optimized form and field interfaces allow your field workers to focus on their real jobs and allow you to receive the quality data that you expect.

Before you select a field inspection software for your business, take the time to consider all the “must haves” for your business. These 4 points should weigh heavily into your evaluations!


How Can I Be Sure That My Mission-Critical Data Is Safe?

I've helped others implement a number of mobile data projects during my career at Mi-Corporation. One of the questions that managers have is how can I be sure that my mission-critical data is safe? It's a very good question - the need for data security is obvious. Their data is critical to the mission of their organizations. Data compromises can lead to lost productivity, lost revenue and even lost jobs - impacting families and our economy. So how can one ensure their mission-critical data is safe?

As a secured "fortress" around a lively city, don't allow data intruders to easily invade via open passages, relaxed protections, or careless mistakes.

For starters, your "fortress" should be built using strong security standards. The Mi-Platform was built with strict security standards such as

  • Data level security hashing - ensures data isn't tampered or altered
  • Data storage uses encryption - ensures data can't be accessed without authentication
  • User authentication - extensive measures in place to enforce a strict password policy

After selecting a secure mobile data solution, the next step is to ensure that everyone is taking advantage of the security features already offered by our software - it's there, so please use it.

Here are some easy security practices that should be adopted by any organization:

  1. Don't leave the key to your fortress in the door handle!

I've encountered situations where the administrative password with the default password is left unchanged. This could lead to large consequences and is easily addressed - update your passwords, especially for default accounts.

  1. Use secured tunnels in and out of your fortress!

It is vital that any services with critical data exchange use a secure data transport such as https with a valid SSL certificate. This ensures that third parties cannot compromise "in motion" data.

  1. Verify members at your borders!

In other words, use authentication and use it well. Applications, such as our Mi-Platform, use application level authentication with password restrictions for strength requirements and expiration durations. If employees leave the organization, be sure to follow through on account deactivations.

  1. Protect your assets!

Modern tablets and PC have hardware level data encryption capabilities, but *only* if users enable it (usually via a passcode on the device). Also ensure that your applications encrypt stored data. Our Mi-Platform already handles this for you.

Sometimes we ask the hard questions about security but never act on the easy steps to keep data secure. Following through on a few simple steps can greatly reduce your security risks.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Integrating a Mobile Data Solution

Business managers are challenged more than ever to deliver value with an ever-expanding list of requests and features to drive their business forward. With the high demand for mobilizing business processes, integration with existing and legacy backend systems becomes a daunting task. With a limited set of resources and the constant challenge to make backend meet mobile, business managers are quantifying integrations as their top barrier to starting a mobile data solution. A 2016 Enterprise Mobility Exchange report reveals that 47.7% of business managers cite the biggest challenge of implementing a mobile data solution as “integration with legacy systems.”

What are some integration challenges and how can businesses manage them without distracting from their core mission?

Two core challenges arise when organizations are faced with integrations:

Challenge #1: Variability of Existing Systems

Some organizations may have hundreds of existing systems that require some form of integration—each having their own API and specifications.

Challenge #2: Finding Resources with Integration Skillsets

Employees who are familiar with these systems and integrations are tasked with handling complex integration transformations, routing, updates, security requirements, etc. and so a special set of skills is required.

Handling integration tasks can sometimes account for over half of a mobile data project effort. Reducing the impact of these two challenges will have a large impact on getting a successful mobile data project under your belt.

Facing any challenge can be easier when you have partners who’ve faced—and tackled—similar obstacles.

We’ve implemented numerous integration projects with customers who are realizing benefits and future extensibility of their integration projects with us. In these integration projects, we have found that having a comprehensive mobile data solution plan that includes integration has been the most useful tool in aligning mobile data solutions with core business focus.

A successful mobile data solution plan should include the following considerations:

Approach in Phases

  • Break out goals into milestones.
  • Keep milestones SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based)
  • Keep milestone accomplishments on a periodic duration, such as a quarterly basis

 Approach with a Single Focused Business Process

  • What are the most pressing business processes that would benefit from a mobile data solution?
  • Select one with the most reasonable outcome in a single milestone phase
  • What kind of system(s) currently retains data for this business process and what are the integration tasks?

Update Plan and Update Phases

  • Stick to the current milestone
  • Adjust future phases and milestone based upon your experiences

 Measure your ROI

  • Identify metrics and take a baseline metric before starting a project
  • Compare before and after for KPI and ROI

Select a Partner Who Knows Mobile Data and Integration

When selecting a partner, are you reassured that they've experienced integration challenges before and succeeded at meeting them? Do they have resources who are experienced with your integration requirements? Can they provide assistance with your mobile data solution plan? Can they assist you with measuring your ROI? Do they enable your mobile data solutions to align with and excel at your core business focus? The answers to all these questions will be critical to finding the right partner to help you achieve success.

Build on Mi-Platform, the leading COTS solution for Mobile Data To ease the pain of integration, Mi-Platform has the right tools to successfully manage your integration needs. For the citizen developer, Mi-Platform provides Frictionless Data Replication (FDR) which easily matches backend data sources to fields on your mobile forms. FDR is built on our Data Replication component which streamlines backend data being available at the fingertips of your mobile data workforce. For further extensibility, Mi-Platform provides a suite of more than 100+ APIs so that IT professionals may completely automate and manage their mobile data processes.

With Mi-Corporation as your partner, building on Mi-Platform and implementing a Mobile Data Solution Plan, you’ll be on your way to augmenting your core business with a powerful mobile data workforce!

3 Key Steps to Creating Your Mobile Data Capture Budget

Go paperless with a mobile data capture solution

When it comes to mobile data capture services, budget is often the top concern for operations managers juggling dozens of conflicting (and budget-eating) priorities. It’s a fact that a mobile data project is going to cost you. A November 2014 study by Kinvey (From CIO & Mobile Leader State of Enterprise Mobility Survey, found that on average, it takes an astonishing $270,000 and 7-12 months to develop a single mobile app. And 18% of CIOs surveyed by Kinvey said it takes between $500,000 and $1,000,000! Here are three of the most important considerations you should think about, as you evaluate your own budget requirements and set expectations within your organization.

Can Easier be Better? You Betcha.

Engine tune-ups and winterizations…
Refilling the tank…
Pouring and spilling the gas…
Pushing and breathing in the fumes…
Pulling the cord and injuring tendons in your elbow…

Sound familiar? I've been accustomed to mowing the lawn since I was a kid. I can't imagine how much gas I've spent, the extent of harmful fumes I've inhaled, and how many times I've cursed the mower for not cranking up after a long winter. This spring, I pulled and pulled and pulled and never got the mower to start. I ended up with an irritated tendon near my elbow which my physician termed "tennis elbow.” For about two weeks, I couldn't lift anything with that arm before feeling the pain.

Since then I got smart and bought a cordless electric mower. The mower is light and super quiet—sounds like a swarm of bees (but in a comforting sort of way). Powered by batteries, the process of “refueling" is quick, easy, and clean. These newer cordless mowers now have sufficient power and torque to keep up with their gas-guzzling mower counterparts.

The advantages of going all electric and cordless have me wondering about other aspects of my life that could be easier—both on my body and in my pocketbook. I've looked at the appeal of a completely gas-free Nissan Leaf and the Tesla automobiles. Another Mi-Corporation coworker has commented that Tesla has also just released their Solar Roof tiles for homeowners. Ok, so the Tesla options likely won't help my pocketbook in the near-term, however there are real options out there for going fossil-free and reaping the benefits.

So where else in our lives could we benefit from a more efficient and stress-free choice, while going eco-friendly and staying productive? If you’re collecting data in a field environment, going mobile with the right solution can yield some incredible benefits.

With Mi-Corporation’s Mobile Impact Platform (Mi-Platform) in place, you’ll have no more hassles with paper. No more inefficiencies correcting errors between the field and the office. No more rekeying data from field inspectors. No more calls from the field to get customer contact or scheduled inspection information. Having the convenience of a well-planned, executed, and maintained Mobile Impact Platform solution in place can lead to greater productivity, which means less time worrying and more time enjoying those benefits.

Consider some of our customers in the transportation and construction industries. Transport for London uses Mi-Platform for inspections, fault reporting and incident management—and it saves them up to 20,000 man-hours per year! In construction, we’ve got customers like Bureau Veritas, who’ve completely transformed their manual forms-based processes for code compliance, building inspection and field reporting with total automation (and major time and money savings too).

What tasks and processes cause you and your business friction and stress?
What does your ideal mobile solution look like? Who’s involved? What systems are in place?

Until now, I've thought that cordless mowers wouldn't handle the work of mowing my lawn like as gas-mower. Technology has now challenged that notion and I'm glad that there are viable choices. Whether using paper or a current mobile solution, are you getting what you need to be successful in terms of productivity, accuracy, and business results? If not, it may be time to rethink your data collection strategy and ditch your own “tennis elbow” for a solution that can go the distance.

How Will You Measure Success?

More Success

One of our core values at Mi-Corporation is responsive, quality customer focus. Applicable not only to those who directly interact with customers but also to every employee at Mi-Co.

We expect that everyone reflects this core value in their relationships with customers and in the quality of their work with customers. To continuously improve our customer commitment, we've taken another look at our focus on customer relationships and how we can achieve customer success, beyond customer satisfaction.

More Success

Customer satisfaction implies that products and services meet expectations. If I'm satisfied, I'm not necessarily ready for more or thinking about the next step - I'm already "full". There's no incentive to continuously improve what I have because it's working, or my previous "pain" has been removed. Customer success implies a level of expectation met but a hunger for more because you know what it can do to make you successful and grow your business even further. How can we take our accomplishments together to another level?

The measurement of Customer Success isn't just a single metric. Every operational level in an organization has a criteria for success.

  • For subject matter experts out in the field, success might mean a streamlined data collection experience that allows them to focus on the work at hand instead of the technology.
  • For the supervisor, success could mean accurate and timely data collection.
  • For the manager, success could be measured by the ability to obtain near instantaneous reporting, allowing them to adapt their workforce to changes.
  • For company stakeholders, success may involve the realization of a near-term ROI.

Each of these user stories should be taken into consideration when planning for a project and realizing your success isn't just single-sided.

I recently had the opportunity to join a product demonstration call with Gautham Pandiyan, our VP of Sales and Marketing. Gautham engages audiences with an interactive style and one of the key impressions upon me during this web conference was the question "How will you measure the success of your project?" He drew out responses from everyone and demonstrated a commitment to understanding our customer. Some of the answers raised my level of awareness for what the true needs of the customer were and how we might partner in solving issues.

With this in mind, we are committing to deepen our customer relationships at every level. We have identified key areas that will enable us to strengthen customer relationships and lead us both to success.

And how will you measure success? What have you found to be instrumental in strengthening your customer relationships?

The Potential of Wearables in the Enterprise



There's no doubt that the consumer-driven demand for smartphone and tablet devices has impacted the enterprise to find creative mobile solutions for their workforce. Mi-Corporation has enabled organizations to do just that.

With the dawn of a new consumer-driven market for wearable technology, how will this impact businesses and how will Mi-Corporation be a part of this?

Although the HUD technology (pictured below) was fun, it may take a while until it is ready for consumer or business adoption. It’s not exactly subtle…

David N

On the other hand (pun intended)…

FitBit Flex

I've been using a fitness tracker since June 2013 (FitBit Flex and now the Microsoft Band in the past month) and I can see the possibilities for innovation in the workplace with wearables.

  • Hands-free app interaction could assist workers who are operating heavy machinery and may not be able to directly use a phone, tablet, or PC.
  • Location awareness could remind workers of nearby tasks.
  • Although data entry with wearables is limited, speech recognition could allow for guided navigation through a set of questions, such as a safety checklist or routine equipment inspection.

As we look for forward to a new year, the future of technology and its impact on the enterprise is exciting - join us as we move forward!