There are going to be times when your field team won’t have internet access but will still need to do their paperwork. Whether technicians are working close to the clouds, onshore or offshore, or deep underground, it’s important to provide them with access to documentation and the ability to capture data offline.
So, how can you make this happen? One word: mobility. Equip your team with a mobile device and a reliable offline mobile data collection app that will allow them to work from any place, under any conditions, with or without connectivity.
We’re going to try to shed a little bit more light on the capabilities an app should provide, in order to make your field teams’ work lives easier. Let’s get started!
Ideal capabilities of an offline mobile data collection app
The ideal app would be one that does not upset or interrupt your team’s overall workflow. Users shouldn’t notice any difference between online and offline data collection. To provide that experience, the following features should be in place:
- Access to files
All manuals, instructions, safety briefings, video presentations, and any other documents that were synced to the user’s mobile device from your company storage can be opened and viewed by the app user at any point in time.
- Data capture
Field crew can capture data in fillable forms and checklists, and once done — click the ‘Submit’ button. The form will stay in the Outgoing section of the app, and will be automatically submitted as per workflow rules once internet connection is restored.
- Images and photos
Along with text, photos are an important part of field data collection. Together with timestamps and geolocation tags, they can serve as proof of location, evidence of task completion, or as a simple yet perfect visualization of a place or object that the field team wants to highlight.
- Barcodes & QR scanning
No matter where a vehicle or piece of equipment is located, the barcode or qr code can be scanned in one tap on a mobile device to add the details to the necessary form fields.
- Notes, stamps and annotations
You can easily annotate, draw, add text and voice notes and stamps on any part of a document.
Field teams can sign and capture customer eSignatures right in the app with just 3 taps on their mobile device.
- Interaction with other apps
Documents opened in other apps on the device can be easily copied to the mobile data collection app and continue their journey as per workflow rules, or be saved as a local copy in the mobile data app.
Securely save changes, even when working offline
You and your teams shouldn’t have to worry about saving any changes while working on a document offline. A reliable mobile app should automatically save all changes and sync them to your server once you are back online.
Considerations when collecting data offline
Despite numerous features available while working offline, there are still some limitations that should be taken into consideration:
- App authentication
Login to the application is permitted online only, for security reasons. This is to ensure that the user is still authorized to have access to the app and files (there may have been permission access changes, or the user may no longer be employed by the company).
- Risk of data loss
Obviously, without an internet connection, all data collected offline is stored locally on the device until an internet connection is restored and the data is synced with your company server. This means that there is an element of risk of data loss, due to lost or damaged devices.
- App reinstall
You need to be careful if you decide to reinstall the app, since any data that hasn’t been synced to the server before the reinstall will be lost.
- Wi-Fi or mobile internet?
If you’ve worked offline for quite some time, the amount of changes made both by you on your device and on the company server might be substantial. In such cases, we recommend using Wi-Fi rather than mobile networks, to save costs.
Fluix as offline data collection software
Fluix is a software solution that provides all of the functionalities listed above. Fluix provides a web-based platform for admin functions, and a mobile app available on iPads and iPhones. Once the admin configures the workflow for their field-to-office processes and connects their cloud storage, all necessary files and folders are synced from storage to mobile devices. In this way, the field team gets all of the files and forms needed to do their job no matter where they are and whether they have connectivity or not.
In the Fluix mobile app, paperwork can be done offline right after leaving the site and is passed to the office as soon as connectivity is restored. We’ll leave the last word to one of our Fluix customers — James Bird, Maintenance Engineer at the leading company RWE Renewables:
“The fact that you can use Fluix offline is an absolute must for us. It means that technicians can work on a boat, from their car, or from the top of a turbine.”