Evaluation of Tablet PCs for Invasive Plant Species Monitoring
Rey Farve, Project Leader
Mark Todd, SDTDC programer, (now retired) assisted in the investigation and completion of this project.
In November 2007, SDTDC met with the proposer and interested partners (from BLM's Sauache Field Office) at the San Luis Valley Public Land Center in Monte Vista, CO to obtain a clearer understanding of expectations.
US Bureau of Land Management &
US Forest Service
Lisa VanAmberg (Rio Grange NF) and Brian Hoefling (Grand Mesa/Uncompahgre/Gunnison NF) had a Fujitsu ST 5112 Tablet PC. Brian used his Tablet PC somewhat regularly to record and analyze data on a spreadsheet.
Fujitsu ST Tablet PC.
From discussions with the proposers we understood that the ideal Table PC should be: 1) simple to use, 2) light weight, 3) easy to read (i.e., have a screen large enough to accommodate fairly wide spreadsheet) and readable in bright sunlight, 4) able to support software that allows for the capture of both GIS data (e.g., ArcMap/ArcPad) and digital photos, 5) semi-ruggedized, at least, and 6) wireless as much as possible (i.e., supports wireless keypad, mouse, GPS device, etc.)
To determine the feasibility of using a Tablet PC as a tool to collect invasive plant data, SDTDC began an investigation of the following sequence:
- Loading the desktop versions of NRIS – TESP/IS (Threatened, Endangered, Sensitive Plants/Invasive Species) onto a Tablet PC.
- Downloading invasive plant species data from corporate database (i.e., I-Web) onto desktop PC, then transfer data to Tablet PC (via removable media - CDs, jump drives, etc...).
- Using Tablet PC in field to collect new invasive species data.
- Transferring new field-collected data from Tablet PC back to desktop PC (again using removable media - CDs, jump drives).
- Uploading the field-collected data from desktop PC into the corporate database.
Possible mobile Tablet
Note: The proposer recognized that the task of acquiring the FS image onto Tablet PCs (and thereby allowing the Tablet to serve as the office PC) is the responsibility of the Chief Information Office. SDTDC agreeded work with CIO where it can to help facilitate the process.
In April 2009 Marc Todd spoke with Art Clinton of the Mobile Computing Team of the CIO/BAO (Business Application Office) relative to the status of Tablet PCs for Forest Service use.
Clinton reported that his Team has recommended that the Department include the following in its FY10 contract:
- a ruggedized Tablet PC (Itronix Duo-Touch or similar)
- a ruggedized Laptop PC (Panasonic Toughbook CF - 30 or similar)
- a ruggedized Ultra-Mini PC (UMPC) (Panasonic Toughbook U1 or similar)
- a non-ruggedized Tablet PC (type unknown)
It will be up to the Department whether or not to include these in its contract, but there's reason to hope (except perhaps for the UMPC). Whatever is approved should be available for purchase on or around Oct. 1, 2009.
The approved devices will not require Technical Approval but will be available directly under contract. They will have Forest Service images and thus can be connected directly to the FS enterprise system servers, just like current FS desktop and laptop computers.
In addition, they will have biometric (fingerprint) security as well as a single built-in "smart card;" which will handle not only WLAN connection to the FS enterprise servers, but also wireless network, internet, and cell-phone communications. Like virtually all tablets & laptops, they will handle both plug-in and wireless GPS devices.
Non-contract devices might still be obtained through standard TA procedures and the CIO will even consider special requests to make these security-compatible with the enterprise system (though I think approval would be unlikely in most cases).
We (SDTDC) informed the proposers that we had three Tablet PCs that were field-evaluated under a different project (i.e., Recreation Program) and that these Tablet PCs were scheduled for testing under the CIO/BAO (Business Application Office) Mobile Computing project. (These tests include: shock, heat/cold, water penetration, and battery-life, per the manufacture’s claims). As part of this Inventory & Monitoring project, we agreed to further evaluate these Tablet PCs using the qualifications that they identified as well.
Since several from the Rio Grande expressed interest in field testing the Tablet PCs, we loaned these tablets to those interested (for the upcoming (2008) field season). Field testers agreed to provide us with feedback on their use (see Results).