While range limitations and bandwidth constraints of smartphones and tablets prevent full-blown CAD, CAE, or other design tool work, new mobile apps are emerging to help engineers be more productive.
Technical calculators, 3D mark-up and viewing capabilities, and a variety of highly specialized engineering utilities are now commonplace on app stores for both Apple's iOS devices and the wide variety of Android gear. There are even some base simulation capabilities being made available in app-sized packages, and there will be lots more to come as design tool vendors and engineers figure out what functionality makes sense in this new paradigm.
Click on the photo below to view a slideshow showcasing the mobile design apps available today:
Autodesk's SketchBook Mobile is a professional-grade paint and drawing application designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch. (Source: Autodesk)
We have been using BlackBerry PlayBooks between remote workshops using the video chat facilities. With the HDMI output built into the PlayBook plugged into a large HD TV up to 5 people gathered round provide feedback which is captured at the other end. Conflicts are formalized in CAD and advanced copies sent via the PlayBook, and all of this using PlayBooks out of the box. We get done in. 3 hours what could previously have taken 3 days
Those are very good Apps. Some of them are more useful than others. Some of them are only good on paper but not very practical in daily use. Here is one that's very useful to me. It gives the chemical compatibility for common elastomers. If you use seals or elastomers in your work, this is definitely a very good practical tool. It is called MediaResistor.
Within a matter of months, we will be able to carry around real MCAD programs in a 2 lb tablet that will have have not only USB 3.0, but also a video out port for viewing on a full-size monitor.
Imagine not being limited to having only viewers and mark-up apps but actually being able to load much more power programs on Windows 8 Professional. The upcoming Surface Pro will have everything that is now missing in tablets, including a built-in but readily detachable keyboard and kickstand. The Ivy Bridge processor will make us wonder what can't be done rather than what can be done.
These are very exciting times for those of us who travel and wish to have lightweight hardware that isn't limited to lightweight apps.
Thanks Nancy. Two great examples of what you can do when you start incorporating mobility into the equation. I think it's these little bonuses, not a wholesale shift to heavy design work on a mobile platform, where engineers will see the most utility.
While Mobile Apps may not allow enough surface for design work (I bought a netbook because those screens are just too small for me to be comfortable viewing most things) - I agree as an engineering resource they can be invaluable. I just returned yesterday from judging senior projects at a local university. I have been doing this for years and yesterday was the first time students included mobile apps in their projects. One project involved leak detection and if a leak occurred the notification with details of location of leak had a mobile app option they incorporated into their project. Another project sent medical data collected from sensors and patient input to various locations defined in the app. I used to wonder, what's an app? Pretty soon they will be integrated into our everyday lives and a normal part of every design process. But I agree - for design use of any complexity a bigger screen is essential.
Convenience is the key word when it comes to helping customers out in the field with their design questions. With mobile design apps, I can immediately obtain data and provide a respond within a few minutes as opposed to going to the office and then calling the customer with an answer. Time is money, you know!
Ah, perfect. So it's all about convenience and access to data when you need it without having to jump through hoops or be tied to your computer. Kind of like the idea of mainstream folk not getting up to search through a drawer to find the phone book to look up someone's number. Now it's a simple Google on your phone and you're good to go.
Hi Beth, I basically use these tools to assist my students or customer engineers with their designs. Instead of combing the web or through textbooks, I have access to these circuit design and analysis tools with a touch of my Android phone. I have quite a bit of these circuit analysis equations in my head but for the ones I don't use on a daily basis, I can get a quick refresh using these mobile tools. Reviewing semiconductor parts for proper orientation and identification on printed circuit boards can be quite tricky without a datasheet. The NXP app is capable of providing pinouts and orientation data for semiconductor and microcontroller devices and its all accessible on my DroidX phone!
@mrdon: Thanks for the perspective on what tools seem to work best for you on this platform. I'm curious how the utility of a smart phone is better suited (if it is) for these calculator/utility apps than a traditional workstation or laptop? To rephrase, how does accessing these types of capabilities, which are already available on your traditional platform, make life easier for you in terms of getting your job done?
Thanks for the feedback on how these cool tools are being put to productive use. I think I would agree with the feedback of most on this slideshow post: That smart phone apps, in particular, lend themselves to utilities and other quick-hit resource tools while the viewing, markup, and collaboration apps are really better suited for the larger screen and better graphics of a tablet device.
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