In May, the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA) held its annual Codes Conference and annual meeting. The most talked about presentation was called “Is There An App For That?” Our presenters collected recommendations from numerous individuals about apps that they use in business. Because we all live in this world of ever-changing technology, I thought I would share some of this information. I would like to thank two of the AFAA directors, Fred Leber from LRI in Toronto and Sue Sadler from Xtralis, for putting the presentation together and allowing me to share it with you.
It is amazing how much our world has changed in the last 25 years or so. Here are some key discoveries that we now take for granted:
1986—IBM unveiled its first portable computer.
1990—The World Wide Web was invented.
1995—eBay held its first auctions.
1996—The universal serial bus (USB) was standardized.
2000—The flash drive was invented.
2001—Apple introduced the iPod.
2007—Apple introduced the iPhone.
2010—Apple introduced the iPad.
Today, we use all these things, and it feels like we have had them forever. So, we might as well take advantage of the tools available to us. The best part is that most apps are available free or for a very low price. Apps can make us more productive and help provide better information quicker than ever before. Programs such as GoToMeeting, Live Meeting and other web conferencing programs eliminate the need to travel. GoToWebinar and Webex allow us to provide training or sales presentations to many individuals simultaneously. DropBox and YouSendIt are free applications that can transfer large files electronically, without having to mail a CD or flash drive.
I am sure many of you use LinkedIn. It is a great professional networking tool for growing your business by providing a means to reach people more easily. There are also numerous discussions groups on LinkedIn that provide loads of information as well as a means to ask questions about the codes or a project you are working on and get answers quickly. In fact, Electrical Contractor hosts a LinkedIn discussion group for ECs to interact with to each other.
Here are some apps that you might find useful for business.
Customer Relationship Manager (www.zoho.com) captures leads from websites, automates sales followups, manages your email from within the application, associates social profiles and helps build better relationships with your customers from within your CRM account.
BHC Integrated Support Services (www.brooksequipment.com) gives the sales/service technician the means to access compliance information on fire extinguishers, sprinklers, exit and emergency lighting, alarms and more without having to reach for a guide or reference.
eView (www.eviewapp.com) provides secure storage and easy data retrieval for sales and customer correspondence. It provides multisite owners the ability to see company-wide issues and challenges, and users can selectively narrow the focus. All collected data and pictures are uploaded to a cloud-based database that can be organized, searched, sorted, filtered and downloaded in many ways and shared.
DWG TrueView (http://usa.autodesk.com) is a free CAD viewer and converter from Autodesk (makers of AutoCAD). Users can open and view customer drawings and even plot them to PDF for convenience (no licensing required)
doForms (http://www.doforms.com) enables users to create unique forms for dispatching, work orders, inventory, workflow or expenses with no programming required. Technicians can also attach video, audio and image files to forms. It also provides the ability to scan inventory barcodes and sketch notes on top of photos.
DispatchTrack (www.dispatchtrack.com) is an easy-to-use mobile tool that feeds work status updates into the software, so it can be managed and tracked from the office. Instead of manually plotting routes, the dispatcher uses a GPS-enabled drag-and-drop map from the DispatchTrack software to deliver optimal driving directions based on the technician’s location.
NFPA apps (www.nfpa.org) bring popular codes and standards to your smartphone and tablet. It includes NFPA 1, 13, 25, 70, 70E, 72, 99, 101, 921 and 1600.
TPS Dovenet (www.dovenet.com) provides quote, billing, inventory, sales tracking and service dispatching tools. TPS mobile is available for field employees.
Site Works (www.nutes.biz) is a project management tool allowing PDF prints to be emailed to a tablet, and it offers the capability to add field notes and email them back to the office. The notes are applied to the prints and a spreadsheet. It works for a walkthrough punch list.
These are just some of the apps in the presentation. I’ll provide more in a future column. In the meantime, send me an email about any others you find useful.