5 Steps to Safe In-Vehicle Computing


Building a safe in-vehicle computing environment takes some careful planning to ensure the solution is compatible with your organization’s equipment, work patterns, and organizational culture. The following five steps can create a safe environment that will protect your workers, the public, and your organization’s reputation.


Look At the Existing Computing Environment

The first step is to take stock of existing software and hardware. Determine what applications are available to workers, and how frequently, and for how long, are workers expected to access them. Note any future upgrades planned that will require more interaction. Identify which functions are most critical. Special attention should be paid to dependencies, that is, situations where the worker needs to access the system to complete a job.

Hardware is important, too. Ensure that used mobile devices are suitable for their designated use. Moreover, check and see if workers are actually using their assigned devices, or using their personal devices instead. If the device is mounted, how easy is it to dock and undock it?


Assess the People and Workflow

The so-called soft issues involving people are essential, but often overlooked by organizations. When designing any computing environment, organizations need to clarify how worker use of available applications fits into the business of the organization.

If a report has to be filed electronically at the end of a service incident, organizations should ensure that field workers have time to file their report before driving to the next call. Additionally, organizations should ensure that dispatches and other communications to the worker allow a reasonable amount of time for the in-transit worker to respond. A time and motion study can be helpful to determine the length of time workers spend in their vehicles.

Safety is not an option, when computing or otherwise, so many aspects of the workflow might have to change, and these changes will affect workers in the office as well as the field.


Configure a Safe Mobile Computing Environment

The design of a safe mobile computing environment should include a suitable, in-vehicle device, safety compliant and ergonomically correct mounting hardware, and safety software such as the Blank-it vehicle display management system, which blanks out the tablet screen and/or disables the keyboard of the vehicle when in motion. The design should be forward-looking meaning if the company plans to move to smaller hybrid vehicles, organizations should plan for a type of mounting that will work within these vehicles.


Run a Solution Pilot

When organizations are testing different solutions, implemented pilots should not be treated as a “proof of concept”, but as a fact-finding mission. With live users, valuable information is gained that can help fine-tune a solution so that it will not only fit the workflow, but be comfortable enough so that all workers will use the solution and not try to work around it. Many companies fail to learn from pilots.


Roll Out the Solution

The key is to not only implement the solution, but to manage the change appropriately. If workers are used to having a 17-inch monitor, the transition to a smaller device that can be safely mounted to the dashboard might cause some adjustment. Moreover, restrictions on using mobile devices while driving could mean that dispatchers and others in the office might have to change their expectations. Training is essential.

This blog post was taken from Scott Ball's article in Electricity Today.