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As we move deeper into the era of paperless compliance, more processes and workflows are transitioning from the age-old paper and clipboard method to cutting-edge mobile devices. This means that our livelihoods have become more dependent on these hand-held wonders, which makes it very important to carry a mobile device that can handle our everyday needs. With a vast array of choices out there, the selection process has become ever more challenging and critical.

Rather than venture into a discussion on specific device brands, in this blog I will cover the trends I have seen for device types, including smart phones, tablets and laptops. I will cover the differences, benefits and evolution of the major mobile devices. For more information on specific device performance tests, I recommend the website Futuremark.com. They provide performance benchmarks for different device brands and types.

The world’s first mobile computing option, the laptop computer, actually made its debut far earlier than you might have guessed…way back in 1981. Since then, laptops have come a long way, but for much of their existence, their usefulness to compliance inspectors has been limited by technological shortcomings. Workflows required several separate devices and, without a camera, early laptops couldn’t take photos, an integral part of the compliance process. Also, inadequate internet connectivity (wifi, etc.) and limited usb storage drives in first-generation laptops made collecting and saving data in the field problematic.

As more sophisticated devices, such as cell phones and tablets, began to emerge, key capabilities merged. Tablets allowed an inspector to collect data, take photos and store data on the go. Tablets proved to be a stand-alone device dedicated to compliance inspection workflows, allowing users to keep their business tablet and personal phone separate. These improved features helped increase the popularity of tablets by leaps and bounds.

Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed the development of progressively more advanced smartphones and mobile operating systems, such as the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android. To put these technological marvels in perspective, today’s iPhone has more power than the computers NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s. A compliance inspector’s activities can now all be done with this one compact, multi-functional device. And with our work and personal lives so commingled, there is no longer a need for multiple devices. Other attributes include: easier charging and data back-up, faster internet browsers and ultra-high-resolution phone cameras.

Innovative apps are yet another reason smartphones have become the go-to choice for compliance inspectors. These user-friendly apps boast sophisticated features specifically designed for the needs of inspectors—from compliance action alerts to digitized local forms to cloud-based data back-up—and have proven to be a brilliant addition to every smartphone.