Review of mobile applications available for electricians, engineers and plant personnel
According to a press release issued by Gartner — an information technology research and advisory company — late last year, Apple and Android app stores offer hundreds of thousands of applications to mobile users. The research firm forecasts that by 2014, there will be more than 70 billion mobile application downloads from app stores every year. That’s a staggering number! This means there’s most likely an app available right now to help you do whatever it is you wish to accomplish.
There are productivity apps, reference apps, utility apps, audio and photo apps, and game apps. Don’t know who sings the song you’re currently listening to on the radio? No problem. Use the Shazam app, and it will identify the artist in a matter of seconds. Looking for the best gas prices in town? Pull up the GasBuddy app, and it will steer you to the lowest reported price in your immediate area. Want to perform a price check on a specific product you’re holding in your hands? Use Barcode Scanner to scan the barcode or QR code on the package, and watch the app deliver a price comparison report.
A year ago, we published an article in the July 2011 issue (“An App for That”), describing how some electrical workers were using software apps on their smart phones or other mobile electronic devices to more efficiently complete daily tasks at work. References were made to GPS-based apps, camera phone-based apps, document viewing apps, and more. In an effort to expand upon this coverage, I thought it would be worthwhile to list a few more electrical apps I’ve recently run across that are a little more technical in nature. Some of these apps are free; others you have to pay for.
If you want to keep up with the latest edition of the NEC, then you can track the changes in the 2011 edition with the NEC Changes app. This program allows you to search the more than 500 changes adopted in the Code by Article number. If you’re just looking for a quick review of what changed in the last cycle, it’s a pretty nifty tool.
If you want help on the topic of bending and installing conduit, you’ve got several options to choose from. I’ve run across apps called Master Bender, Electrical Conduit Bender Pro, Conduit Runner Pro, My Bender, Conduit Fill Calculator, and iBend Pipe. I realize some of you might be thinking, “An app for bending conduit? Can you imagine the foreman walking up on one of his crew members reading how to bend conduit on his iPhone?” I guess that would be an interesting discussion to listen in on.
If you’re looking for electrical wiring assistance, you could turn to programs like ElectricalWiringPro, Box Fill Pro, Electrical Calculator, Box + Conduit Fill, Electrical Calc USA, Electrician Calculator Pro, Electrician’s Helper, and Electrical ToolKit. I’ve also run across equipment apps like Transformer Calculator, Motor Calculator, and Voltage Drop Calculator. I wouldn’t suggest you rely on these in total for your design work, but many of them are useful as a check and balance or quick estimate.
Several manufacturers offer apps now too. Schneider Electric just released a White Paper app. Southwire recently launched multiple apps focused on wire and cable topics. Honeywell Power Products has an app that helps you determine the appropriate power supply for fire alarm, video, intrusion, and access control systems. Eaton’s UPS Tool app helps you find the best UPS solution for your application and power needs. And these are just a few.
I find many apps easy to use and quite useful. Some of them entertain me, while others assist me on the job. With the explosive development efforts taking place on this front, I know I just barely scratched the surface of the apps being used in our industry. That’s why I’d be thrilled if you would take a moment and share some of your favorite apps with me. I promise to share them with all of you in the near future.