Singletouch, www.singletouch.com, a real-time data capture solution for industrial contractors doing large installations, covered in this column a couple of years ago, now takes advantage of touchscreen technology and includes capability for data capture on handheld tablets on jobsites regardless of the quality (or absence) of Internet connectivity.

The solution, which capitalizes on the fact that data flows from the field into the office, centers around Singletouch Office, a Windows-based project database that enables real-time capture and digitizing of data in the field (at the time and place where the transactions occur).

It also includes Singletouch Terminal, a touchscreen application that field personnel can use to easily capture time and attendance on the job and Singletouch Flex, a disconnected time-entry system for construction sites in remote areas that have poor or non-existent Internet connection.

The fourth component is Singletouch Mobile, which enables service and maintenance personnel who used ruggedized handhelds or HP Slate tablets to enter information on inventory, labor, materials and equipment by scanning, inputting or swiping and to generate purchase orders, work orders and other communications directly from their service vehicle or truck.

Singletouch Mobile operates in two modes: construction and maintenance. Construction mode is primarily used for time capture and task coding while the maintenance mode gives managers or foremen operating on disconnected jobsites or jobsites with weak connectivity the ability to finalize work orders with labor, equipment and material on site. In locations with a weak Internet connection, the information slowly synchronizes over time with the central Singletouch Office database. In areas lacking any connectivity, Singletouch Flex automatically synchronizes with the Singletouch Office database once connectivity is re-established. When service personnel regain cellular coverage or Internet connectivity, all information collected throughout the day synchronizes with the main Singletouch Office database.

Using the customer interface in the field, contractors can offer complete transparency to their customers, showing accurate, real-time labor information, materials and other costs, and have those customers sign off using electronic signature capture.

In the office, all the information generated in the field is easily integrated with third-party payroll, accounting and reporting software.

At any time, built-in reports provide an up-to-the-second view of project completion status, with all work and materials accounted for and actual performance against budgets and schedules easily reportable to the customer.

HVAC Residential Load Calcs HD block load calculation software application by Carmel Software, www.carmelsoft.com/HVACResLoadsHD, allows iPad users to perform detailed heating and cooling block loads for small commercial and residential buildings out in the field and e-mail the results to the office for more detailed analysis. It performs the calculations based on industry stand calculation methods (ACCA Manual J).

The app, which includes a database of hundreds of building construction types for walls, roofs, floors, windows, doors, skylights, ceilings and more, and weather data for more than 1,000 cities worldwide, takes advantage of the larger screen size of the iPad, allowing users to view more information at once, rotating user interface, and other functionalities unique to the iPad.

Users can instantly see calculated results as they update input values. The software can create and store an unlimited number of projects. You can also copy existing projects to new projects for easy reuse of data.

HVAC Residential Load Calcs HD includes the ability to display a wide variety of on-screen reports, including tabular breakdown and colorful pie-chart reports showing cooling and heating load breakdowns and the ability to display and e-mail a comprehensive HTML report, Excel spreadsheet and PDF document for viewing on a desktop computer. Comprehensive cooling and heating load breakdown reports include breakdown by opaque load, window load, skylight load, infiltration load, ventilation load and internal load contributions.

2D Codes
2D Codes are quick digital information accessible by app-enabled smartphones. 2D matrix barcodes are designed to be scanned by a camera-ready smartphone and are a hot new marketing tool that manufacturers, including many selling to the HVAC and plumbing trades, are adopting in droves. You can see them on ads in every trade magazine (including Contractor), on product packaging, on in-stores displays at big box retailers and supply houses, and on all kinds of printed marketing materials.

The two most popular 2D codes in the U.S. are QR (Quick Response) codes, which are open source and can be used by any manufacturer merely by downloading a free code generator, and Microsoft (MS) tag, which is a proprietary system. The smartphone holder merely has to download a free scanning app (again, open source or proprietary) and is ready to go.

Scanning the code with the phone triggers a link to specific digital content the manufacturer wants to share at that time, such as detailed product information, installation instructions, a promotional offer, a quantity calculator, or a product demonstration on its own website, on YouTube or on another social media site. The link could also jump directly to a specific product page on the website set up to serve the code. Some manufacturers have already launched special mobile websites configured for optimal viewing of the digital information on smartphone screens.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at: productpad@yahoo.com.