Life in the Fast Lane: Using Mobile Tech to Expand Your Desktop and Business

by Shaun Bryant
- Nov 15 2013 - 5 min read
expand_desktop
Micke Tong

Technology is moving fast. We have gone from the original smartphone—from which you could only send picture messages—to devices that now allow us to pick up emails, talk face-to-face via video calls, and watch movies.

There are many useful ways to expand your desktop for your small business using mobile tech. And when I say desktop, this could be any desktop—musician, CAD Jedi, journalist, teacher. It doesn’t matter anymore. The tech has democratized the desktop all over the world.

One area in which mobile technology has helped expand the desktop is speed. How many times have you waited for a letter to arrive or a courier to deliver an important document that needs signing? How many times have you taken a laptop to a construction site or workshop floor only to wait for what seems like an eternity for the computer to boot up, so that you can show the client or contractor updates to a design?

Have you ever been in a design meeting where you want to update the drawing right there because of a great idea, rather than sketch it in a book and then lose the interpretation of the design when you are back in the office? Well, no more. There are now numerous devices and apps that give you “right here, right now” speed and enable those kinds of changes—anywhere, anytime.

For this article, I’ll focus on the platform I know best: Apple. I’ll be using Apple devices and apps as examples of mobility, but be aware that there are also equivalent Android apps out there, as well as other mobile platforms and devices.

1. Smartphones and Tablets. With the iPhone, I can take photos and include them in emails or upload those photos to the cloud and share them with other design-team members. I can do that with my iPad as well, but because of the larger screen size, I can use the iPad to not only perform the same tasks as the iPhone, but also to draw, sketch, edit, and revise designs that also include real-time photos—all in the one place. The best part is that as soon as I hit the power button on the iPad, it’s on, right there, right now.

2. Apps. Autodesk has embraced the mobile movement in the CAD industry and provides many apps that can be used to mobilize your desktop, some of which are incorporated into their subscription model, allowing subscription customers to use these services to become more mobile, leaner, smarter, and faster.

Some typical mobile apps I use on my iPad are Autodesk 360 and AutoCAD 360 (previously AutoCAD WS). The benefits of these two apps are that they work in conjunction with each other. I can store my documents and drawings in the Cloud using Autodesk 360 and then work on the drawings stored there using AutoCAD 360, thus negating any need for paper drawings and slow laptops onsite.

Here are some typical examples:

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Autodesk 360 on the iPad, showing a preview of an AutoCAD drawing
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The same drawing open in AutoCAD 360 on the iPad

The basic versions of both the above apps are free, providing you with valuable mobility for no extra cost for your business. If you want to upgrade to the pro version of AutoCAD 360, it is minimal cost and provides even more functionality. You can find them all in the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and in the Android Market for Android devices.

The latest version of AutoCAD 360 also includes GPS, so no more setting out onsite with a temporary datum and then transposing it into AutoCAD. You are fully mobile with the design right there in front of you.

Another amazing app is TurboSite, part of the Turbo Apps range by IMSI/Design. It’s an incredible onsite tool—primarily for site survey—with an extensive tool set, allowing for full 3D models to be imported. Even better still, it uses the iPad camera and GPS location services to pinpoint exact site locations.

I have to stress here that TurboSite is not a free app, nor is it cheap. It normally retails at $999.99; this is because it is a full survey tool that has undergone shedloads of development to provide a great product. However, last time I checked it was being offered for 50 percent off.

So why am I raving about mobility, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Time is money—even more so nowadays. Everyone needs to be leaner and smarter, working quicker to get the design out before the deadline to get the bonus or impress the client. You are not tied down with a roll of drawings and a heavy laptop with a power pack that weighs the same as the laptop!

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A typical 3D site model in TurboSite on an iPad

I cannot stress how important it is right now to move with the times. If you want to become a lean and smart organization, company, or department, get a tablet. Make a business argument to procurement to get one. Then, get a few free apps. (The powers that be love that word: free.) Then, get yourself familiar with the apps and show the people at the top how efficient you are by mobilizing your desktop when onsite or on the shop floor.

Mobile is the way forward. Sure, there is still a place for the laptop and the PC. But there will come a time when handheld (tablet), smartphone, and the laptop will merge (it is already happening with touchscreen laptops and the like), and it is a good idea to get on that ride now rather than later.

Consider how much easier it would be to carry a tablet around. Think about the business workflows you could implement if your team had tablets onsite. More importantly, consider all those free apps out there that you could use to increase the bottom line.

The mobile rollercoaster is here. Are you on it yet?

 

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