Magazine Article | July 25, 2006

Real-Time Data Access Saves 32 Man-Hours Per Day

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, August 2006

St. John’s County covers more than 600 square miles on Florida’s Atlantic coast. It includes the city of St. Augustine and miles of beaches and riverfront property. It is also one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. This dramatic population growth heralded a housing and business development boom, which in turn created a problem for the local government’s building inspectors.

The county building department’s 32 certified inspectors evaluate dozens of construction projects per week, performing up to 900 inspections daily to ensure they comply with state and local building laws. Until recently, inspectors had to return to their offices periodically as they completed inspections so they could enter information into the county computer system and keep it up to date. That process took a lot of time out of inspectors’ days and forced them to adjust their schedules around return trips. The building department considered laptop computers mounted in inspectors’ vehicles as a solution to this problem, but they were too expensive to buy and support. Instead, the department turned to wireless communication technology to provide inspectors with a remote link to the main office.

The building department uploads inspectors’ daily work lists to the Nokia 9500 Communicator devices running the Smart Forms 2 mobile application, which is part of the Celesta mBusiness suite. The device’s combination of PDA and mobile phone in one device worked well for an application requiring heavy voice usage and data input while on the move. A programmer on staff for St. John’s County used the mBuilder graphical development tool to create an interface that displays inspection information, allowing inspectors to enter inspection results and update the county database in real time.

The mobile solution saves inspectors an average of an hour a day in wasted trips. The time saved enabled the building department to hold back on hiring two new inspectors. Entering information while in the field and sending it back to the office over wireless connections keeps the county records constantly updated, providing better service to the building department’s customers and, ultimately, county citizens.