You don't have to look very far in private industry to see that handheld computing devices Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are taking the world by storm. Commercial giants like Volvo, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and the BF Goodrich Corporation are already taking advantage of this technology to increase the efficiency of their business practices. Because of the versatility and mobility of PDAs, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWARSYSCEN) Chesapeake is now exploring this technology for the Navy, finding ways to make routine tasks better and faster with wireless automation.
To maintain military readiness, the Navy performs a myriad of tasks, including inspection of personnel and equipment, personnel accounting, training, food preparation/meal service, equipment maintenance, inventory, etc. Many of these tasks are performed in remote environments such as onboard ship or on the field, where information is traditionally captured on paper and later entered into the activity's computer system. Inspections alone can generate mountains of paperwork that requires manual data entry, resulting in problems related to the timeliness and accuracy of information. Furthermore, the nature of certain inspections and other tasks-often conducted in cramped submarines, aircrafts, and ships-without access to power outlets-prohibits the use of laptop or clamshell computers, which offer both limited mobility and battery life.
Under the leadership of Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas McIlravy, SPAWAR Chesapeake is tasked to develop Navy-specific software to assist Naval personnel in increasing their efficiency in performing their duties. As wireless and handheld technologies have emerged and become more prevalent in the government arena, SPAWAR has moved to increase its depth of expertise in mobile applications development. To accomplish this goal, SPAWAR Chesapeake organized a team of PDA developers led by Israel Rodriguez. Now with the Mobile Computing team in place, SPAWAR Chesapeake can extend much of the functionality of the Navy's existing systems to the PDA format, and is eliminating the problems associated with paper data collection and the manual data entry it necessitates. The SPAWAR PDA applications used on both the Palm operating system and Windows CE platform, extend the reach of existing Naval Tactical Command Support System (NTCSS) and other corporate systems, facilitating data collection in the field. The handheld devices are small enough for efficient use for cramped, shipboard inspections.
Efforts to Date
SPAWAR Chesapeake developed nine proof-of-concept applications for the PDA platform, several of which are already in use in beta test basis onboard ship. One of these proof-of-concept applications is the Zone Inspection Deficiency Listing System (ZIDLS). Currently, when zone inspections take place, an inspector records grades and deficiencies only on a paper checklist, which must then be typed in a report and physically routed to the Division Officer for action and sign-off. The ZIDLS for PDA converts this paper method to an electronic system, allowing inspectors to create and complete their deficiency listings entirely on a handheld device, for uploading to a personal computer (PC). Action reports can also be printed.
Another SPAWAR-developed application is the SAMS Environmental Health Module for PDA (SAMS EH). The SNAP (Shipboard Nontactical ADP [automated data processing] Program) Automated Medical System (SAMS) desktop application tracks the medical and dental readiness of operational units in the Navy and Marine Corps. The Environmental Health Module of SAMS tracks environmental conditions that affect Sailors and Marines, including heat stress monitoring, potable water testing, and pest control. With the SAMS Environmental Health Module for PDA, a hospital corpsman can record environmental conditions directly into the handheld device