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Rugged Computing Case Studies

Timber buyers increase accuracy, efficiency and profits with rugged handhelds
by Brynna King

Technology may have changed the way people do business today, but the overriding goal remains the same: be profitable. That's why the smartest people in the timber industry are always looking for an edge — technological or otherwise. Thanks to the advent of ultra-rugged portable handhelds, jobs that used to be time- and labor-intensive can now be done with drastically improved efficiency. And that translates to the bottom line.

For timber buyers, who inspect sample plots to estimate the value of an entire stand in order to make a fair bid, staying profitable depends on using the best estimation tools available. Even a slight miscalculation can result in overpayment and large losses, so savvy timber buyers have turned to rugged PDAs equipped with GPS to improve the speed and accuracy of their navigation, data collection and estimation tasks.

Dalton Smith, a buyer with Thomas Timber in Arkansas, USA, is using the Nautiz X8 rugged handheld data collector from Handheld Group, along with a package of industry-specific software, to cruise timber plots faster and calculate bids more accurately.

The software includes Trimble's SOLO Forest GPS mapping software and Worldwide Heuristic Solutions' TCruise forest inventory software, a solution supplied by Mississippi, USA-based LandMark Spatial Solutions.

"Customers use the Solo Forest software on the rugged handheld to do GPS work, load shapefiles, calculate acres, create cruise grids, and navigate to inventory plots," says Johnny Thompson, LandMark Spatial Solutions owner. "Once they arrive at a plot, F4 Tech's RTI software helps them select the plot location and links to our inventory software so they can enter the plot data and tree tallies."

The foundation of the overall solution is the Nautiz X8. Thomas Timber's Smith shopped different available handhelds, and decided on the X8 for its user-friendly design. "I selected (it) based on screen size and overall handheld size, along with speed of operation," he says.

The Nautiz X8 rugged data collector features a vivid 4.7-inch capacitive touchscreen, plus a numeric keypad with three programmable function keys. It includes a 1.5 GHz high-speed dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of Flash and a Lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 12 hours on a single charge. It has a powerful dedicated GPS receiver, and it's fully rugged.

Working with the Nautiz X8, Smith has improved his efficiency, accuracy and profitability during timber cruises. The handheld covers so many of the tasks necessary for his job that he's eliminated all but one other tool when he hits the ground. "For cruising, I just use the handheld as my data collection and navigation tool," he explains. "The only other thing I take is a measuring tape to measure trees."

The combination of task-oriented software, a powerful processor and GPS functionality lets the handheld keep up with the demands of Smith's work. "While I'm cruising, the device has always processed fast enough for me to keep a steady pace," he notes. "I use my finger for data entry along with the keypad, and I've never had a problem with it working correctly."

Of course, speed and power aren't the only keys to this kind of work. Cruising timber is challenging, and the "office" is a formidable forested landscape, subject to whatever weather is on tap that day. You can't take a normal PDA, smartphone or other non-fortified device out in the woods. Today's ruggedized handhelds have solved that problem, with the ability to withstand almost anything encountered in the field.

The Nautiz X8, for example, is tested using stringent military standards for drops, extreme temperatures, water resistance, vibrations, and dust and dirt. And that built-in toughness proves itself regularly in the field. "I've been out there in rain, and on hot, sweaty days," Smith says. "I've never had any problem."

Another of Thompson's LandMark customers sent him a note that testifies to the level of punishment a truly rugged handheld can withstand. The worker had laid his Nautiz X8 on top of his truck's rear tire, then forgot about it and drove off.

When he realized what had happened he returned to the spot, fearing the worst. But running over his device only inflicted a minor scratch and a slight tear of the case; the device's functionality was not affected at all.

With every business striving to be as cost-efficient as possible, in the end any new technology will be judged based on two key factors: time and money. Count Dalton Smith among the convinced when it comes to using a handheld in the field.

"The rugged handheld GPS data collector allows me to cruise a tract of land in the most efficient way and to collect data correctly, saving me time and making me more profitable," he says.

CHALLENGE
Quickly and accurately assess timber on sample forest plots in order to estimate stand value.

SOLUTION
Use the rugged Nautiz X8 GPS data collector in conjunction with mapping and inventory software to navigate to cruise plots, collect timber measurements and calculate inventory volumes.

RESULT
More accurate estimates, more efficient timber cruises, and more profitable bidding decisions.

About Handheld
Handheld Group is a manufacturer of rugged mobile computers. Handheld and its partners worldwide deliver complete mobility solutions to industries such as geomatics, logistics, forestry, public transportation, utilities, mining, military and security. Handheld Group of Sweden has local offices in Finland, the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and the USA. Please see www.handheldgroup.com.

About LandMark Spatial Solutions
LandMark Spatial Solutions is a Mississippi-based forest technology company that provides GPS, GIS, forest measurement, forest inventory, load ticketing, stockpile measuring and UAV solutions to more than 1,800 forestry, wildlife and logging companies and agencies throughout the U.S. Contact Johnny Thompson at 866-395-5440 or visit www.lmssgps.com to find out how their solutions can help make you more accurate, efficient and professional in your forestry work..

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Handheld Group AB
Kinnegatan 17A
531 33 Lidköping, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0) 510 54 71 70
Fax: +46 (0) 510 282 05
Web: www.handheldgroup.com
Email: info at handheldgroup.com