A few years ago EHS mobile apps were only beginning to be deployed. Today their use is more widespread. EHS mobile apps are in the early adopter stage, and they are well positioned to advance in the early majority stage.
There are many reasons why EHS mobile apps are popular, and almost all reasons share one of the following two underlying drivers:
- Empowering edge users (e.g. quickly entering data, receiving real-time information, saving time).
- Increasing the quantity of data reported, which provides additional insights into new hazards, risks and opportunities for improvement.
EHS mobile apps are today used for incident reporting, audits and inspections, real-time safety alerts, access to safety information on chemicals (through online SDSs or barcodes/QR codes), etc. With many different EHS mobile apps on the market, how can you determine which ones to select? In this post, we provide three key attributes that you should look for as part of a selection process.
1) Native Mobile Apps
EHS mobile apps that are native are smartphone applications developed and coded specifically for a mobile operating system, such as iOS or Android or Windows. Native mobile apps provide fast performance and high reliability. They also have access to a device’s features, such as its camera, GPS and address book. In addition, some apps can be used without an Internet connection. The last part is significant because offline functionality is required in some workplaces where there may be no internet connection, such as a mine, offshore oil rig, etc.
Only a subset of EHS mobile apps are native apps. Other apps on the market fall under the following types:
- Web App: A website tailored to function on a mobile device, and typically written in HTML5. These are not really “apps”, but rather websites that are accessed through a browser on a smartphone or tablet.
- Hybrid App: As its name implies, this app is part native app and part web app. It can take advantage of many device features, but not all, and still relies on a browser embedded within the app.
Native apps are better with regards to use of device features, offline functionality, speed, user interface and onboarding. Be sure that EHS mobile apps are fully native instead of being, for example, hybrid. The best way to distinguish between native and non-native apps is to ask for a demo, or use the app yourself, and check how much of the smartphone’s embedded features (GPS, camera, etc.) can be used. This will allow you to notice the stark differences between native and non-native apps.
EHS mobile apps, like any software, only get better with time. Think about the early versions of common applications (Windows, Office, Chrome) that you used, and compare them to their current versions. EHS mobile apps that have been around for many years are more robust and richer in functionality, especially if they were native since the beginning.
Offline functionality provides a great example of the value of being field-proven: EHS mobile apps that have been around for some years offer more robust offline functionality than apps released only recently.
3) Scalable to a Great Number of Users
The purpose of EHS mobile apps is to extend the reach of an EHS management system to all edge users. This allows users to save time in their daily tasks, and feel engaged in a safety culture by, for example, having critical safety information at their fingertips, and being able to report near misses with just a few taps on their smartphones. The number of edge users can run well into the thousands, which is why you need to make sure that EHS mobile apps can scale to such large numbers.
There are three things to look for when evaluating EHS mobile apps for scalability:
1) Are they native apps?
2) Are they field-proven?
3) Are there case studies of large organizations with a large number of workers using the EHS mobile apps, actively each day?.
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