Review:  Tablets, Bluetooth and You

Appraisers all over the country tell us that the release of DaVinci Mobile Pro has been the most revolutionary technological advancement in the appraisal industry in recent memory. That's because you can use a tablet PC in the field to sketch and gather data by hand, and all the important information is kept in one file, organized and stress free.

But if you're carrying a tablet PC wherever you go, there's some additional technology you can take advantage of to make your life even easier and save you time. First off, when you shop for a tablet PC or UMPC, be sure to look for one with Bluetooth built in. Most manufacturers offer it as a modest add-on for around $30. With a Bluetooth antenna built into your tablet, you can wirelessly connect to and get information from a number of other Bluetooth enabled devices. Here are a couple of examples:

Bluetooth Disto
Leica Geosystems makes a Disto laser meter that is Bluetooth enabled. It's called the Disto model A6 and comes with a Bluetooth antenna built in. With a Bluetooth Disto, you can take accurate measurements using the device and wirelessly send them to your tablet PC. DaVinci Mobile Pro already has the ability to communicate with Bluetooth Distos and automatically draws the sketch based on the info sent from the device, without any direct input by you on the PC.

You can use the Bluetooth Disto to draw a sketch from scratch, or you can use it to modify measurements of an existing sketch. The neat thing about the model A6 is that it comes with a set of direction arrow keys, so you can actually tell DaVinci which direction to draw a line - right from the Disto.

Setting up the connection to your Disto from within DaVinci is simple. Once the Disto is installed as a device on your tablet (easy setup instructions come with the device) and its Bluetooth antenna is turned on, just go to the Tools menu in DaVinci and select "Connect to Disto". DaVinci will then search for a Bluetooth signal and make a connection automatically. From there, it's simply a matter of taking measurements on the Disto and using the direction buttons to send the measurements to DaVinci. It's pretty slick. Detailed steps on how to send measurements to DaVinci from the Disto, including an instructional video, can be found at www.alamode.com/davinci. You can learn more about the model A6 disto at www.disto.com.

Bluetooth GPS
Route planning with a GPS and navigation software can save you a lot in gas expenses. There are a number of manufacturers out there that make Bluetooth GPS receivers. These are tiny devices - about the size of a cigarette lighter - that get geolocation measurements from GPS satellites and wirelessly send the data to your PC. You can buy them with bundled GPS enabled map and driving direction software. The devices are very affordable - around $50, with the software add-on costing around another $50.

I bought a bundled package from www.buygpsnow.com and set it up with my tablet PC. Like any other Bluetooth device, installation was quick and simple. It came with driving direction software from iGuidance. The cool thing about iGuidance is that it has separate installs for tablet PCs and UMPCs, with a custom screen interface that fits perfectly for either kind of computer. If your computer has touch screen support, the software takes advantage of that and allows you to easily navigate the interface using just your finger. I found the maps to be very accurate. And as you'd expect from a navigation system, you get the friendly voice telling you driving directions, although I almost get the feeling that she sounds a little stern when I miss more than one turn. I guess software can't fix stupid.

I keep the Bluetooth GPS in my truck all the time and just turn it on when I'm ready to use it. It's convenient because there's no need to connect a cable to the computer. The driving direction software automatically connects to the GPS device when it's launched, so it's seamless. And if you already have a tablet PC, the solution is pennies compared to buying one of those expensive dash-mounted GPS devices.

I really like and recommend both of these solutions. The combination of handheld tablet PCs and Bluetooth devices really makes life easier.