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This chapter is from the book

The Home Inspector

Home inspectors must take lots of notes in order to provide value to their clients. One of the problems has always been taking notes in the field and then transcribing them back at the office—until now.

Toolkit

  • Convertible style Tablet PC—This style of Tablet PC is ideal for high text demands.

  • Digital voice recorder—The home inspector can use this to dictate notes.

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking—This program is perfect for higher-quality speech recognition.

  • Bluetooth adapter—This is necessary for data communication with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

  • Digital camera with Bluetooth—This can be used to document findings.

  • FranklinCovey TabletPlanner—This program is used for time and task management.

  • Microsoft Office 2003—The home inspector uses this to prepare documents and email.

  • Adobe Photoshop Elements—This program can be used for basic photo manipulation.

  • Mi-Forms—This program is for data capture.

  • Microsoft Visio—This program is ideal for generating floor plans on the fly.

  • Windows Journal—This program is ideal for taking notes and sketching ideas.

Value Proposition

Due to the nature of the job, the home inspector is constantly out of the office. In the past, even small laptop computers needed to be set down somewhere before they could be used to enter information; lugging one around did not make sense. The Tablet PC changes all that. Now the home inspector has a tool that can be carried almost everywhere, and can replace the clipboard, the voice recorder, and the calculator.

Day in the Life

The home inspector has two inspections due today, and downloads maps for each onto his Tablet PC. He reads over the notes from the real estate agent who hired him for the inspections, and prepares the background material for each.

Opening Mi-Forms, he enters as much information as he has about the location, does some background research into the neighborhood and comparable properties, and enters that information into Mi-Forms as well.

He takes his Tablet PC and drives to the house, where he meets the prospective homeowners and their real estate agent, informs them of the background information he discovered in his pre-inspection, and then gets to work.

He picks up his digital voice recorder and walks around the house, dictating notes that will be automatically transcribed by his Tablet PC when he synchronizes the two. Because the voice files are stored digitally, he can run the sound file through voice recognition later, correcting anything he needs to.

While he walks through the house measuring and dictating, he takes pictures with his digital camera. When he gets back to where he left the Tablet PC running, he downloads the pictures through his Bluetooth wireless connection. While the files are downloading, he processes the voice files and ensures that the measurements are accurate.

He then walks through the house quickly, Tablet PC in hand, to sketch the basic floor plan. He inserts his drawing from Windows Journal into Visio and overlays the sketch with a more refined drawing using Visio's basic architectural tools. All told, he spends about 20 minutes doing this.

When finished inside the house, he takes his Tablet PC outside and begins taking pictures and making notes in Mi-Forms. Because his camera and Tablet PC are in close proximity, the Bluetooth connection is active, and the files from the digital camera are automatically displayed on his Tablet PC screen.

When he finishes the house inspection, he enters most of the data into his Mi-Forms inspection form, where the data can be automatically massaged and fed into a report for the client. He reviews his findings and clarifies any ambiguous notes. All the information ends up in Mi-Forms.

The pictures he took are fed into Photoshop Elements, where they are cleaned up with a few taps of the pen, and annotations are made to identify points of interest. The pen makes this process quicker. The pictures are then linked with Mi-Forms data elements so that the report can be generated quickly. Although the entire inspection was done with just a modicum of time savings, his report is all but complete when he leaves the house, potentially saving hours of time back in the office. All he has to do is cross-check his facts and clarify recommendations, then email the report to the client.

He does the same work with the second inspection, and when he returns to the office, he returns a few phone calls, opens his Mi-Forms application, and generates the inspection reports for each property. He double-checks the accuracy, digitally signs the documents, and emails them to the client.

Summary of Benefits

Features

Benefits

Speech input

Allows for text input while the user does other things

Bluetooth adapter

Allows wireless connectivity

Digital camera with Bluetooth

Enables instant visual documentation

Cordless headset

Enables users to roam free

Microsoft Office 2003

Aids in inspection-report creation

Mi-Forms

Allows for forms-based information entry

FranklinCovey TabletPlanner

Keeps life organized


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