Using the iPhone for Mobile Control-Checking

This afternoon, I was around, checking the control for the City Race. Rather than take pen and paper, which would have been the traditional thing to do, I took the iPhone.

Prior to going out, I created a spreadsheet in Google Docs. In the spreadsheet, I named the first workbook “Controls” and added a number of column titles in the first row, to it – Control Code, Description, Securing Details, Owner, Photogenic Potential – etc.

Google Docs are not yet editable on the iPhone, however it turns out that forms are – the forms are a simple HTML form that loads really well on the iPhone. I added my own Google email address as a collaborator for the workbook – under the “Share” tab, choose “Invite people to fill out a form”. This automatically creates a form webpage, with a field for each column heading – and adds a “Timestamp” column to the original spreadsheet, recording when each form entry was added. Then, by going to the iPhone and clicking on the emailed link, I can start entering the data, in a structured way.

I then cycled between each control point. At each one, I brought up the forms webpage, filled it in and hit “Done”. Then, I took a photo of the location, which the iPhone automatically adds geo-tags with its built in GPS, so that I know roughly where the photo was taken at.

On returning home, I now have a fully populated spreadsheet containing the details and observations that I made while out during the survey. No need to sync the iPhone with the computer – the spreadsheet is already on Google’s servers, each row having been updated straight over the 3G network every time the form was submitted. (Getting the photos does require a sync.)

One definite advantage of this method is you look a lot less suspicious tapping away on the iPhone screen, than furtively scribbing on a notepad as I have done previously. I might even try and finish the checks during a weekday, which would normally impossible due to the high number of suspicious security people and general passers-by – such is the City these days.

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