4 Things to Look for in EHS Mobile Apps
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.
1) Native Mobile Apps
A native mobile app is a smartphone application developed and coded specifically for a mobile operating system, such as iOS or Android. 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.
Some EHS mobile apps were non-native in initial versions, and native versions were developed only recently. These apps are not as field-proven as EHS mobile apps that were first deployed years ago and that were native since day one.
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 global organizations with thousands of workers using the EHS mobile apps. Items #1 and #2 are explained above. As for item #3, a good example is Lendlease and how the global construction, infrastructure and real estate leader empowered thousands of its employees through mobile solutions.
4) Recognized by an Independent Analysis
With a lot of information available about EHS mobile apps from various vendors, it is useful to get an evaluation from an independent and neutral research firm. The Verdantix Green Quadrant EHS Software 2017 report is the gold standard for the benchmark of EHS software vendors because of its sophisticated and structured methodology, evidence-based assessment, and objectivity. It compares 20 leading EHS software vendors by evaluating and scoring each vendor for 173 functionality criteria. On pages 27-28 of the report, EHS software vendors are scored for the criterion “Mobile Applications”. Look at all scores, and make note of the vendors with the highest score. This gives you an objective assessment of the leading EHS mobile apps in the market.
The selection of any type of software has risks associated to it. By taking into account the four attributes described in this post, you will mitigate the risk of selecting the wrong solution, and ensure that you identify the right EHS mobile apps for your organization.
Download the Verdantix Green Quadrant EHS Software 2019 report and learn more about the 23 most prominent EHS software vendors: