The Galaxy Tab and use in disasters

Samsung Galaxy Tab being heldThe Galaxy Tab has been in my hands for the past few weeks.  It is a tablet that uses the Android O/S and is about half the size of an iPad.  Connectivity for the one I’m using is through a built-in Verizon cellular chip.

My team and I were discussing the Galaxy.  The best summary we could find is that it is a great device if you can find the problem it solves.  My team and I are all equipped with some form of a Blackberry device, Dell laptop and cellular broadband.  So the question is where would this fit in our tool box?

One scenario is that the Galaxy is a great device for someone who needs to be in touch as they go from meeting to meeting in the same office.  Especially if the office is equipped with wifi so the user doesn’t need to chew down their data plan.  The screen and touch keyboard are large enough to comfortably read emails and web pages appear normally.  Yet, it isn’t like lugging a laptop around from meeting to meeting as it is smaller than a pad of note paper.  The Galaxy is a heck of a lot easier to read then a Blackberry or iPhone during a meeting, yet you’re more obvious when reading it.

For disaster work, this galaxy would be a good device if the user’s application was written well to match the Galaxy’s capability.  The built in connectivity, GPS and camera would make it excellent for field work.  I can imagine someone using this for damage assessment, taking photos and documenting a disaster’s impact.  Uploading the data immediately to a database to allow for real-time use of DA information. 

The size and battery life are sufficient for an outreach team to move from home to home, and capture the basic information of the residents and any immediate disaster-caused needs.  While I wouldn’t slow down a DA team gathering specific family information, this triaging of needs could better inform the following day’s feeding and other outreach teams.  Longer narratives and more detailed information gathering would be better suited for a laptop and real keyboard.

A great feature of Android based devices is the use of Google Translate.  This application would allow the person to type or speak a message in English and then the device will translate it to many written languages.  Some of the more common languages will actually be spoken by the device.  A person could have a statement saved in a file of who they are and what they are looking to learn, which can then be cut and pasted into the translate box.

This use of the Galaxy Tab really depends on well written applications and great user interface.  Keep in mind that most of the field work will be done by people who are not familiar with the system as it will only be used on a sporadic basis.  My previous blog entry is a stream of thought on this topic at http://keith.robertory.com/?p=195.

The Galaxy has the ability to become a wifi hot spot by creating a local wifi network and connecting it to the 3G cellular network.  This feature could replace my Verizon Mifi device so I could carry one less device.  Most likely, I’ll wait for a solid 4G network and 4G devices before making that change though.

In the end of all this, I’m going to keep the Galaxy Tab in my tool box.  The integration of social networking, corporate email and other applications is very well done thanks to Android’s O/S and the Galaxy’s size.  I’m finding that I’m less attached to the Blackberry and Laptop combo all the time because the Galaxy lets me accomplish all my critical tasks.  Now if I can just find the application that lets me remote control my laptop from the Galaxy, then I’d be good.  At least until the next good thing come out of the cellular, tablet, laptop, handheld overlap.