Gale Hawkins (Gale)
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|Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2000 - 2:33 pm: ||
Here is a review you can find at www.eweek.com that covers the Qbe mentioned on the bulletin board recently. The site carries articles about mobile computering issues.
Tablet PC Will Not Be an Easy Pickup
Qbe Cirrus has many input options, but it's heavy
By Jason Brooks, eWEEK Labs
June 26, 2000 12:00 AM ET
With software for both speech and handwriting recognition, an on-screen keyboard, and good external peripherals, Aqcess Technologies Inc.'s Qbe Cirrus tablet-based computer overcomes the input limitations that fatally flaw most machines of its kind.
However, the Qbe Cirrus, which shipped last month, is not without its own fatal flaws -- poor battery life, a mirrorlike display and a 6-pound chassis almost make the Cirrus less mobile than the laptops it is meant to replace.
The 400MHz Pentium II-powered Cirrus is fully loaded, boasting 128MB of RAM, a 12GB hard drive, an integrated NIC, a 56K-bps modem and a hot-swappable media bay -- not to mention a heavy $4,745 price.
eWeek Labs recommends that sites interested in bringing mobilized computing to their work force opt instead for lighter, less costly and more power-frugal Palm and Windows CE-based solutions.
For mobile workers who require greater computing power, the laptops equipped to beat the Cirrus in terms of mobility and price are legion.
Input Options Aplenty
The Qbe Cirrus has a touch-sensitive display that let us move the cursor and navigate through menus with finger taps. Unless you have very slender fingers, this is a clumsy way to navigate a computer screen.
For finer control, the Cirrus includes a touch pen that plugs into a port on the top of the device. The touch pen granted us mouselike control over the cursor and let us use the included ParaGraph Inc. PenOffice software for handwriting recognition.
The Cirrus ships with Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products N.V.'s Voice Xpress speech recognition software, along with a headset microphone. The wider input options that voice recognition software brings are particularly important for a keyboardless device such as the Cirrus.
For those who prefer traditional input methods, the Cirrus comes with a nice compact external keyboard and a Universal Serial Bus mouse.
The Cirrus ships with a Qbicle, an attachment that serves both as a port replicator and as a stand to hold up the Cirrus for desktop use.
The most striking thing about the Cirrus' 13.3-inch display is what a good mirror it makes -- the unit's reflective screen makes it very difficult to view outdoors.
In addition, without the built-in screen protection that all closed laptops enjoy, the Cirrus' display is sure to collect scratches quickly.
The Cirrus includes software that enables users to view the tablet's display in portrait and landscape modes.
Aqcess estimates the tablet's battery will last 2 hours, but in eWeek Labs' tests, it lasted no more than 1.5 hours. With battery life this short, we wondered just how mobile, mobile workers could be with this device
Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gale Hawkins (Gale)
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|Posted on Monday, July 03, 2000 - 7:45 pm: ||
Bill and Michael voiced what we have been hearing for the past five years at Hawkins Research, Inc. We do not have any former Fastpen/Fast-EST users that I know of but we do have several that have owned the Write-On-Adjust system. In fact several are still using the system, especially on hail.
The bottom line is that the handheld camp is a very loyal group and without a doubt it would be good size group today if it had not been for “hardware” issues. With the big names getting behind the “Pocket” computers and Microsoft getting serious with CE one can expect the “hardware” issue to pass once and for all. Sure the platform will improve but the developers will not have to start at ground zero every time, as was the case in the past.
Pocket or purse systems will be a hit with many because there is truly a pent-up demand as one can read into both Bill and Michael’s post. Who is going to supply the software for the Pocket hardware?
From my prospective it will NOT come from any of the current vendors of adjusting software. Why do I say that? Because the four or so software companies that John made mention of, paid me? No.
From a developing standpoint it would require two different mindsets to pull it off. As we can read on CADO and other forums we PC based adjusting software vendors still have not produced the “Holy Grail” of adjusting software. Pulling it off in miniature is much harder. In fact it would be easier for the pocket based software vendors to develop a PC version than the other way around. A pocket-based system to be used for entering the scope is what we may see next from of the PC based adjusting software vendors but this means two pieces of software and hardware instead of one.
John’s statement, “Any "New" technology must be smart enough to talk to a carrier's present technology.” is of course an issue however with the event of the Open Claims format this issue is addressed for the carriers.
There is a definable amount of information that needs to be transmitted from the carrier to the adjusting software. There is a definable amount of information that needs to be transmitted from the adjusting software back to the carrier. If this transfer of information is accomplished by using a truly open standard then it promotes the use of technology at all levels.
Reducing the carriers’ fear of the new pocket technology is key to the success of the four or more pocket property adjusting software companies that John mentioned. The best way to do this is to provide the carriers with electronic claims that are identical in format regardless where they are produced on a PC or Pocket based adjusting software package.
If a carrier decides to drop, to add or change pocket or PC adjusting software venders then they are not stuck with claims done in different propriety formats. An open standard like the Open Claims format makes development easier because we to do not have to struggle with how to format the output and there are never any fees or royalties that must be paid to others. The carriers’ IS department can reduce cost because an open standard is in place for them.
Will the Pocket based adjusting software supplant the PC based adjusting software in the near term? I doubt it. Will the Pocket based adjusting software vendors shake-up the PC based adjusting software venders in the near term? You betcha’, if past history can be used to help predict the future! New technology has always played havoc with old technology. Sometimes the side effects of new technology are even greater than the direct effects themselves.
Until technology decides to stand still we will continue to be in an exciting race with both winners and loses being decided by the crowd in the stadium as much if not more than by the drivers and pit crews themselves. On the race trace the perception of the ones in the stadium makes no real difference on the outcome of the race. In technology the perception of the users can be 99% of one being a winner or not.
I think I just made a good case for getting out of software development and into racing
Bill Thomas (Billdtom)
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|Posted on Friday, June 16, 2000 - 6:01 pm: ||
My Apple Newtons with Write-On-Adjuster have made life much easier the past 4 years of use. Carriers are continually impressed with the product produced. Hats off to the company who creates a system that will rival Write-On-Adjuster with the ease of use, productivity, and the professional reports produced.
Michael D. Carli (Mikdc)
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|Posted on Tuesday, June 06, 2000 - 7:29 pm: ||
I would like to take this opportunity and comment on the use of hand held devices. I am an independent adjuster located in the Southeastern Pennsylvania area and have been using a hand held device for over four year and have been in the insurance industry for over ten years. If it was not for the hand held device, I would not have been able to increase my productivity and income stream.
The hand held unit is only as good as the person inputing the information. By using the hand held unit I have eleminated tic sheets. In the past, I would write my tic sheets, take them back to the office and then input this information onto a desk top computer. Basically doubling my work. This is not efficient and is counter productive. Once you have acclamated yourself to the software procedure of the estimateing program for the hand held device, there is no difference in writing a tic sheet or using the hand held.
Some adjsuters say you cannot write big losses with a hand held, I disagree. I have written damage estiamtes from $1000.00 dollars to over $ 250,000.00 dollars at the loss site. And in todays industry the mean claim settlement is under $ 10,000.00 dollars, therefore the bigger losses are few and far between.
If independent adjsuters are still writing estimates on a desk top computer or by hand, I would urge you to consider using a hand held device. Once you have tried the hand held systems you will never look back.
A good place to start is by going to the pocketsystems.net site. I have used the predessor of the pocketsystems program (Fastpen) and find that this system is the most user friendly. The newer version based on a Windows CE platform actually is faster in inputing information and has a wireless printing capability.
David P Bennett (Whitey)
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|Posted on Saturday, June 03, 2000 - 9:04 am: ||
Technological enhancements and developments have been a great aid for the adjuster. I recall when we used to sit down with price sheets from contractors and hand write the estimates. Now we have portable pc's, printers, digital cameras, sonar and laser measuring devices, scanners, email and I'm sure others that I haven't mentioned. Now comes the possible Pocket Computer.
So now when we go into a building, we carry our ladders, digital camera's, 35' tapes, electronic measuring device, a pocket computer (which I presume is to replace the pad and pencil).
I have enjoyed the benefits of the technological advancements, but now I have to stop and question this item. The laptop is obviously bigger, but with all the set ups in our vehicles, the laptop is right there. As for the practical use of the handheld, I don't believe I'll be carrying it up the ladder onto the roof, nor would I want to carry it into a burned out building with no lighting (cumbersome enough to carry the flashlight, tapes, cameras etc.). Generally on losses other than simple water claims, I have found that working around the debris, in crawl spaces and without lights to be the norm. Not to mention climbing a 2 story ladder.
As for closing on first call, we all strive for that and some have set up portable offices. In these offices we generally have reference material (construction manuals or pricing) so that we can access and input those items which are not found in an estimating database. It is well known that not every item we run into could possibly be in a database, due to the wide range of customization being done, the construction methods used in older homes, the different materials use in residential and commercial construction and I could go on.
To come back to reality, I prefer to look at 8 to 10 or so losses a day, use my notes and photos to double check my estimate and then know I have a complete package.
The advertisements for the handheld indicate that you close the claim on the spot and never have to deal with it again because it is closed. I find this hard to believe as we all know about reopens and supplements or items found by the insured that weren't obvious on the first inspection. On a major loss I don't believe that any of us, would only inspect the property once. Generally a 2nd walk thru with the estimate is a good practice to insure a complete and thorough estimate.
The hand held, in my opinion, is possibly a good tool for the simple losses, remove carpet, replace drywall, paint etc. but not on an involved loss, where your scope notes are the most important part of the file in terms of back up of your estimate and in discussions with the contractors or attorneys or p.a.'s.
Of course if we all had 8 arms and hands, it probably wouldn't be a big deal.
John A. Postava (Johnp)
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|Posted on Friday, June 02, 2000 - 9:27 am: ||
Just told about a website for a new handheld. My source tells me that it was created by the same people that developed a system called "Fast-EST". I have not confirmed this however. To take a look at it, go to www.pocketsystems.net.
R.D. Hood (Dave)
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|Posted on Friday, June 02, 2000 - 7:59 am: ||
Another timely entry into the ever-expanding world of technology.
Of course, the progress will take some time and effort to make it acceptable. The major difficulty is the acceptance of the larger companies to embrace the latest and greatest of the new world.
In a few years we will all be "wearing our computers". John is correct, in that the battle being waged is between the OS. Not unlike the 8-track and cassette of 20 years ago, or the VHS-BETA trist.
The technology already exists , the initial cost is the single preventative obstacle.
It will be overcome by forward thinking input which will allow the use of the products, interfaced with ANY software and totally paperless claim file transmission from the loss.
John A. Postava (Johnp)
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|Posted on Monday, May 22, 2000 - 8:29 pm: ||
Jim thought it might be a good idea if I gave CADO readers some insights into what I think will be one of the "next big things" in adjusting technology - the handheld or Windows CE machines.
During the last several months, our company has been contacted by at least four start-up software companies that are all very busy writing programs exclusively for the handheld market. Each company feels that they have the "answer" to what adjusters and restoration contractors are looking for in a handheld, PDA-based piece of hardware and software. No more writing down scopes on tic sheets or notepads then later downloading them into lap or desktop computers. Adjuster productivity will increase 20-30% and everybody gets to go out, play golf, fish or maybe even handle more claims.
In a perfect world I would agree. All of these companies, I believe, are on the right track. Computers are getting smaller, memory is getting cheaper, field adjusters are getting more and more computer literate and telecommunications improves almost on a daily basis. In the not-to-distant future, cat adjusters will be using these handheld units in the midst of Andrew-like conditions with flawless clarity and light-speed connection times. They will link-up to satellites (undamaged by any natural disaster on Earth)and wire funds directly into storm victims accounts.
I wish these start-ups the best of luck and may the best hardware/software combination win. The biggest obstacle I see is winning over the carriers because once a carrier makes up its mind on a piece of claims software, it takes a long to switch to another.
Any "New" technology must be smart enough to talk to a carrier's present technology. Systems have to be integrated. Data must be warehoused, bi-sected, digested and even fermented! And all this integration must occur on many levels - inside staff, field adjusters, general adjusters and corporate management.
In the not-to-distant months to come our company will be releasing our first handheld solution and I am sure many of the other software vendors have started working on their handheld models or at least have sketched out some ideas and are just waiting to see what operating system wins the handheld wars (CE or Palm).
Established vendors will have the upper hand in getting their technology into the carriers but start-ups have been known to shake up things when a new generation of claims product reaches market.
In any event, I see handhelds as being one of the "next big things". It is truly an exciting time (technology speaking) to be an adjuster.
I know some of you might be thinking, "Oh, great! Now I have to learn ANOTHER adjusting software." Don't fret, software is getting easier, voice recognition estimating is on the way and soon we will all be playing with our 2 handicaps at Kapalua and fishing for Blue Marlin off the coast of Lahina while some of our brothers are still filling out tic sheets in downtown Honolulu!
Are handhelds the "Next Big Thing"? You betcha'!