Fundamental understanding and future guidance for handheld computers in the rail industry

Dadashi, Yasamin (2009) Fundamental understanding and future guidance for handheld computers in the rail industry. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Advances in mobile computing technology and software applications have led to an expansion in potential uses for handheld computers for various tasks. One strong application area is in maintenance and inspection. Network Rail has been progressively developing and applying handheld computers to field-based maintenance and inspection operations, with the aims of improving work productivity and quality, and personal and system safety. However, it is clear that these aims so far have been achieved with varying degrees of success.

Handheld computer devices have the potential to enhance the procedure of performing the tasks in many different ways. However, the current handheld computers introduced to maintenance and inspection tasks in Network Rail have principally been designed as data entry tools and in most cases the primary objective is to reduce the amount of paper work and the associated costs and errors. This highlights the need for fundamental research into the ways in which handheld computer technologies should be specified, designed and implemented for effective use in a complex distributed environment such as the rail industry.

The main purpose of this research was to study the applications of handheld computers in the rail industry and to generate a set of design principles for development of future systems within Network Rail. The findings of this research have contributed to the identification of human factors principles that need to be considered for design and implementation of successful handheld computer applications. A framework was also developed to summarise and organise information and functional requirements of maintenance workers.

Investigating maintenance workers’ requirements through interviews and observations emphasised the importance of rail specific spatial information and the benefits of providing this knowledge to maintenance workers through a mobile computing device which is portable and easy to use. However, displaying rail specific spatial information on the small screen of a handheld computer introduces various HCI issues and challenges. These were addressed in part through a programme of experiments, and therefore the final section of this research focused on examining fundamental aspects of presenting rail specific spatial information on handheld computer screens.

The main findings from different stages of this research have been collated into a set of recommendations for design and development of usable and useful applications for handheld computer devices in the rail industry.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Wilson, J.R.
Sharples, S.C.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Mobile HCI, Human Factors, Guidelines, Spatial Information, Handheld Computers, Rail Industry, Maintenance operations, Requirements Specification, User Experience
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering
ID Code:988
Deposited By:Mrs Yasamin Dadashi
Deposited On:11 Jun 2010 12:05
Last Modified:11 Jun 2010 12:05

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