In today’s fast pace world where details are often missed or forgotten because we all have so much on our minds, the cameras in our smartphones and tablets are becoming in effect our second brains. When we see something we want to remember like a book, bottle of wine, recipe or new boat, simply taking a picture or recording a short video can help memorialize the event or object for us.
The advent of tools like Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud have brought the power of the cloud and seemingly unlimited storage to the masses. Not only do these tools do a great job of backing up all of our critical files in the cloud, they also work on a whole host of devices from Macs to Linux and Windows PCs, and all types of mobile devices including iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
In a busy boatyard or marine service center, it is becoming really important to take before and after photos and often times video footage of boats, engines and other repairs that are taken in. Using a smartphone or tablet, in conjunction with a tool like Dropbox, you can capture photos and videos of jobs you are working on and sync those to your computer automatically where they can be linked to a DockMaster Work Order.
This tutorial assumes that you already have DockMaster functioning in your marine business. I will walk you through the steps to configure Dropbox and use it with the DockMaster Service module.
Step 1: Set-up Dropbox on your Mobile Devices
The first thing you need to do is make sure that Dropbox is set-up on any mobile device that will be syncing photos. You can download Dropbox from the App Store or Google Play.
NOTE: It is likely that more than one person at your company will be interested in using this feature. So the first thing that needs to be determined at your company is whether everyone is going to use a common Dropbox account or if each person will have their own version of Dropbox. This will work either way. If everyone logs into the same account there is no need to share folders. This tutorial will address what needs to be done to set this up using multiple Dropbox accounts.
Step 2: Configure Dropbox on your Desktop Computers
Let’s assume that everyone who is using the photo sync feature on their mobile device has set-up Dropbox with their own personal account. We recommend that a company Dropbox account be created that is used solely for sharing company information. You can use a common email address to do this like firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important that someone at your company can receive email using this address. Download Dropbox to your desktop computer and log in using this company account.
You will want to create a Shared Folder that everyone who will be syncing photos will have access to. One of the easiest ways to do this is by logging into Dropbox from a browser. This way regardless of what Account you use on your computer for Dropbox, you will be able to share folders that are managed by the company account with anyone. For this tutorial I have Dropbox running on my Mac logged into my personal account as shown below.
But from a browser I logged into our corporate Dropbox account as follows:
From this account you will want to create a shared folder. I created a shared folder called “Work Order Images”:
You then share the folder with everyone on your team that needs access to these images:
The other Dropbox users (including yourself if you have your own personal copy of Dropbox on your computer) will get an email saying that they’ve been invited to a Dropbox shared folder.
Click on “View folder” and you will be prompted to accept the invitation and then your browser will access that folder.
NOTE: If you don’t see the pop-up below then it is likely that you have not signed off of your company Dropbox account. Log off of the company Dropbox account and then try clicking “View folder” again. You will know if you haven’t logged off if you get a message saying that you are already a member of this folder.
Ok…at this point Dropbox should be completely set-up on your computer and if you are using “Selective Sync” the shared folder is now likely in your File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac). A good way to configure these shared work order folders is to create folders for each work order using the work order number. This is not a requirement as some people put the work number at the beginning of the name of the photo or video.
Here is an example of this folder in both MacOS…
and in Windows…
The last step in the set-up process is to ensure that you have enabled the camera import. Click the Dropbox icon at the top right of your screen and select “Preferences”. In Preferences make sure that ‘Enable Dropbox camera import’ button is checked.
Step 3: Syncing Photos to your Desktop Computer
For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use some photos I took of a 22′ Glacier Bay on a lift. Let’s say that the owner wanted to bottom paint this boat. When taking photos of the vessel I noticed a long scratch in the side above the boot stripe. To ensure that it is documented with a timestamp that the boat arrived this way, I took a number of photos of it. I also took photos of the tannish water line so I can validate with the customer that the bottom paint should be at or slightly above this line.
Your smartphone or tablet will sync with your computer when it is plugged in via a USB cable. When the device is plugged in you may see a pop-up like this.
Simply click ‘Start Import’. The photos (and videos) on your device will sync with a folder in your Dropbox folder called “Camera Uploads”. Depending on how many photos are on your device, this could take some time. One of the nice things about the camera upload feature is Dropbox names the photos by date and time. This way it is relatively easy to pick out which photos should be attached to which jobs.
Since we created a shared folder for each work order, you can now move the photos from Camera Uploads to the appropriate work order folder. In the example below note that the photos have been moved to the appropriate folder and renamed to reflect what the photo represents:
Step 4: Add Photos to the Work Order
The example below shows a Work Order I created to paint the bottom.
Now go into the Work Order in DockMaster and select “Attach Photo(s)” from the selection of buttons on the left. Clicking the little box in the center with the three dots […] will bring up the Picture Locations window allowing you to browse your photos and videos. At this point we will want to browse to the shared Dropbox folder called “Work Order Images” and then to the work order number pertaining to this job.
Search for the photos that you want to add to this operation and click Open. It is necessary to attach photos one at a time. You can also add a description of the photo to the right.
Future Considerations: There are a number of improvements that we can make to the “Attach Photo(s)” feature. For starters the word “photos” is a misnomer because you can attach any file type (e.g. Word, Excel, PDFs, etc). It would be nice to be able to add more than one photo (file) at a time. Also we should provide some type of preview function or to launch the file in the appropriate app. For instance, if the file is a photo it should launch your default photo browser and if its a video your favorite video player.
Be on the look out for some of these additions in our upcoming 8.0 release.