The Engineering Smartphone Starter Pack

As of June 2016, Android’s Google Play Store had 2 million apps available. The Apple App Store grows by 1,000 apps per day. It is estimated that there will be 5 million apps on the App Store by 2020. Smartphone applications’ popularity has shown that apps can be infused into our daily lives and even our working lives. How many of those apps, however, could assist engineers in their daily work? We asked some engineering students which smartphone accessories and apps made their jobs easier.

The Mooshimeter is a digital multimeter and data logger that uses your smartphone to provide diagnostic insights. It writes to a standard SD card as well. Much handier than the conventional multimeter, the Mooshimeter does all that a conventional one does and more, all for the price of USD 150. It is able to measure two channels simultaneously, something a conventional multimeter cannot do.  It communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth. The device is available for both Android and iOS.

Measuring heat dissipation is a process that is seen throughout many engineering disciplines. Engineers need to know that what they have manufactured or developed is not overheating and is distributing heat in the correct manner. Thermal imaging is perfect to measure concentrations of hot or cold areas of an engineered product or design. Now thermal analysis can be done with a smartphone.

The FLIR One is a smartphone add-on that turns your phone into a thermal imaging camera. The phone accessory costs only $249, for a working thermal imaging camera. The thermal imaging can be used with iPhone 6 models plus Android phones. It can measure temperatures on any spot and identify from -4°F and 248°F.

Engineers have also said that a micro USB endoscope has been quite useful as an accessory for their smartphones. An engineer reviewing a 7mm endoscope attached to his android on Amazon, said: “I work as an engineer in facilities management. We have to try to see into spaces and equipment that you can’t get to. With this borescope camera, it makes all the difference.” Another reviewer said the cord is long so you can reach hard-to-reach places. APPS:

The AutoCad 360 app can create, view, edit and share CAD drawings. It is available cross-platform and includes a web app. No more carrying heavy blueprints around construction sites. Everything can be backed up to the cloud but the app also has the ability to work completely offline for when no internet connectivity is available.

When engineers are asked what their apps of preference are, WolframAlpha wins by a clear mile. Engineers say it is mandatory for all your math needs. It solves equations, performs accurate unit conversions and more. You can ask WolframAlpha to calculate equations specific to a discipline of engineering.

For example, you can compute the mandated ventilation rate for a 3 bedroom, 1,600 sq ft building. From electrical engineering, fluid mechanics, aeronautics, control systems, mechanical engineering, civil & structural, and refrigeration engineering, Wolfram Alpha will help with the number crunching engineering is famous for.

MATLAB is also used for mathematical equation solving and analyzing of design systems.

Some engineers have spoken highly about Smart Tools. It purportedly turns your phone into a ruler, a protractor, a liquid level, a thread, a rangefinder, a compass, a metal detector, a sound meter, a vibration meter, a flashlight, a magnifier, a mirror and a unit converter. However, real measurements with real tools should still be given preference.

For electrical engineers, ElectroDroid is the app of choice. You can pay for the Pro version, however there is an ad-riddled free version. The app has too many functions to mention, but some of the best ones include: An ohm’s law calculator, reference color code lists for resistors, and port-pin shape references for items like ethernet cables, FireWire cables, Apple 30-pin points etcetera. It can also be used with circuit simulators. An iOS alternative for circuit simulations is an app named iCircuits.

Engineering students in their final year at university say that Camscanner is an invaluable addition to their smartphone app drawer during their studies. The app turns your phone into a document scanner by utilizing the phone’s camera. Microsoft Office Lens, Evernote and Google Drive can also be used for scanning documents. It then stores them in the cloud so a crucial page never goes missing ever again.

For civil engineers, iEngineer is an iPhone app that has drillbit information of many US and metric screw types that engineers can use as a reference point. It boasts the most comprehensive database of screw and bolt information. Civil and mechanical engineers can also download FrameDesign and BeamDesign to design 2D hyperstatic frames and runs calculations to see if those designs will hold - with safety in mind.

And finally to stay sane during the tedious process of studying engineering, students say, rather humorously, that 9gag - a popular meme and photo-sharing site - gives them a much needed breaking during their studies. Equipped with some of these apps, engineers are able to do things that would have taken much longer, at the click of a button, thanks to smartphone technology.

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