I know I'm going to have to crawl out from under the rock where I'm hiding, from technology like tablets, but try as I might I just can't seem to stabilize the data I collect. When you work within a fixed format, like a program that wants just x,y,z and move on to the next job as fast as you can, then a platform can be created and used more than once before it needs changing. In my work I spend too much time with each customer and have found that pencil and paper and a bit of choreography works best. Even though technology must eventually win, I hope to delay my transition as long as possible.
Having been in business and in computers far too many years, the old lesson on getting things right on paper BEFORE you go to a computer rings loud. When I eventually switch, the platform will have been tested thoroughly, but just in case Mr. Murphy shows up, I'll reach into my bag and find my favorite pencil and custom forms and continue my audit. I also carry an extra pencil as back up.
PS, I'll be watching as always to see what's new :).
John Nicholas demoed a number of iPad apps for me the other day that he uses in the field. He uses DaVinci for floorplans, and the main thing it has going for it is that it's not really a drawing app... you enter a dimension (13'4") and a direction, and it adds a line of that length at the end of the previous line. For situations where you can walk around the perimeter of the house without obstacle, it would be extremely handy. The Android version, strangely, does not include the drawing ability.
I have an old HP tablet running Windows XP Tablet Edition, which comes with an excellent program called Journal. It's very good for sketching as long as you don't care about lines being straight. It can straighten lines after you draw them, but the process is cumbersome, and it sometimes makes weird judgments about what parts of your drawing you meant to select. It really excels for digitizing forms for you and the homeowner to sign, so if you're in a program where you have to complete lots of forms, it's a real paper saver. Now that I'm not in such a program anymore, I may be using my tablet less!
I have used DaVinci with success on site, but had trouble downloading to a medium I could use later on my home PC. Then I found an app that let's me do everything on my iPad as if I was sitting at my home PC! It's called LogMeIn. Now, not only can I access AutoCAD while doing audits, I can also use EnergyPro onsite! Really powerful app. It's only requirement is that your home PC is on a network and you have to have WiFi access while in the field.
Hope this helps!
I've become very fond of SketchUp with its ability to apply and orthocorrect photos to the surfaces. I measure the basic footprint of the house create a box in sketchup then apply the photos I've taken of the exterior to the surfaces and modify shapes as needed. The wonderful thing is that all of the windows and doors just fall into place without measuring a single one.
I made this model, which is fairly complex, in a few hours. I only had two measurements from the field, but now I can click on a surface and know its area with the Entity Info, or use the tape measure to know the measurement of anything in the model. It would have taken hours just to get all of those measurements using other software.
If you want to add the interior, you can either make a quick sketch on paper and approximate the locations of the walls in the model based on window locations, or do a more accurate job and take some measurements. I haven't used the photo technique for an interior yet, but it could be done as well. Not sure it is worth the time.
I've looked at many different methods of digitizing a house from total stations to tape measure and graph paper. This is by far the lowest cost, most efficient way, and it only requires a digital camera and a computer. It also makes a pretty impressive presentation, especially when used with Google Earth.
Hope that is helpful.
New River Center for Energy Research and Training