A Rugged Windows 10 Tablet for Water Resource Investigations

Hydrologists, biologists, watershed scientists and other professional tasked with water resource data collection can benefit from a lightweight and rugged field-computer that that has the power of their desktop/laptop computer but is light-weight and rugged enough for field use.

The ideal device would contain the processor muscle to run an assortment of third-party MS Windows software, have multiple communication options to interface with instrumentation such as USB, Bluetooth and WifI. Importantly, it would have attributes lacking in consumer grade tablets, such as a hardened touch screen that is visible in all lighting conditions from direct sunlight to shade, a battery that lasts through long work-days, and it could withstand accidental drops. Since most professionals that work out-of-doors can‘t pick their field days, it would also need to operate in all weather conditions and even survive accidental submersion.

The Juniper Systems Mesa 2 rugged Windows 10 tablet was tested with popular software from leading water resource instrumentation companies. These companies and software include: Teledyne RD Instruments (TRDI) WinRiver II and Q-View, In-Situ Win-Situ 5, Teledyne ISCO FlowLink 5, and Electronic Data Solutions DataPlus Mobile. This was to determine how viable and useable the software was on a 7” capacitive display, test Bluetooth connectivity and range, USB communication port setup, as well as general download, installation, and operation of these programs.

The Mesa 2 includes an internal, long-range Bluetooth antenna which makes it an ideal tablet for interfacing with acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP’s). TRDI’s Win River II and Q-View software were installed and tested on the Mesa 2. Successful communication was noted at over 100 yards and factory tests have shown successful Bluetooth communication to over 300 yards although site specific issues like terrain and obstacles may limit distance. In setting up Bluetooth communications in WinRiver II use the outgoing com port # assigned by the Windows 10 Bluetooth manager.

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WinRiver II use on the Mesa 2 tablet will be no different than laptop use although veteran TRDI ADCP users that are accustomed to using function keys, specifically the F5 key, on a laptop to start/stop transects may not feel as efficient and will have to rely on the touch screen using Acquire>start/stop transect to begin/end measurements. The Mesa 2 includes three programmable hard-keys P1, P2 P3 on the bottom (right-hand in landscape use) of the unit and it would be nice if these could be reprogrammed to mimic popular function keys such as F5-start/stop transect, F4-start pinging and F6- moving bed test; however, under the MS Windows 10 OS these are currently tied to functions such as volume up/down, camera, etc.

TRDI Q-View also runs well on the Mesa 2 although, even in compact mode it can cover a significant portion of the viewing window. It is easy to drag and drop the Q-View window to less viewed portions of the WinRiver II display.

In-Situ, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of integrated water level/temperature sensors/data loggers, (LevelTrolls and Rugged Trolls) and multi-parameter water-quality sondes called AquaTrolls. The interface software for these platforms is Win-Situ 5 software.

Win-Situ 5 installed with no problems and the USB drivers that In-Situ provides installed and worked correctly with the In-Situ Trollcom USB connect cable. It is necessary to access the Windows 10 Device Manager, found under settings>Devices>Connected Devices, (if in portrait mode you will need to scroll down to find Device Manager). Tap on this option and then expand Ports to find which USB port is assigned for the Trollcom as the correct port number will need to be referenced in Win-Situ 5 before you can successfully connect with any In-Situ instrument.

Win-Situ 5 was installed and tested with these various devices in multiple capacities including setting up a logging run, retrieving data and using the Mesa 2 as field display for multi-parameter water quality investigations such as spot checks and lake/reservoir vertical profiling.

When using the Mesa 2 with the new In-Situ AquaTroll 600 for performing lake and reservoir profiling the Snap Shot mode in Win Situ 5 will be more familiar to limnologists that are accustomed to noting stabilization at a given elevation and then recording (Snapshot) that line of data, as opposed to the alternative offered by In-Situ which is the Android based VuSitu software, where data is recorded on a timed basis and the user “marks” the specific data record for each elevation of interest.

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For setting up unattended logging runs and downloading data in the field on any of the devices, functionally the Mesa 2 was no different than a standard laptop other than use of the virtual keyboard to name sites and files.

An In-Situ Trollcom USB was used with the In-Situ instruments in testing. A DB 9-pin serial port will soon be an option on the Mesa 2 for field instruments that require this type of connectivity.

For municipal, environmental and industrial customers that service flow meters and automatic samplers, the Mesa 2 provides a rugged alternative to a traditional laptop. Teledyne ISCO’s FlowLink 5 software was tested with an ISCO model 2150 and 2160 flow meter as well as a 6712 sampler. ISCO also includes USB drivers in the installation and setting up the proper USB port is the same as described above for the In-Situ products.

Much of the ISCO flow meter programming/setup in FlowLink is performed by tapping selections and filling in windows which makes it very easy to use on a touch-screen device. Creating graphs of collected data was simple as these operations can be performed by dragging and dropping a parameter on the graphing window and then simply tapping the parameter of interest to add additional parameters to your graph.

The Mesa 2 is also available with an internal 4G LTE cellular modem allowing the user to access remote monitoring sites to view data in real-time, download data and make programming changes running ISCO FlowLink 5 software. The Mesa 2 is also ideal for running Teledyne ISCO’s FlowLink Global software allowing the user to see flow data from a number of remote sites on one screen either in a dashboard view with color-coded alarms or a map view with site information and data display as overlays in a “satellite” or “street view”.

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Another common application for water resource professionals is field note taking. These may include stream habitat surveys, dry-weather-screening forms for storm water, and many more. Electronic Data Solutions provides DataPlus Mobile software for creating and running electronic versions of your field data forms. DataPlus Mobile is compatible with Windows 10 OS and runs very well on the Mesa 2. The Mesa 2 can also be purchased with an internal GPS receiver if spatial data is required for your projects.

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Functionally, the Mesa 2 has excellent ergonomics and is comfortable to hold either in portrait or landscape orientation. Since most computer programs have a landscape orientation I attached the Mesa 2 hand-strap (included) to the metal cleats on the top of the unit so that it feels more secure when holding the Mesa 2 in landscape orientation. The screen automatically adjusts should you change orientation. For professionals that need to have their hands free and still have quick access to their tablet, Juniper Systems offers a 4-point shoulder harness accessory.

With the optional Mesa 2 dock the Mesa 2 can become the only computer you will need. The dock includes three USB ports, an HDMI port, Ethernet and external power connection.

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