There’s an App for that!
By John Murray, Industry Manager, Mentor Graphics
Now that our phones are to the guidance computer used on the NASA Apollo missions, as a flick-book is to a high definition television, it follows that there are more and more mobile applications with the potential to make the life of the average engineer easier. From an extensive trawl of the options out there, I’ve selected the following apps over which to cast a sceptical eye. Given that engineering is such a broad church, I’ve tried to select apps that are as general as possible and given them a roadtest and rating.
Smart Tools® is a complete package of five app sets; Smart Ruler Pro (Length, Angle, Slope, Level, Thread), Smart Measure Pro (Distance, Height, Width, Area), Smart Compass Pro (Compass, Metal detector, GPS), Sound Meter Pro (Sound level meter, Vibrometer), and Smart Light Pro (Flashlight, Magnifier, Mirror). I loved this as it gives users many useful “rule of thumb” tools all in a handy App for your Smartphone to use with its camera. A must for every engineer!
Cost: Most are free and some cost $1
Despite comparing itself to the computer from ‘Star Trek’, Wolfram Alpha doesn’t seem to have made any great strides on the road to quantum teleportation. It is, instead, a ‘computational knowledge engine’ a title with the air of a 19th Century curiosity about it. But what does that actually mean? The easiest way to sum it up is that were you to ask it ‘What is teleportation?’ You’d get a fairly unremarkable dictionary entry. So far, so sub-par Wikipedia. However, if you ask ‘What is the integral of one over e to the minus x between one and two?’, you get something a whole lot more impressive: it only goes and gives you the answer expressed algebraically, as a number and an x-y visualization of the result. Very impressive. It also does a range of more applied problems such as material properties and statistics. If you’re not convinced, you could always try the web page first, wolframalpha.com.
Engineering Unit Converter
No-one could argue that this isn’t a function that’s likely to get many excited. If we wanted excitement we’d have become accountants, not engineers, right? So let’s get down to the details: to be useful, this app is going to need to cover a wide range of parameters quickly and easily.
On this basis, it’s job done here. The front screen lets you select from a huge range of potential parameters, from which you find yourself looking at a rotating bezel of potential units. Very comprehensive, very easy to use. You can even set favorites. Highly recommended.
Process Engineering Tools
This is a decent little app that calculates some basic properties for common pipeline components. My only question would be, how often engineers find themselves needing to do these kind of calculations on an app, rather than a more sophisticated program or spreadsheet? Someone obviously thought the answer was frequently enough to make it worth writing one, so who am I to argue?
Spirax Sarco Steam Tools
This one is a little more parochial to those dealing with steam. It is a nicely designed app, so if you do happen to find yourself needing to know what the saturation temperature is for steam at a given temperature or pressure, you could do a lot worse. It also gives specific volume and enthalpies at the derived point as well. The app features a pipe sizing component as well.
By the way, if you’re wondering if Wolfram Alpha could be used for the same job, the answer is yes. The advantage with this app is that it has a clear interface and doesn’t need an internet connection to work. Which can only be a good thing if you really need those numbers in a flash (pun intended) when you’re off-site.
Get your Geek On!
Failing that, you could always try Angry Birds (for its aerodynamic features) and Candy Crush Saga (because of its discrete element modeling)…both are free!