Gathering test, measurement and inspection data from workstations throughout a manufacturing facility can be done the traditional way--with pen and paper. Or, quality control workers can use some of the handheld computers that are on the market, such as the Palm and CE, and integrate statistical process control software. Or, they can use some new systems that are dedicated to wireless statistical process control.

The Mobile SPC from Zontec (Cincinnati) allows workers to roam throughout the facility without traditional computer network cabling constraints and enter data at various workstations. The data can be entered using integrated handwriting recognition technology, on-screen keyboard or gages and measuring devices via the universal serial bus (USB) port.

The system weighs less than 3.5 pounds and is compatible with most wireless local area networks. It has a 150-to-400 foot range between indoor wireless access points. It has an Ethernet-equivalent data transfer rate.

The DigiForm
DataMyte's DigiForm data collection device is another wireless, mobile handheld computer. It features JetForm data collection software that stores a variety of electronic forms and allows users to customize forms for specific applications with a drag-and-drop feature. Data can be synchronized directly to a database to eliminate entry errors. Data can be entered through a pen-tablet interface. It also features hand recognition software.

The handheld computer works with Windows CE operating system and has 32 megabytes of flash memory and 32MB of SDRAM. It has three RS-232 serial ports and two USB ports. Wireless communication for remote web access and reporting is optional.

The DigiForm weighs 3.9 pounds, which includes the battery that typically has up to eight hours of life without an AC power source. It has a back strap for easy holding while entering data. The DigiForm was built for hazardous environmental conditions. It has a magnesium case with bonded Alcryn elastomer sheel, which is a rubber-like coating, that resists damage from bumps and drops. It is splash resistant and meets Mil Spec 810C.