U.S. Forest Service Partners with Handheld Systems

Five-Year $5M+ Blanket Purchase Agreement Helps USFS Go Mobile with Workabout HDS

Handheld Systems Inc, a provider of rugged handheld computers and an Authorized Psion Gold Business Partner, announced today that it has been selected by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) as a preferred technology provider following a comprehensive competitive analysis. The USFS, under its new five-year enterprise computing Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), will work with Handheld Systems Inc to boost mobile communications organization-wide.

The government BPA is a cost-effective and streamlined mechanism for product procurement that decreases cost, reduces paperwork and saves personnel time by eliminating the need for repetitive, individual purchases. Handheld Systems has already delivered more than $1.2 million worth of computing products including more than 700 rugged handheld computers to support USFS programs during the past two decades.

The new Rugged Portable Data Recorders (PDRs) Blanket Purchase Agreement, which is cumulatively worth in excess of $5M, provides the USFS and U.S. Department of Agriculture Contracting Officers and warranted purchasing agents the ability to purchase Handheld Systems’ products. Purchase orders under this agreement shall reference BPA AG-024B-B-11-0003.

Under this new partnership, Handheld Systems Inc will provide the USFS with Workabout HDS equipment including the office docking station, vehicle charger and spare battery. Products acquired through the BPA award will be distributed to USFS facilities throughout the United States. Purchasing volumes are expected to exceed 900 handheld computers annually.

Rigorous Independent Testing

Before new equipment may be included in a BPA, the USFS subjects that equipment to rigorous testing. Each handheld computer must meet established physical, operational, performance, environmental and communication standards. These standards aim to minimize downtime while in the field and to maximize employee productivity.

Field crews operate in demanding outdoor environments. So crew equipment needs to withstand extreme operating temperatures and wet conditions. Given the cost of collecting data can sometimes exceed the cost of a handheld, with a great deal of work in remote areas, hardware reliability and longevity are crucial.

The USFS’s extensive laboratory conducts environmental testing on rugged equipment to assess the device’s ability to operate in extreme hot and cold operating temperatures as well as its water ingress protection (IP), shock resistance, battery life and other operational parameters. The Workabout HDS met all USFS standards.

Forestry Data Collection Applications

The USFS has developed several in-house applications for the Workabout HDS, and authorized employees may download those via the USFS Intranet. Custom-built applications streamline internal processes, reduce errors during field data collection, and seamlessly integrate with back-end systems including FSVeg and Cruise Processing for the generation of accurate and detailed timber volume reports, insect damage reports and vegetation cover reports.

To develop its software applications, the Forest Service relies on a small team of programmers, graphic designers and interface experts along with the tools and guidelines included in the Windows Mobile 6 Professional SDK. Because the SDK is standardized, applications are extremely stable and consistent across several different hardware platforms.

Available in-house applications include:

  • The FSCruiser application that gives foresters the ability to gather tree information on-the-go using their Workabout HDS
  • The FSVeg application that collects and stores data about trees, fuels, down woody material, surface cover and understory vegetation, which is then used to make diagnoses, determine stand treatment needs, and develop detailed silvicultural prescriptions

A Promising Partnership

An exhaustive investigation was conducted by the USFS into the handheld computer marketplace prior to selecting the Workabout HDS based on a feature set combining performance and expansion capabilities within a rugged Windows Mobile platform. Its design is ideal for the diverse group of field users. Handheld Systems Inc was awarded the contract because the company represented the best value to the government in terms of technical capability, past performance and price.

Mike Berg of Handheld Systems Inc stated: “We are thrilled and honored to have been awarded this Blanket Purchase Agreement, which exemplifies the exceptional relationship we built with the U.S. Forest Service over several decades. The award further substantiates our corporate focus on providing the highest quality products, services and support to forestry and natural resource professionals worldwide.”

About Handheld Systems Inc

Handheld Systems is a leading provider of rugged handheld computers and is an Authorized Itronix/Husky and Psion Gold Business Partner. The company has provided high-quality rugged handhelds and support services to businesses worldwide since 1994.