Smartphones have indisputably change the face of human communication. No longer are we bound by the confines of terrestrial wired audio communication. We can see exactly where we are on earth, send photos and videos to our friends and family, and most importantly we can check our Facebook messages. Smartphones have driven revolutions in Egypt and Libya, made it possible to play Scrabble with strangers half a world away and have made scanning sensitive documents a breeze for the corporate spy.
For all intents and purposes, phones have become fully functional handheld computers. So now that we have these powerful technological idols shaping the future of our existence, to what end can they serve those of you in the fields of private investigation, serving of process, and bail enforcement?
Today we will look at a wide range of useful smartphone applications on multiple platforms, and how they can serve you in the field.
TrueServe – Android/iPhone – http://www.truthinservice.com
TrueServe is a professional process serving platform from JJL Technologies. It provides businesses and clients with a web based record of all serving attempts, and photographs, complete with time stamps and geolocation data.
According to a description of the service, “The TrueServe iPhone app will route your daily run for you, locate the closest paper to your location (using GPS technology), keep a log of all service history for each and every server, as well as create a level of accountability for you and your clients that has never been offered before in the process serving industry.”
While the app itself is free, it requires a subscription from http://www.truthinservice.com. There is a $79 lite version for “independent process servers who need to track their serves with pictures and gps.” which gives you its most basic functionality for storage of up to 1,000 images. Or the $300 Pro version which has a more features including multiple-servers tracking and document storage. There is also an Enterprise edition for businesses that want more control over the TrueServe functionality.
VehiCal / aCar – iPhone/Android (respectively)
VehiCal and FuelLog are both applications used to keep track of your vehicle’s performance, mileage, maintenance, and business trip expenses. These apps are great for keeping the most accurate records possible.
Beyond that they keep extremely informative statistics about your vehicle, so you can know if its performance is degrading, when it should ideally get a tune-up or oil change, and how much you drive in an average month.
Upvise – iPhone/Android – http://www.upvise.com/
Upvise is a handy little piece of business management software. It allows you to basically run a paperless office right off of your iPhone or Android device. You can keep your books, maintain records of expenses, keep timecards and just about anything else. It’s fairly customizable as well so you can create your own in-app forms that can help you with your investigation.
It stores all your data in their cloud-storage service, so you don’t have to worry about grabbing the information off of your phone. With a free account you get limited functionality, but for $49 a year you get the fully featured app plus 1GB of storage on their cloud.
Hootsuite – iPhone/Android – http://www.hootsuite.com/
Hootsuite is the ultimate in social media management. It’s a tool you simply must have if you’re doing your own online marketing and community management. With HootSuite you can manage multiple Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ping.fm, WordPress, Myspace, FourSquare and mixi accounts from one centralized hub. With the app you can write updates, schedule when they will post, check analytics on your various profiles, and interact with your customers. The app is free, and Hootsuite only costs $5.99 a month for a pro account. However they have a few extras that cost more if you really want them.
IRBmobile – iPhone/Android – http://www.irbsearch.com/mobile.shtml
Last year IRBSearch announced the launch of the IRBmobile for iPhone and Android. By simply logging into your IRBSearch principal account at www.irbmobile.com using your smartphone you can run person searches while out in the field.
According to their website, if you activate IRBmobile right now, you get your first 15 searches for free during the first week. They caution that it is only fully tested with the iPhone, iPad, and a few select Android devices, but having used IRBmobile personally, I can tell you that this app offers an essential tool to any professionals information needs while in the field.
GoToMeeting – iPhone/Android – http://www.gotomeeting.com
GoToMeeting is a popular web-conferencing system. It allows you to have a remote meeting with anyone you invite. It’s fairly simple, inexpensive, and feature rich. With GoToMeeting participants can view presentations and share desktops. Now with the iPhone and Android apps you can participate in meetings and view presentations from anywhere, even the back of a van during a stakeout.
GoToMeeting can host up to 15 people at a time, and it’s totally free for everyone except the person hosting the meeting. There’s a 30-day free trial available, but after that it’s $49 a month. If you have employees you would like to host meetings with spread out over a large area it is an ideal solution.
DropBox – iPhone/Android – http://www.dropbox.com
DropBox is about as simple and straightforward as you can get. It is a shared folder of computer files that synchronize on the web in a cloud. So you essentially have a folder on your computer that you can share with your co-workers or employees and everyone will automatically download and have the same version of all the same files. Whether they’re word documents, audio recordings, photographs, etc. There’s nothing more to it. And with the iPhone or Android app you can gain access to those files on the go. So if you’re in the field and need a copy of some notes or a photograph you can get to it. Likewise, if you want to immediately share a photograph you’ve just taken it’s simple.
It’s also great to have just for yourself, as your documents will immediately be present on all of your computers and devices.
And it’s free. For $0 you get 2 GB of free cloud storage which is usually more than enough if you’re sharing simple documents and small compressed images. However if you have need more storage they have 50GB accounts for $9.99 a month or 100GB for $19.99 a month.
Dragon Dictation – iPhone – http://www.nuancemobilelife.com/
Dragon Dictation allows you to write hands-free e-mails, text-messages and documents. If you find yourself trailing a target and need to make notes, there’s no reason to let the thought escape you while you wait for a convenient time to write it down. Now you can just tell your iPhone what you want, and it will write it down for you. Best of all, it’s totally free!
This application isn’t available on the Android platform, because Android phones have this functionality built in as the voice-to-text input.
Evernote – Android/iPhone – http://www.evernote.com
Evernote is an amazing platform for keeping track of notes, thoughts, photos, ideas, and anything else. It’s great for your everyday life, and it’s extremely useful for organizing information during an investigation.
First you have to setup an account on the Evernote website at www.evernote.com. Then you get the app for either your iPhone or Android. Everything is kept in a centralized platform so everything you save is available from everywhere else. So if you make notes about an investigation on your PC in the evening, you can review those notes the next day from your phone.
Evernote also scans all notes and images for text, making them searchable later. Even if it’s a photograph or scan of a document, Evernote’s OCR function will make it searchable by text.
You can categorize information based on whatever criteria you wish. You can create a folder for each case and keep all your photos, notes, and information organized inside that folder.
When you make notes with your phone, it stores the geolocation data which is viewable from your PC later, so you can see exactly where you were when you made the note. The same applies for audio, photos and videos. Everything you create is immediately uploaded to the Evernote server.
BluffMyCall – Android/Jailbroken iPhone/Any Phone – http://www.bluffmycall.com
BluffMyCall is an amazingly clever tool that allows you to mask where you’re calling from by allowing you to put in any phone number you’d like to have show up on the target’s caller ID. The service is free provided you don’t mind sitting through a couple of advertisements before the call begins, but there is also a paid version that allows you to get a set amount of calling time as well as voice-changing and call recording functionality.
There is an app for the android, but it isn’t available from the Android Market. Instead you have to visit http://www.bluffmycall.com/g1/download with your Android phone to get the installation file. It also requires you to turn off the security function that all Android phones have preventing them from installing unauthorized software. Likewise, for the iPhone it must be jailbroken and installed from the Cydia app store.
If you don’t want to install an application though, there is another option: If you’re in front of a computer, you can set up the call from their website and then simply dial the number they give you to begin your call. But the apps make it more convenient out in the field.
Square – Android/iPhone – http://www.squareup.com
Square is a marvel of simplicity. It begins with a small free piece of hardware that you attach to your iPhone, which allows you to scan credit cards. Square then processes the payment for you, takes 2.75% off the top, and deposit it into your bank account the next day. They accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
Square also allows you to paperlessly e-mail or SMS receipts to your customers, accept signatures, easily apply necessary tax, and keeps analytics and records of your transactions on your phone. The data can all be easily exported as a CSV file which can then be imported into your bookkeeping or spreadsheet software.
CallMynah – All Bluetooth Enabled Phones – http://www.callmynah.com
The CallMynah is not an application, but a piece of hardware. It is basically a recording device that uses your phone’s bluetooth functionality to capture your conversations and record them with total clarity. It’s not a high-tech spy device, as you certainly wouldn’t be able to intercept other people’s phone calls, but it is an extremely useful tool that has finally made it easy to record your own cell-phone conversations. Whether it’s an interview or what have you. It saves the date and time the call was made, and you can set it up to automatically record or not record calls from a specific number. The device can store up to 340 hours of audio.
Just make sure that you follow all state and federal laws governing your right to record conversations.