No, I mean, really, what is Capture OnTheGo?

Alright so you’ve looked at the Capture OnTheGo website, you’ve seen the presentation and the solutions overview. Maybe you even read the whole documentation! And yet if you’re like a lot of other people that went through these motions, maybe you’re still sitting there going… But what do I DO with it? What is it, really?

You already know that COTG (you don’t mind if I call it COTG, do you? Thanks) is kind of a 3-part solution: You create COTG documents in PlanetPress Connect and automate their use through PlanetPress Workflow; You manage the generated documents and the users who have access to them through the Web Admin Panel; The users access those documents from the COTG app on iOS or Android devices. That’s all good, we all get it. And now for the meat: what the heck can you do with that process?

Cordova, Capture OnTheGo and Features

First, FORGET about the design, the workflow, the panel and the application. We’ll come back to this later but before, we must establish things about the actual technology we’re using, what makes it tick, and how it can serve our purpose.

Basically, COTG is built on something called the “Cordova API”, and this is the really important bit to explain what we’re able to actually do and how it works. Normally, in order to create a mobile application for use on an Android, iOS or Windows phone or table, one needs to learn the inner workings of the programming language used by that device (Java for Android, for example).  This means learning the specific ways in which to use different phone features on each device (accessing the camera in Java on Android is completely different than doing the same thing on iOS), and then spend hours, weeks, hours, building their application. And then if they want to cater to another type of device they have to start all over.

So Cordova solved this by creating a “layer” between the device’s hardware and a web page. When inside a Cordova application, you just use JavaScript within an HTML page to call special functions (like triggering the camera or getting the GPS position). In the “background”, Cordova actually calls the camera or the GPS by whichever method is supported by the device, on whatever platform it is. But here’s the thing: Cordova is made to build actual applications – full, cross-platform apps with full functionality, using a single API and language (HTML, CSS, Javascript). This means that anyone that becomes an expert at COTG (as in, actually looking at the JavaScript code and understanding it) can literally take that knowledge and build their own app on iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.

Cordova has many different plugins that you’d normally have to “install” in your Cordova project in order to use them. There are plugins for the camera, GPS, device information, touch events, notifications, contacts (creating and loading), orientation, accelerometers, etc etc etc. We have access to all of them.

So what about the app, workflow and panel?

Now you might be asking yourself, what’s the point of COTG then? Well, we’re not in the business of building applications, we’re in the business of building interactive business communications. We generate one-use or multiple-use documents already… and now, we want to make them interactive. And THIS, my friend, is where the symbiosis between PlanetPress Connect and Capture OnTheGo comes in, like a chocolate cheesecake or chocolate-vanilla twist soft-serve ice cream (I’m feeling poetic… and hungry). The documents we’re generating in PlanetPress Connect that we’ll be sending to Capture OnTheGo are essentially custom-made, self-contained applications that can run on the device. COTG documents/forms can be as simple as just taking a photo and as complicated as a full-fledged application like any other you can see on your smart phone (ok there are some limitations, I’ll admit…) PlanetPress Connect then makes it interactive with automation, triggers, business rules, etc.

So essentially, Capture OnTheGo is an application that makes your transactional documents interact with features on a phone like a simple email or webpage simply cannot fathom. It’s building interactive, awesome documents (I like to call them micro-applications, personally) that can make the life of the user so much easier in so many different situations.

And the way you can manage all of this is, like I said at the beginning, to generate those interactive documents in PlanetPress Connect. This can be done with all the tools that the Designer module can already offer, with data coming from any source the DataMapper can manage (and as you know that’s, like, a lot), then send them to the device through PlanetPress Workflow automatically or on-demand.  The Admin Panel lets you manage those documents and system users. And finally, the Capture OnTheGo mobile application is where you use those documents and trigger the process that pushes the data back into Workflow when you hit submit.

Oh and by the way you can do all of the actual data gathering (using the application) completely offline, assuming you synchronized the documents first and they’re available on the device. Data submission is queued until an internet connection is available. Cool, right?

But… WHAT do I DO with it?

So, I really hope I got your brain pumping ideas already, but you might still not have a clear picture of the type of things you can do with the power of the Cordova API inside of documents generated through Connect. And now we come to the cherry on top of the sundae, the sauce on the meat (there I go with food again): IDEAS. Some of the following ideas may be implemented in future demos, some already have been made, and some are really, really far-fetched and may never see the light of day, but I want to throw them out there anyway. Here we go.


photo confirmation0photoboothapp10


This one was already implemented at the #OL20Party we had recently. Basically, using the Camera API, we were able to take a pictures of guests at the party (that was the only Cordova part, really), then we tagged all the guests that were present using a simple autocomplete feature. That data (the photo and the guest list) was then sent to a PlanetPress Workflow instance on our party server, where a few things happened:

  • The Photo was placed in a location that was accessible by the party “Wall”, where they were shown in a slideshow along with other party details, so guests could see them right away.
  • PlanetPress Connect generated a Web page containing the photo as well as some sharing links, so the guest could share it on social media.
  • An SMS message was sent to the guest with a link to that page (or an email if we didn’t have their cell phone).

Quite a simple application of COTG I’ll admit, but one does not need a complex document to get it, right?

Delivery Form

This one is the basis for the existing online Capture OnTheGo demonstration that you can try out yourself. A delivery person starts their day with a mobile device and COTG, containing a list of all the items they need to deliver during the day. When they arrive at their destination, they can use the electronic document to confirm that each item was delivered (with a simple checkmark). If something is damaged or wrong, a picture can be taken (using the Camera API again), and a drawing can be made on top of that photo (using the touch screen), for example to circle a damaged box or a part number (that’s the Annotation APIs). A signature is required on the page using a finger or a capacitive pen (that’s the Signature API), and finally the GPS location is tagged to confirm where that signature and delivery took place (geolocation API).

When the form is submitted, the client receives a confirmation email with a digital version of the form (in PDF), where the picture, checkmarks, and signature all appear.

Inventory Management

Taking inventory is a pain, that’s for sure. But imagine if you had a quicker way to do it using a form that contains all the inventory you’re expected to see, and actions to take in case the inventory doesn’t match: take a picture, scan a barcode (QR Code API), enter a new count (that displays the difference), etc. Submitting this form would automatically generate a report indicating the differences in inventory, actions to take, it would automatically update your inventory management system, etc.

Car Rental Report

The last time I brought a rental car back, I remember having to go through a printed form where the guy basically looked in and around the car, adding a circle if he encountered any “new” damage to the car. “Old” damage, as I recall, was another sheet with different circles on it (oh and that was obviously a scanned, then printed, sheet). Then, he noted the odometer and fuel tank values down, presumably to later enter them in the computer. So what if, instead of having 2-3 sheets of paper and then having to digitize all of that later, the guy had a tablet where he had a schema of the car with existing damage on it, went around the car using the annotation API to circle (or dot) new damage, and not only entered the odometer value but could take a picture of the dashboard to legally confirm all the values were, indeed, as written? Then, apply a signature, and by the time the client is back to the front desk, they’ve received an email confirming the data, the front desk has a copy of the report on their screen, and all they need is now the payment. How many minutes saved, I wonder.

So there we have it

Have any questions? Maybe I got your imagination into overdrive and you’ve got some awesome idea you want to share with the class? The comments below are ready for you!


Get updates
Like what you see? Sign up and get an approximately-quarterly digest.
  • Marc Bélanger

    Lively and interesting to read; love the style. Great work! Bravo Évelyne. 🙂