Missionary Smart Phone/PDA Ideas

Discussions around miscellaneous technologies and projects for the general membership.
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Missionary Smart Phone/PDA Ideas


Post by jeffszone »

Here's a list of 51 ideas off the top of my head in terms of how missionaries could benefit from using a wireless smart phone with PDA functionality, as opposed to a land line phone in their apartment. Of course most of these features would require some special software:
  1. Have GPS with a map so the missionaries have some clue where they are at any given time.
  2. It would be helpful if the ward mission leader could login to a website to see this map and actually be able to find where the Elders are too.
  3. Map should clearly indicate assigned area, unit, stake, and mission boundaries. If missionaries don't know where they are and don't know where the boundaries are, then we can't really expect them to stay within their assigned areas.
  4. From a web based applet, the mission should be able to "highlight" areas on the map in a different color and send text messages with remarks such as "I want you to focus on this neighborhood, or pay less attention to that neighborhood". Or, the ward mission leader could do the same thing to indicate a neighborhood that member-missionaries have worked through and what their efforts were.
  5. Smart phone should automatically synchronize itself over the air with the MLS records over the air so that ward members are in the missionary’s address book, and the map is marked with the location of each member's home.
  6. All referrals or investigators in the database would be sent over the air to the device and plotted on the map in a similar fashion. Icons could represent the type of referral or status of the investigator. For example, a Book of Mormon icon on the map would indicate a family that needs to be delivered a copy of the Book of Mormon. A “3” icon might represent someone who is being taught the 3rd discussion lesson.
  7. Tapping on any member or investigator marked on the map would bring up their contact sheet. Any phone numbers they have would be listed with a “call” button next to it. Tapping that would auto-dial their number.
  8. An optional ear piece would be available that the Elder’s could use while making several calls to setup appointments, so that they could hold the smart phone in their hands while they talk and browse through the various screens in the middle of a conversation. This way they can check their calendar and mark down new appointments while they are on the phone.
  9. Members could login to the Local Unit Website’s missionary section, and submit a form to invite the missionaries over for dinner. The form would have some calendar / date selection options to allow the member to specify multiple available days of the week or month, and the preferred times. Dates which the missionaries already have dinner appointments setup would be grayed out for those times of the day (but lunch for example might still be an option). A comments box would allow them to type a message to send to the missionaries. Just for kicks, they could select from one of various food icons (a slice of pizza, a fish, a hamburger, a turkey, etc.) that might jokingly correspond to their preferred dish or type of food. The missionary’s smart phone would beep and flash this icon on the map in place of the member’s normal icon. Tapping it brings up the message, and allows them to call the member back to confirm a specific appointment time. They could then mark this time down and it would update their calendar both on the smart phone and in a less detailed fashion on the LUWS dinner calendar.
  10. As any appointment approaches the number of hours / minutes left to get there will be displayed in small print below the appointment’s icon on the map. Shortly before the appointment it will begin to blink this icon, or optionally beep to remind the Elders of where they are expected to be.
  11. Elders could tap any location on the map and get the most efficient driving directions route calculated from their present location to that destination.
  12. All potential investigators could be flagged with the preferred times to come. Currently referral submission forms allow the contact to be noted if mornings, afternoons, or evenings are best. This information would be made known to the device.
  13. Each evening or morning Elders could review all their specific appointments setup for the coming day. An option would generate the most efficient driving directions map to get to each appointment in their proper sequence. Should there be any flexible appointments marked such as “come after 3 and before 8”, and there are appointments a few appoints spread during that time, the device would be smart enough to suggest a time that would fit in-between the other appointments based on their locations in such a way as to minimize travel distances. If need be the Elders could call that person to confirm they will be available at that time.
  14. When there are gaps in the schedule with no appointments, the device would highlight on the map the area along their driving route from one appointment to the next, displaying how much extra time they might expect to have before needing to get to the next stop.
  15. This map could plot out all potential referrals to follow up with in the neighborhoods in which they have extra time without going far out of their way. Icons could represent level of interest or nature of the potential follow-up contact. For example, those who were found through door knocking efforts and indicated a mild interest but were busy or didn’t want to be taught initially could be represented with an icon of a door. Those which were former media referrals might have a TV icon, etc. Tapping each of these brings up their referral history with all their calls to/from the MTC, previous visit attempts, and comments from each of the missionaries that have worked with them in the past.
  16. These icons could be color coded based on a ranking previous Elders specified as to the likelihood they might hope to make progress with the investigator. To help see where efforts might be most effective, Elders could filter the view to only plot addresses of contacts that are not older than a desired number of months, or excluding those that the previous missionaries felt would be unlikely to accept our message.
  17. The map background could be highlighted in different colors to represent the concentration of previous door knocking efforts in each neighborhood, kind of like a weather radar map. Elders could glance at it and know immediately which neighborhoods have not been adequately door-knocked in recent times.
  18. A slider could re-generate the color highlighting based on statistics from various different historical time periods. You could actually watch the map animated, transforming over a timeline providing a visual history of door knocking efforts concentrated in different neighborhoods. This allows you to see which neighborhoods may have been really covered well in previous years but have been neglected more recently, or vice versa. (It would of course take some time to build up a set of historical data for this purpose.)
  19. The Ward Mission Leader could promote member involvement in missionary work, and get members to announce a regular schedule of when they might be able to participate – such as Thursdays, the 2nd Saturday of the month, or whenever people are available. This information could be entered through a website, and the mission leader could see the location of where the member is that is available. If the member suggests participating when he gets off work, an alternate address of availability could be specified and seen on the map as well.
  20. After getting all of the member helpers with their regular schedules entered, and the offerings of dinner appointments into the system and plotted on the map, the mission leader could begin to see which areas would be best to concentrate on during any given day, so as to permit him to come up with a regular schedule for the Elders to aim for. For example, to try to cover an outlying village in the unit boundaries once a week on Tuesdays because Brother So-and-So is available those evenings in that area to assist or give the Elders a ride home.
  21. The mission leader could draw out on the map various “loop” regions based on the Loop Principle used by UPS for efficient package delivery routes, and adapt this to be used for suggesting preferred appointment times in any given area. What you do with this is select the main highway or most direct road to get to each community or population concentration within the boundaries. Then you look for terrain obstacles such as rivers or dead-end roads, or simply gravel back roads that are relatively midway off the beaten path between each of the main routes to opposing communities. These obstacles become the “boundaries” between one “loop” and the next. Each loop area could be assigned to be a preferred day of the week. The most distant location from the missionary’s apartment would default to mid-day, so you spend your mornings heading up one side of the loop to get to the community, and then work your way back to the apartment in the evenings along the other side of this looped region. The zones would be broken up into preferred time periods as to place the missionaries back in the vicinity of a member’s home around dinner time. The full time & ward / branch missionaries could see these zones and preferred time definitions to get an idea of the game plan of where the Elders will try to be on a regular schedule.
  22. When these loop zones and their preferred times & days are in the system, Elders setting up new appointments could simply select the location of an investigator, and then have the device pop up with a list of preferred appointment times to suggest, such as “How about Tuesday afternoon between 2 and 4?” If that doesn’t work for the investigator’s schedule, the missionaries could just go down the list of whatever times the device suggests so as to book all appointments with the minimum travel distances required that is fitting with the investigator’s schedule and members availability to assist.
  23. When speaking with investigators on the phone, the MTC Referral Center missionaries & volunteers could see these local zones highlighted on a map that pops up on their screen based on caller’s address. The Referral Center representative could invite the caller to be visited by the missionaries, with a more personalized line, such as “Actually we have some missionaries in your local area. It looks like Elder Smith & Elder Bronson have typically been getting to your neighborhood on Thursday evenings, and other parts of the week on occasion. Would you mind if they stop by and share a message about…?”
  24. At this point if an invitation to be visited is accepted, the MTC representative could keep the caller on the line making conversation while attempting to page the local missionaries. They could click a button from a computer at the MTC that would cause the local Elder’s smart phone to beep or vibrate and pop up with the new referral’s information that has been entered so far, while that referral is still on the phone with the MTC in a live call. The Elders could respond to the appointment request right there on the spot.
  25. If Elders are presently teaching someone when their phone beeps, one would continue teaching the local investigators while the other very briefly taps on the screen to respond to the request. He would simply tap “Yes” to denote they are busy teaching at that moment. The rest of the screen would then list suggested appointment times that are open on their calendar, ranked in order based on the new referral’s proximity to other appointments or location in respect to their master schedule. The Elder would simply check off which of the suggested appointment time periods are okay, and click close. This information would then pop up on the MTC representative’s screen who could ask the caller if the local missionaries could stop by on Tuesday between 4 and 6 PM, or whatever the Elders checked off from the list of available time slots. The caller could then say that 5:00 would be better, and the MTC representative would specify this in the computer and tell the caller that he/she will have Elder Bronson or Elder Smith give them a call to confirm the time.
(...to be continued, post is too long...)
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Missionary Smart Phone/PDA Ideas (continued)


Post by jeffszone »

26. Since the Elders already specified that they are currently meeting with an investigator, their phone would remain silent but the display would pop up with the information on the selected appointment time. It would automatically be added to their calendar, and a to-do list entry would be created to call the investigator and confirm the time. As they leave the family they are currently visiting, the menu left on the screen would have an option to auto-dial the new referral’s number and confirm their new appointment. The pop-up screen could even say who it was that had taken their call at the MTC, so the Elder could introduce themselves over the phone by saying “Hello, I’m Elder Bronson, is this Jessica? Great, I understand you were just speaking with Sister Wilcox. She tells me you would be interested in having us visit on Tuesday evening. Okay? Alright, we’ll see at 5:00.”
27. If Elders marked that they were not in the middle of an appointment and weren’t that busy when the MTC paged their smart phone, the same options as far as suggested appointment times would still pop up on their screen for the Elders to check off which are okay. However, in addition to a close button there would be an alternate button at the bottom of the screen to invite the call to be patched through. Upon clicking this the available appointment times would pop up on the Referral Center representative’s computer screen with a big prominent button to call the local missionaries, with their names displayed next to it. The referral center representative could say to the caller, “Let me see if I can call Elder Bronson or Elder Smith, hold on just a second here.” Upon clicking the button, the Elders cell phone would ring and be initiated in a 3-way phone call with the investigator and the referral center representative they have just been speaking with. So someone calling in response to a TV commercial could learn about the church a bit from the referral center representative, be invited to be visited by the local missionaries, and speak directly with them locally to confirm an appointment time all in a single phone call.
28. Since the Elders might be out and about going from house to house at the time this call is received, they might find it cumbersome to plug in their ear piece so they can see the phone display while speaking on it. As such the referral center representative can see all the information they would see while they are on the call as far as their available appointment times and areas, to assist in setting it up. They could all agree to the appointment time, and the referral center rep that is still on the 3-way call could enter the information into the computer and have it automatically sent to the Elder’s phone and added to their calendar as soon as they hang up.
29. If missionaries knock on a door and discover an inactive member that is not on the unit’s membership records, the smart phone could have a screen to request records into the unit by filling out their full name, birth date, address, and phone number. Submitting the request from the smart phone would act the same as requesting the records from the MLS system in the clerk’s office. The next time the clerk does a send/receive, it would have their records waiting with a note indicating that they were located by Elder Smith & Elder Bronson, or whoever were involved.
30. From MLS, priesthood leaders could optionally assign the Elders to home teach certain less active members. If the Elders are given a home teaching assignment in MLS, it would automatically appear somewhere in the smart phone and be added to their to-do list.
31. When submitting new referrals to the database, we already have an option to enter an e-mail address for new investigators. Currently this e-mail address field doesn't appear to get used for much of anything. Perhaps the Elders could send a quick e-mail from the smart phone, such as "Tried to call & stopped by, but missed you today. When would be a good time for our next appointment?" Restrictions of course would have to be in place as far as how that is used, perhaps to only allow usage for e-mail addresses that are in the system or approved by the mission leader. E-mails sent would always be appended with links to www.mormon.org in the message signature for investigators to read some helpful information about the church.
32. Only phone numbers that are in the local area code / exchange prefixes, or in the referral database or ward membership list, or stake or mission address books could be dialed. Missionaries that are given a new phone number could add it to the referral contact sheet, but if the number doesn't belong to a potential investigator and isn’t in the authorized area codes or prefixes, then adding it to their address book would cause a message to be sent to either the ward mission leader or to the mission with a comment of what it is for. Non-investigator phone numbers would have to be approved before the phone would allow them to be dialed.
33. The mission office could get reports of the calculated number of miles required to drive to every appointment in their scheduled sequence over a given month, and see a chart that compares the calculated necessary mileage against the actual mileage used in each vehicle, as odometer readings are already entered at gas stations on the pay-at-the-pump systems. This would aid the mission president in identifying those who are highly efficient on miles verses those who aren’t, in order to find out why. Perhaps it is the members that are more willing to give the missionaries rides in certain areas, and identifying how the invitations are being extended to members in that ward might be helpful in finding ways to help members begin to get involved in missionary work in another ward.
34. Missionaries could note any special needs of the residents they contact, such as the elderly, young children, medical conditions, lack of transportation, etc. During an emergency or disaster situation, after seeing to the safety of our members if there is any additional time or resources available we could import this list of investigators into something like the Emergency Preparedness Database (see http://beta.tech.lds.org/forum/showthread.php?t=306 ) to coordinate with response teams and send members out to go check on families in the community to see if they need anything during a prolonged blackout, or have anywhere to go in an evacuation.
35. An invitation to an upcoming ward social or similar event could be entered via the smart phone or through a website. MTC Referral Center representatives could see this bulletin whenever they speak to callers within the unit boundaries. They could invite the potential investigator to the ward social or other activity over the phone.
36. Elders should put their phone on silent mode when they are teaching an investigator. Rather than going to plain old voice mail the unanswered calls could be directed to the MTC referral center via a toll-free number. By doing so the referral center phone system can pick up the call ANI information which includes both the dialing party’s number (caller ID) as well as the Elders number that the call was forwarded through. Both the caller’s referral history, as well as the Elder’s local information could pop up on the representative’s computer screen. The MTC rep could be prompted to say something along the lines of “Hello, I’m elder/sister so-and-so. Elder Smith & Elder Bronson aren’t available right now. Is there anything I could help you with?
37. If it is a member calling to see when the missionaries can go on splits, or an investigator calling to setup an appointment, the MTC representative could check the Elder’s schedule online and follow procedures outlined in ideas #24-26 above to text-page the missionaries to confirm an appointment time discretely. Or, the MTC rep could take down a message for the Elder’s to return their call, which would be sent to the phone as a text message linked to the member/investigator’s contact/referral sheet comments. Alternately the rep could transfer the caller to the local Elder’s voice mail. This provides the immediate opportunity for investigators to have some of their follow-up questions answered by missionaries at the MTC during those calls that would have otherwise simply been handled by an answering machine.
38. Missionaries try to keep investigator appointments under 45 minutes. If the Elders go to an appointment and the GPS location of their phone remains at that same location for a lengthy period of time (say over a couple of hours), a server could page the ward mission leader via a text message sent to his personal cell phone, or call him with a pre-recorded alert. The mission leader or someone could call Elders and see what they are up to. If there’s no response, someone could go to the address and check on their status & safety.
39. If the missionaries lose their phone, they or the mission leader could login to the website to figure out where they left it. If a missionary habitually is leaving the thing somewhere, it could get flagged for someone to review with the missionary how to properly take care of things.
40. Elders would have to login to the phone using a password. After an hour of idle time it would time out and require a login again. This prevents lost / stolen phones from posing a security risk as far as investigator contact information. Phones reported missing would not have access to any of the databases, but would be sent a text message to person who finds it with instructions on where it should be returned.
41. The phone would automatically go to silent mode when it is in a church building, based on GPS location data.
42. Smart phone would be loaded with a copy of the scriptures which can be searched to quickly find a particular verse the missionaries might have come to mind during a discussion.
43. Searchable online access to the conference talks and other Ensign Articles form LDS.org would be available to the missionaries.
44. If sufficient bandwidth exists, small streaming videos could play that are posted to LDS.org.
45. All the pictures form the Gospel Art Picture Kit could be displayed on this thing, as small visual aids during teaching efforts.
46. The monthly home teaching message would be readily linked from a main menu on the device.
47. Caller ID for all received calls would jump to the person’s contact or referral sheet, along with a list of their scheduled or prior appointments, teaching record forms, or comments entered by previous missionaries including MTC comments from each call/offer.
48. Smart phone would coordinate appointments that are in close proximity to one another but divided by unit boundary lines. The mission could decide when to allow missionaries to cross the boundaries if it would save on travel miles if there aren’t any other investigators out in that area in one of the units.
49. When booking appointments, the smart phone would know in advance which weeks the missionaries are scheduled to have a vehicle if they are sharing one with elders in a neighboring unit. It would give priority to book more appointments on the non-car weeks in areas where they can get to on bike, or in conjunction with members who can give them rides on certain days. It would flag areas that they would need a vehicle to get to with comments so that they don’t accidentally book an appointment without having sufficient means to get there.
50. An electronic version of the Preach My Gospel manual and other guidelines would be loaded onto the device for missionaries to read from in their spare moments.
51. As Elders walk down the street to knock on doors, based on GPS data it would automatically bring up the contact history with each address. On each attempt they could specify the potential investigator’s status – not interested, busy, come back another time, interested, already attends some other church, etc. They could even specify notes such as which denomination, so on a future pass through the neighborhood they could have something to go on that might strike up a conversation about their beliefs.
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Post by bhofmann »

What would be the cost for something like this?
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Post by mkmurray »

I'm sure the leadership of the Church has already considered PDA phones a few times. As thoughtful and insightful as your list is, I'm sure the ultimate decision is based on revelation.
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Post by jeffvand »

Wow! This is a great list! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. I have long thought that PDA devices would be very useful to missionaries.

Of course the biggest headache would be putting a device that valuable in the hands of 19 year old boys. We all know what a tax they put on mission cars. :-)

The productivity possibilities are endless though. I would love to see something like this adopted. Even if they couldn't adopt smart phone (cost, internet access, etc), even pocket pc's with well designed tracking systems would be invaluable! Maps could still be uploaded, contacts could still be tracked... everything.
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Endless possibilties, but...


Post by BrainClay »

I agree that these are great ideas! I think the Church would have pretty serious concerns about 'How do you prevent music and other media (images) from being loaded onto them?'. Also, a major part of Preach My Gospel is teaching the missionaries to use planners. Today, most missionaries only use the planners to record appointments, rather than notes, todos, and so on. I can't emphasize enough how important this is.

President Robert C. Oaks of the Presidency of the Seventy recently said that learning how to set goals, then plan to achieve those goals is 'foundational', and a skill that will make returned missionaries successful in whatever pursuit they choose. We spend a LOT of time training our missionaries how to do this, and they really need a lot of coaching. I feel that their six week planners are the perfect tool to help them master this foundational skill. A PDA would be too advanced of a tool. Nothing beats pen and paper when learning a new skill.

As a side note, our mission is piloting a (successful) program whereby the missionaries are housed by members. About 90% of our missionaries have been doing this for over a year, and it is working extremely well. One problem though is that the missionaries tend to move more often, and the cost of installing a land line is pretty high, so most have cell phones that they can take with them when they move. However, we do not allow them to take them out of their homes - they are left behind when they go out to work.
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Post by JamesAnderson »

Those are all valid concerns. I'm thinking though that the technology will advance where there will be a way to have an electronic version of the six-week planner (and as an aside, there are many who wish that some of the planners out there were as good as the missionary planner, as shown in Preach My Gospel) is now).

I say, not ready yet, but there are technologies coming down the line that could make some of this possible and minimize if not eliminate completely many of the risks. One commercial application right now is a small device that you can tune in Internet radio stations such as the streaming audio on byuradio.org or classical89.org anywhere there is a wireless hotspot. I know of some medical people who do home health here in Provo that take a laptop and enter anything they need to while at the patients home and it's transmitted back to the main system before the worker has even left the patient's home. That should give you an idea or two.

Well, hotspots are not everywhere yet, I'm not sure what it is going to take to complete a major regional network in a given area in the US (things are different in some other nations) although I have heard a couple of cities in the Bay Area are offering free citywide wireless access already. It would take alot of effort for the industry to set something up like that anyway and I don't see things getting there anytime really soon.

The other issue is of course the possible misuse. But it has been largely proven that VPN setups like with the FHC Internet setups and some other things, that it can be controlled and I think that control feature setup is going to be mature even more relatively soon.
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Post by bhofmann »

This really is a great list. It makes me want a smart phone with PDA functionality. It may even give me the information I need to convince my wife that I need it!
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Post by Shane Hathaway-p40 »

This is a good list. From what I can tell, everything you mentioned should be possible with an OpenMoko phone.


OpenMoko is the first completely open cell phone. You can reprogram it any way you like, from the kernel upward. It has a GPS module, a high resolution screen, and Internet connectivity via GPRS.

A project to build missionary software for an OpenMoko phone could be amazing. The phones would not be cheap, and the cellular service would cost a lot, but if the phone makes missionaries significantly more effective, then the cost is justifiable. Perhaps an entrepreneur could do a pilot in a particular mission.
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Post by tomj »

Call me Old Fashioned, on my mission I would have loved to a device like this, yeah, even just a cell phone would have been nice, however, I look at it as a distraction both for Elders and for Investigators as well. I think that eventually when smart phones are common to all people it could be a wonderful tool.

I think about investigators perceptions of these 19 year olds carrying around smart phones. I think there is something to be said about the simple, humble, appearance of missionaries, not a lot of bells and wistles. The Missionary Planners though sort of dull do the trick, plus you don't have to charge them, reboot them, back them up (because your comp has one too) and no one wants them, so they don't become a target for robbery.

I do agree that there are a ton of useful things that could be done with them. But my vote is no right now. I can't see the church forking out $300ea. for 30,000-60,000 of these things + Mothly phone & Data plans, even with bulk plan/purchase savings this would be a tremendous cost.
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