iPad great for autistic children

I know, I know, we talk a lot about Apple products. And, I know, we’re Apple geeks. But be honest. Every time again, the greatness of the brand is confirmed. And every time from a different angle. Take Shannon Rosa. Shannon won an iPad in a raffle. And when she came home she gave the iPad to Leo, her nine-year-old son. Leo is autistic. He is a very slow learner, he is not conversational and can have serious outbursts of anger. But when he, almost without any training, started to play with the iPad, his mother stood in awe. Intuitively he flicked though all the icons, trying one app after another. And he started to play with apps that help him how to spell, to make puzzles and to remember pictures. For 30 minutes straight. To the amazement of his mum.

In just the few months the iPad is on the market, developers many applications especially for users with special needs. And with success. Many autism experts and parents have used the iPad with these special apps in many occasions with autistic kids all around the world. All are amazed with the results it gives. Studies already show the results on the learning abilities of some of these children. In some cases, kids have been able to communicate directly with their parents for the first time in their lives, thanks to the iPad.

Rosa is very happy she won the raffle. And full of admiration with Apple’s CEO. “I don’t usually dabble in miracle-speak”, she says, “but I may erect a tiny altar for Steve Jobs in the corner of our living room.”

See SF weekly for the whole story: iHelp for Autism

How to use an iPad in business. Right now!

The iPad, one of the most imaginary mobile hardware devices of the last decennium. Long before the iPad was introduced people speculated about its features. More than 600,000 iPads were being pre-ordered by people who had never seen an iPad in real life (such as myself). The dust never settled and recently Apple announced to have sold 3,000,000 in just 80 days. With the European launch now in full process the production of the device has been ramped up to 1.2 million per month.

The iPad clearly went mainstream, also in the Netherlands. It is estimated that about 1 million people in the Netherlands are planning to buy an iPad. Comfortably positioned between a mobile phone and a laptop only the future will know which place this new device will hold in the digital ecosystem of the modern consumer and business person. It is indeed amazing that the mobile landscape drastically changed in only 3 months time (April – July)

In my view, four reasons account for the success of the iPad (in random order):

  • The lean mean marketing machine of Apple, being able to enormously hype this product
  • The design of the device
  • The intuitive User Interface (touch)
  • The App Store

Especially the latter significantly boosts the value creation of the iPad. With more than 200,000 iPhone apps running natively on the iPad and more than 15,000 native iPad applications ‘App development’ became one of the fastest growing industries in the digital era. The Operating System (iOS) on which Apps are based can be used for development on the iPad, as well as the iPhone and the iPod touch. It is expected that this year 100 million iOS devices will be on the market.

The App Store hosts a variety of categories, of which ‘Medical’ is one. This category, although small in number (91 medical apps for iPad, as per June – data Distimo) is certainly a financially interesting category. Data show that the average price of a medical app is about $42 (Distimo, June 2010), the highest pricing in the app store. Obviously it is unknown how successful these apps are, but the fact that touch-based computers (Windows-based tablet PCs) are well introduced in the medical world might indicate that this segment will embrace the iPad much more easily. Experts (Zachary, 2010) indicate that three segments currently have the biggest potential for adopting the iPad: Education, Healthcare and Enterprise.

We get a lot of questions from companies which gained interest in the iPad as business tool. The main question is: “I can see the future, but what can I do right now with the iPad to help improving the productivity of our employees, thereby not upsetting my entire IT department by introducing an ‘unknown’ device”? From a business point of view the iPads are pretty cheap, so usually investment in the hardware isn’t the issue. Main challenge is -as always- the content.

In this report it is explained how the iPad can be used as a viable business tool to boost productivity for companies who are open for the use of it, and the tactics to implement iPads in the workflow.

The iPad in six different Activity Groups
A tablet computer such as the iPad has a tremendous potential to replace current laptops in the sales force. Not only the light weight of the devices and the duration of the batteries (10 hours), but also the functionality of the iPad could give rise to a new use of mobile devices. Currently the main functionalities used on a sales rep’s laptop are:

  • E-mail
  • Internet
  • CRM system
  • Word processing
  • Excel use
  • Producing and giving presentations

To enable a constant workflow the laptop should be connected to the network at various intervals either wireless of via a cable.

Although all the above functionalities can be covered by the iPad, it is -after several weeks of usage- my opinion that the iPad is not yet ready to replace the laptop entirely. Especially in a Windows-dominated environment the biggest hurdle is the exchange between Office documents and documents created with the office apps from Apple (Pages, Numbers, Keynote). Moreover, there is no file structure, hence browsing through different folders is not possible. Most companies are not yet ready to transfer all our files to the cloud, which would make life simpler.

But that doesn’t mean there is no business case for the iPad. On the contrary.

The current incarnation of the iPad can be used in any organization in six Activity Groups (see figure). With the constant addition of functionalities over time, these Activity Groups can be further extended. As for now, these six groups will be handled by the iPad just fine.

Be aware that currently the iPad is not supported by most IT-organizations. This means that only functionalities can be used that do not require connection to the network. All functionalities that are either offline or receive data through an independent cloud service can be used. An exception to this is e-mail. Apparently iPhone users report perfect e-mail functionality due to the integration of Microsoft Exchange. IT departments often don’t know that the data is going to an iOS device. While I’m not supporting nonconformism to the company rules here, it is a fact that many iOS devices (iPhones in particular) enter companies ‘through the back door’. This is a serious issue for companies since company data can be compromised if not dealt with properly. Usually IT departments take a firm stand point by stating that these devices are not allowed. However, modern knowledge workers do not accept this attitude anymore and it’s time for IT to start thinking pro-actively and seek for opportunities, rather than threats.

Anyway, back to the six Activity Groups.

In the following paragraphs, each Activity Group will be explained briefly.

Activity Group 1: E-mail and agenda
The iOS installed on the iPad can handle communication through the Microsoft Exchange Server, which is commonly used in coorporations. To enable this on any device, a simple username and password will suffice. The only requirement is that the user should have the status ‘Smartphone User’ within Outlook Exchange, thus being able to receive and send e-mails through a mobile device. In the past usually only higher management got this privilege, but nowadays more and more also mere mortals are able to get this status.

The e-mail and agenda is being handled through the mail- and agenda client on the iPad. Since these programs are not Microsoft related but built by Apple, they do not resemble to familiar ‘Outlook look and feel’. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the user to decide, but in general e-mail and agenda clients are pretty straightforward.

The added value of accessing your e-mail and agenda through the iPad is without a doubt one of the most requested features of a mobile worker. Being able to access your e-mail on the fly, not only on an iPad but also on a smartphone will increase ROI of sales reps by 30-40% within 6 months of implementation, according to research.

Activity Group 2: Cloud-based platforms
Many Internal Social Collaboration Platforms are purely cloud-based, meaning that it is easily accessible through an iPad. All functionalities (except video which is Flash-based, although that will be solved in the near future) are available through the browser on the iPad (ideas, blog, wiki). Moreover, many vendors of cloud software have already an iPhone app available which will run on the iPad as well. If not,an iPad version is under construction.

People can access company information on any given time on any given place. They can collaborate on projects and create content as they go.

Activity Group 3: Product and Service Presentations
The iPad is the tool pur sang for giving one-to-one or one-to-few presentations. The build-in presentation software (Keynote) can handle a variety of presentations (though they must be converted from PowerPoint to Keynote). The real benefit lies in the interactivity one can achieve using the touch screen. the iPad can be used as an alternative to a paper sales aid, providing a more immersive experience for the viewer. Existing brochures can be transformed to digital versions and included with audio, video and animation. Going a step further, using a dynamic agenda enables the sales rep to tailor-made his/her story to the needs of the customer. Often those needs are discovered during a sales call and adapting the visual representation of the call is no doubt valuable for the success of the call.

One can make nice presentations with Keynote, but a more professional approach can currently only be achieved through expensive third-party involvement. For example, Time Magazine makes use of software designed by WoodWing. A complete package to design one magazine will costs around EUR 30,000 (software, hosting, licenses).

Another example of such an interactive magazine is Wired. Through a plug-in for standard design software (InDesign) this magazine is highly interactive and makes use of a variety of multimedia features (video, audio). The plug-in software, however, is not yet available to the public and as of yet it is unknown which business model will be chosen. It is expected that this software will become available end of this summer.

Activity Group 4: Business Intel
Several Apps provide the functionality to consolidate data and display the information in an easy to understand way. Sales, market shares, and similar business intrinsic data crucial to understand the development of the products and services can be accessed on the iPad. For example, at the moment of writing there is an App available which links directly to the sales data in for example a SAP system. Using this App, consolidated data can be presented in simple tables and graphs. There are more apps providing this functionality (i.e. Roambi) so that it needs to be evaluated which app fits our requirements best. In addition to internal data, the iPad can also be used for external business information. For that, and RSS reader can be used (see next point).

Activity Group 5: News Reader
One of the main activities the iPad is used for is news gathering The sheer availability of RSS readers on the App Store is a silent witness of the desire to consume news anywhere and anyplace. In most market segments there are online news sites dealing with subjects related to that segment and important to know. Usually these news sites have RSS feeds that can easily be incorporated into an RSS reader, thus providing the possibility to make news gathering much more efficient. In addition, sharing of this information is equally simple so that ‘cross-fertilization’ of information is stimulated.

Activity Group 6: Apps
It is difficult to write a paragraph about Apps if there are 200,000 iPhone Apps and more than 15,000 iPad Apps are available. Where to start? In 20 categories one can find Apps related to health, fun games, productivity, social networking, and all in-between. Apparently there is no limit to the imagination of developers and chances are that if you think about an App, somebody has already built it (or is building it as we speak). First and foremost the iPad must be considered as a productivity and presentation tool. Apps related to these categories must be sought and tried first. Some Apps are free and some are paid, making a clear policy on this important (although prices are usually a few Euros so financial risk is minimal). Test users should be given the possibility to experiment with Apps, enabling us to get a clear insight into the pros and cons of these Apps.

Closing remarks
Improving the productivity of the employees is a multi-facetted approach. Discipline, the right employees, training and coaching are imperative for an effective way of working. I do not underestimate these areas for improvement and companies should try hard to organize ourselves in this respect. My intention in this blog post was to describe the role certain technologies can play in this area. And that technologies play a significant role in a modern employee goes without a doubt.

My personal experience learns that, once understanding these new technologies, a significant step can be made towards professional (and personal) effectiveness. Technology should follow people and not vice versa. As stated in the Groundswell (Forrester Research, 2009), the introduction of new technologies should follow the POST-principle: First People, followed by the Objectives and Strategy and only then choosing the Technology.

Great companies know how to strike a balance between the use of technology and the motivation of people. It is that balance we need to seek. The technology plays a facilitating, though crucial role in connecting our employees to each other, the customer and the right information at the right time to make informed decisions. One might say that embracing tools like the iPad today is a waste of time due to the infancy of the technology. Yes, one can even wait till the technology is matured. However, one must not forget that tomorrow’s possibilities will be based on today’s initiatives and infrastructure. Time to move on…

Yep, I finally got one in my hands

Say no more, it’s… gorgeous…

Cool 3D video

History of Apple products related to the imminent launch of the iPad (bummer, not in the Netherlands for the near future). Oh well, we’ll just have to do with these videos to wet our appetite.

Transparent House used its visualization capabilities to create a tribute to a company they greatly admire on the occasion of the iPad release. The idea was to show a glimpse into the history of this product giant by modeling some of the innovative products they’ve developed in their 3+ decade history.

The animation was done entirely using 3Ds Max and V-Ray render and took about 10 days to complete. Professionally done 3D visualization is the perfect tool to present concepts or new products in a beautiful, photoreal style, while creating a mood with music and conveying a message, through on-screen text or narration.

The future of personal communication

Published with permission of Animal Health 2.0

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In case you have been living under a rock or just returned from your Mars trip, Apple has just launched their next iteration of personal computing: the iPad. The device is already a phenomenon from a marketing point of view, now it has to live up to its expectations.

Apple placed the bar pretty high. In a 1.5 hour presentation Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO and digital guru, exposed one feature after another. In short, the iPad is a 1.5 pounds, 9.7 inch aluminium embodied multitouch device which runs on the popular iPhone OS. Basically it’s a big ass iPod touch. Good thing is that the device will run the 140,000+ apps from the App Store out of the box. Developers can redesign their iPhone apps to make use of the screen estate, or develop apps specifically for the iPad. And now things are getting interesting.

So what does a product launch of a computer company has to do with Animal Health 2.0? For that, we need to take a step back and look at our big sister, Health 2.0.

Lack of style
The iPad -or at least we think- is trying to compete with several product categories, one of which is used pretty often in Health 2.0: the Tablet PC. The Tablet PC was already identified as a killer product by Bill Gates in 2003, but he was a bit too early. Although used a lot in human healthcare, the available devices always lacked the stylish form factor (take this one as an example) or -obviously- the polished and user friendly user interface. Some companies even designed a tablet specifically for healthcare, such as the C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant Tablet. The advantages for a tablet PC are a plenty: mobility, the ability to present something more easily, no need for a keyboard, lighter to handle.

One of the issues with common tablet PC’s is that the operating system is not really designed for touch. Most Tablet PS’s have to be operated using a stylus and interaction between the user and the software can feel a bit sluggish. Apple seems to have done their homework. As identified by MedicalTabletPC in a recent article, “it’s the Operating System, not the form factor”. They might be right. With the iPad’s multi-touch interface already field-tested by millions of users having an iPhone it sure is a breeze to use. And what about the App Store? With more than 10,000 apps for medical use in the App Store there’s no denying that the medical profession has a certain interest.

Horse manure
What about Animal Health? Are tablet PCs used here too? No doubt some forward-thinking veterinarians are making use of these devices, but to our knowledge this is a minority. Also no activity can be seen on a more commercial level, such as companies developing Tablet PC functionalities for Animal Health. This is strange, because such a device can have a significant value for the profession. Take a veterinarian for example. Many veterinarians have a rather mobile existence. Especially livestock veterinarians who sometimes drive many, many miles to a customer. Diagnosing or helping with farm management often requires access to information via a computer. But conditions are not always optimal. In a stable there are low light conditions, it can be cold and sometimes a lot of things are happening. Just popping out your new Dell laptop just doesn’t do it. Ever seen horse manure between your keys on your keyboard? But may be a iPad without keys might do the trick at those situations. But also showing the farmer the latest results of a lab test while the guy is walking around the premises would be a bit easier when you carry around an iPad.

Learning smarter, communicating better
And what about education? The iPad is already slated for the ‘next big thing’ for the K12 market. Having iTunes U (lectures in video and/or audio from many universities) within the hands of a veterinary student, instant access to the internet, specific apps for the curriculum and having all the study books on one device will have a profound impact om the way we learn.

Next up, the industry. No doubt the iPad will have to find its place between the commonly used laptop and the mobile phone. Will it cannibalize on the laptop or will it be a new product category, just as Steve Jobs is predicting? From a personal communication point of view -something the industry uses to sell their product or service- I can not think of a better device to convey a message to a customer than the iPad. Think of it as a brochure on steroids: interactive, multimedia and flexible. What else could you wish for? It’s common knowledge that the human pharmaceutical industry is exploring the use of iApps, such as J&J for example, and I have no doubt that the veterinary pharmaceutical industry will follow suit.

Talking pills – is there an App for that?
Finally a few words on the potential use of the iPad on the world of science (thus also veterinary science). It takes only a bit of imagination to realize that the ecosystem of the iPad, with the possibility to design specific apps for just about anything, will also spur innovation in this area. Many, many apps for science are already available on the App Store and more will follow now there’s more screen to use. In a recent article in the Economist Novartis invested $24 million to secure exclusive licences and options on drug-delivery technologies developed by Proteus Biomedical, a Californian start-up. According to the article the company has technology “which enables pills to relay data about a patient back to doctors after they have been swallowed”. And that data is being read by mobile devices, such as the iPad.

I personally believe the possibilities are endless. Just two days after the announcement of the iPad the nay-sayers are abundantly present. And albeit the iPad is not perfect yet, it’s pretty clear where this technology is taking us. Many clones will follow, and that’s good for innovation. I was listening to a podcast the other day, discussing the launch of the iPad. One of the guys made a remark that stuck with me: “Since this week, we officially entered the Star Trek-age”.

Here are some more articles on the use of the iPad in the health environment. Let it inspire us for the use in Animal Health.

Apple iPad: Promising Features For Healthcare Use and Medical Education

Five Lessons Apple must learn from current Healthcare Tablets if the Apple Tablet (iPad) is to Succeed in the Medical Industry

How the Apple Tablet (iPad) Could Transform the Way Patients Experience Healthcare


Yep, there it is: the iPad

Today Apple announced it’s much hyped tablet computer, the iPad. From Apple’s press release:

Apple today introduced iPad, a revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more. iPad’s responsive high-resolution Multi-Touch display lets users physically interact with applications and content. iPad is just 0.5 inches thick and weighs just 1.5 pounds– thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook. iPad includes 12 new innovative apps designed especially for the iPad, and will run almost all of the over 140,000 apps in the App Store. iPad will be available in late March starting at the breakthrough price of just $499.

iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in the press release. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”

iPad features 12 next-generation Multi-Touch applications. Every app works in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates iPad in any direction. The precise Multi-Touch interface makes surfing the web on iPad an entirely new experience, dramatically more interactive and intimate than on a computer. Reading and sending email is fun and easy on iPad’s large screen and almost full-size “soft” keyboard. Import photos from a Mac®, PC or digital camera, see them organized as albums, and enjoy and share them using iPad’s elegant slideshows. Watch movies, TV shows and YouTube, all in HD or flip through pages of an e-book you downloaded from Apple’s new iBookstore while listening to your music collection.

iPad runs almost all of the over 140,000 apps on the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone or iPod touch. The iTunes Store gives you access to the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalog of over 11 million songs, over 50,000 TV episodes and over 8,000 films including over 2,000 in stunning high definition video. Apple also announced the new iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple’s new iBookstore, the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device. The iBookstore will feature books from major and independent publishers.

Apple also introduced a new version of iWork for iPad, the first desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for Multi-Touch. With Pages, Keynote and Numbers you can create beautifully formatted documents, stunning presentations with animations and transitions, and spreadsheets with charts, functions and formulas. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.

iPad syncs with iTunes just like the iPhone and iPod touch, using the standard Apple 30-pin to USB cable, so you can sync all of your contacts, photos, music, movies, TV shows, applications and more from your Mac or PC. All the apps and content you download on iPad from the App Store, iTunes Store and iBookstore will be automatically synced to your iTunes library the next time you connect with your computer.

iPad’s brilliant 9.7-inch, LED-backlit display features IPS technology to deliver crisp, clear images and consistent color with an ultra-wide 178 degree viewing angle. The highly precise, capacitive Multi-Touch display is amazingly accurate and responsive whether scrolling web pages or playing games. The intelligent soft keyboard pioneered on iPhone takes advantage of iPad’s larger display to offer an almost full-size soft keyboard. iPad also connects to the new iPad Keyboard Dock with a full-size traditional keyboard.

iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip provides exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life of up to 10 hours. Apple’s advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology deliver up to 1,000 charge cycles without a significant decrease in battery capacity over a typical five year lifespan

iPad comes in two versions–one with Wi-Fi and the other with both Wi-Fi and 3G. iPad includes the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the 3G versions support speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks. Apple and AT&T announced breakthrough 3G pre-paid data plans for iPad with easy, on-device activation and management.

Continuing Apple’s dedication to designing and creating environmentally responsible products, each iPad enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy-efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. iPad contains no brominated flame retardants and is completely PVC-free.

Apple today released a new Software Development Kit (SDK) for iPad, so developers can create amazing new applications designed to take advantage of iPad’s capabilities. The SDK includes a simulator that lets developers test and debug their iPad apps on a Mac, and also lets developers create Universal Applications that run on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

iPad will be available in late March worldwide for a suggested retail price of US$499 for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model, $699 for the 64GB model. The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the US and selected countries for a suggested retail price of $629 for the 16GB model, $729 for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64GB model. iPad will be sold in the US through the Apple Store, Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date. iBookstore will be available in the US at launch.

So will it be worth it? What will be the use case for such a device. Skimming through various blogs and reading the comments, people are react lukewarm. That isn’t any surprising to me, since I’ve never seen any product which was so hyped prior to the introduction. There was no way Apple could ever met these expectations. Sure, they intentionally ‘leak’ information and for the most part create the hype themselves, with all the secrecy stuff. He who burns his fingers…

I must say I am not so tempered in my reaction. As with many great inventions and innovations, most people have difficulty to see the true value since they are stuck in fixed thinking patterns. Most reactions in the blogosphere relate to what’s already there (“you can buy an HP doing exact the same”, or “for $200 less I can get a netbook with a true operating system”) or find it difficult to find it’s place (“I do not see me using this, a laptop is much more convenient”).

Although I immediately admit that I don’t have all the answers either, but I try to be open and think of the use case scenarios. In my view, the device has two major advantages: it’s user interface and the app store.

The user interface is designed by Apple, and whether you like it or not, those guys just ‘get it’. Even my father can operate an iPhone without explanation. No doubt the same simplicity and ease of use will be found in the iPad. Try giving my father a netbook, even with Windows 7, and don’t explain anything.

Secondly the app store. Without a doubt a new business model (now being copied by God knows who) and readily available for the iPad. See it in this way: the iPad is just a nicely designed piece of metal with a touch screen. That’s it. The true magic lies in the software. And we can all make this software by ourselves (well, more or less…) As we have seen in the past, the true creativity lies at the people, the programmers making little apps. If you see what people can make for a tiny screen, can you imaging what they can make for the iPad?

Finally, let us not forget who Apple is targeting. Most people don’t use a computer for much more that e-mail, surfing, photo’s… How many people do you know are sitting on the couch, watching television and having the laptop in their hands, surfing the internet? This could be an ideal device. But what about business use? Detailing your product will never be the same. Compare printed paper with the iPad’s ability to go full multimedia and you know what I mean.

Anyway, there’s not much more I can say without having tested the device myself. Unfortunately I still have to wait a couple of months to put my fingers on mine. In the meantime, I’ll just come up with some more use cases in order to justify the purchase.

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