Welcome!

Virtualization Authors: Pat Romanski, Ignacio M. Llorente, Andrew Phillips, Brian Vandegrift, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Wireless

Wireless: Case Study

In Business, the Pen Is Mightier than the iPad

Will Tablet PCs expand beyond the consumer market to become an enterprise tool?

Since the iPad's release this year, questions have emerged as to whether tablet PCs will become a mainstream business tool. More specifically, does the tablet form factor address business needs better than other options that currently exist? If an organization has a significant number of field-based employees where mobility is an issue, the answer may be no. Tablet PCs can often be too expensive, too fragile, and too training-intensive to be effective. There is a clear need for a solution in the market to fill the "white space" that currently exists to capture and transmit information, particularly for enterprises with a significant mobile workforce. Digital pen technology offers an alternative to screen and keyboard solutions and can easily capture, process, interpret and transmit information in real time.

Case Study: Safelite
Safelite AutoGlass was looking to find a way to improve the company's field task processes. Safelite is a windscreen replacement specialist based in the United States. With more than three million customers annually, the company was interested in replacing its existing paper-based dispatching system. The process at the time involved far too many steps, as field technicians were forced to drive to a central location to pick up work orders and then return at the end of their shifts to drop the work orders off. The amount of time wasted was evident in the loss of productivity. It wasn't unusual for employees to cancel jobs due to the delays. The process also slowed the ability to issue claims to insurance companies and keep track of the billing cycle at the home office. On top of that, the process led to a significant waste of paper. On average, each work order was printed five times a day.

Safelite wanted to create a solution that could manage field tasks wirelessly without the inordinate number of steps and paperwork previously needed. The company explored several technology options, including tablet PCs. However, Safelite found tablet PCs fell short when it came to matching the essential criteria it was looking for: reliability, cost-effectiveness, and a minimal impact on the productivity of the company's field technicians. As a result, Safelite turned elsewhere, choosing the technology of digital pen and paper.

The decision proved to be a game changer for Safelite. Each field technician now completes one extra job daily, generating more revenue for the company. Digital pen and paper has also led to an 80% reduction of work order paper used, lowering Safelite's costs. Moreover, the solution has proven to be cost-effective and easy enough for field technicians all over the U.S. to use.

Why Mobile Employees Are Difficult to Automate
It's no secret that laptops have been beneficial to worker mobility. The portability factor allows employees to work virtually anywhere. But, when it comes to field service workers, it's proven time and again to be a poor solution:

  • Costly: Laptops are an expensive investment, as each employee requires his or her own machine.
  • Training Required: Each worker needs to be taught how to properly use laptops. There are also constant upgrades/updates each employee must contend with.
  • Theft: Having the machine stolen remains a concern, as laptops are expensive to replace and the data stored on them contains essential information to the business.
  • Damage: Moving laptops from location to location often leads to the machine getting dropped, spilled on, etc.

Consequently, most field service workers continue to use the age-old method of data collection: pen and paper. By doing so, the expense, training, theft, and damage concerns of laptops may be gone, but plenty of other drawbacks remain. For one, using pen and paper is time-consuming. Workers must re-input the information into a computer every time a form is turned in at the office. It's also a method that's error prone, as it is manual.

The number of field workers who continue to use pen and paper despite those obstacles is staggering. According to a survey by Anoto, Inc., 86% of businesses are still using paper-based forms in either their own business or in their clients' business. That's compared to 13.9% who say they're no longer using them at all. And although the majority of businesses continue to employ pen and paper, the numbers confirm it's not a method businesses find to be optimal. In fact, 75% said they would be interested in a solution that could digitally capture handwriting, convert it into data, and then instantly transmit the data to a back-end database.

Are Tablet PCs the Answer?
As discussed earlier, there has been significant buzz surrounding tablet PCs, especially with the recent launch of the iPad. Users have boasted about a number of advantages compared to using a laptop:

  • Mobile: iPads don't have the same weight and bulkiness as laptops, and are great to use in meetings because they can lie flat as opposed to having a barrier screen.
  • Functional: iPads and tablet PCs in general oftentimes include the same programs as laptops.
  • High Quality Resolution: Provides a better experience for users when reading and watching videos.

Despite the benefits listed above, the overall improvements are marginal. Just like laptops, tablet PCs are expensive, require training, are an attractive theft target and are fragile. In fact, the argument's been made that tablet PCs are even more delicate than laptops, many times requiring a special cover just to protect the screen. For business executives, those concerns aren't a deal breaker. Tablet PCs including the iPad are well suited to serve as a "convenience technology" for when executives attend meetings or work in the office. However, it ends there. When it comes to field service workers, it's simply not a favorable solution.

What Will Fill the White Space?
As was shown with Safelite Autoglass, a technology currently exists - digital pen and paper - that is a mobile data capture solution that behaves like an ordinary pen, but actually "reads" the handwriting and translates it into computer-readable code. The image below illustrates the components of the technology:

For field service workers, the benefits of digital pen and paper are striking:

  • Highly portable: Since the majority of the technology is merely a pen, it is easy for workers to travel from location to location with it.
  • No training required: Employees don't need to be taught how to use a complicated machine like a laptop or tablet PC. Instead, they are using a technology that's innate: pen and paper. It just happens to be digital pen and paper.
  • No workflow interruption: Workers avoid having to travel to multiple locations to drop off signed work orders or print multiple copies. All of the technology is right there with them.
  • Not fragile: Digital pens don't pose the same risk of getting damaged if dropped or spilled on as laptops and tablet PCs do.
  • Not a target of theft: The concern that someone would steal the technology is simply not there, because it resembles an ordinary pen.

Case Study: British Airways
British Airways turned to digital pen and paper when it needed to improve its process of flying in and out of Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. At the time, the airline was grappling with the difficult task of load control communication. For those unfamiliar with the term, before a pilot can take off, passengers, baggage and cargo need to be distributed correctly. Any changes made to the loading calculations must be communicated quickly and securely to the airline's Central Load Control Department, which, in turn is transmitted to the cockpit for the pilot to see.

Previously, information was sent via fax or telephone, or even delivered personally. The system many times led to delays, missed take-off slots and disgruntled passengers. British Airways knew a change needed to be implemented and considered switching to laptops or PDAs. But, evaluations found digital pen and paper to be the best solution due to its pocket size and longer battery life.

The digital pen contains a small, built-in infrared camera that stores the handwritten information. The load data is then registered into an A4-size form with an almost invisible dot pattern. Then, the information is sent via a mobile handset to the Central Load Control servers, where it is displayed in the form of a webpage. The entire process takes only a few seconds and is carried out by the turn-round coordinator at the side of the aircraft, regardless of where the plane is parked.

According to Linda Findlay of British Airways, the decision "modernized the way the airline does things..." The decision has allowed for quick and manageable load-control communication, prompter departures and a reduction of lost take-off slots.

Tablet PCs like the iPad can be a valuable asset in the business world. They are mobile, highly functional, and provide quality resolution. For executives in the boardroom, owning a tablet PC can be an advantage. They're more discreet, lying flat on a surface as opposed to laptop screens which inhibit conversation by blocking people from seeing each other. But that's the key: tablet PCs are beneficial to executives. When it comes to field service workers, particularly in industries such as home health care, transportation, construction, power and energy, etc., it's a different story. They require a technology that's cost-effective, durable, easy-to-use and doesn't interrupt workflow. In that regard, tablet PCs such as the iPad fall short. Despite the buzz surrounding them, they're only suited for a specific area in business.

As both Safelite AutoGlass and British Airways demonstrate, digital pen and paper technology suits a variety of industries. It's also portable, cost-effective and easy-to-use, making it a perfect fit to fill that "white space" in business computing that exists between laptops on the high end, and paper and pen on the low end.

More Stories By Pietro Parravicini

Pietro Parravicini is President and CEO of Anoto Inc. He started his career in the Logistics and Transportation sector in Zurich/Switzerland in 1984. He subsequently held financial and operational management positions in companies such as Siemens, Alusuisse and ProData Treuhand, exposing him to a variety of other industries and international businesses. In 1995, Pietro Parravicini joined Siemens-Nixdorf AG as Director of Finance and Operations and became a member of the Management Group overseeing IT solution business units within Public Sector, Telecom and Banking & Insurance.

After relocating to the US in 1997, Pietro Parravicini was appointed Vice President and CFO at Siemens Nixdorf Retail & Banking Systems Inc. and Wincor Nixdorf Inc., and served as member of the board. He gained experience in corporate management, acquisitions, spin-offs and re-organizations. He joined Anoto Inc. in April 2001.

Pietro Parravicini holds a degree in business administration from the Swiss Business School, Zurich (Switzerland) and earned subsequent degrees in corporate financial management.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...