Welcome!

Virtualization Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Noel Wurst, David H Deans, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Charles Jolley

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
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, 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...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
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.

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 BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...