Welcome!

Virtualization Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Rex Morrow, Datical, Carmen Gonzalez, 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
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Be Among the First 100 to Attend & Receive a Smart Beacon. The Physical Web is an open web project within the Chrome team at Google. Scott Jenson leads a team that is working to leverage the scalability and openness of the web to talk to smart devices. The Physical Web uses bluetooth low energy beacons to broadcast an URL wirelessly using an open protocol. Nearby devices can find all URLs in the room, rank them and let the user pick one from a list. Each device is, in effect, a gateway to a web page. This unlocks entirely new use cases so devices can offer tiny bits of information or simple i...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
TechCrunch reported that "Berlin-based relayr, maker of the WunderBar, an Internet of Things (IoT) hardware dev kit which resembles a chunky chocolate bar, has closed a $2.3 million seed round, from unnamed U.S. and Switzerland-based investors. The startup had previously raised a €250,000 friend and family round, and had been on track to close a €500,000 seed earlier this year — but received a higher funding offer from a different set of investors, which is the $2.3M round it’s reporting."
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital busines...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things needs an entirely new security model, or does it? Can we save some old and tested controls for the latest emerging and different technology environments? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, will review hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal privacy options and a new risk balance you might not expect.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.