Using an iPad instead of a fax.

iPad 2

My mother need to organize group of nurses trying on uniforms for the company she works for. They set up a site in Christchurch and wanted the nurses to fill out a from which needed to be sent to the other end of the country (Auckland). At first they were going to fax the forms, but my mother who currently has not mobile computing device asked me if I felt there was a better way. Here is my response:

"Mum, you need an iPad."

Hi, I just wanted to email you with my thoughts on what the best way to collect the nurses data and send it to Auckland would be in my opinion.

The old way would be to simply have a clipboard and pen and then fax the filled out forms to the Auckland office. This is not actually a bad system even by todays standards because it's simple. However, with a little bit of effort you could do it better. The problem with a fax is that it actually takes quite a while to send (admittedly you can set it and leave it) and it's not the most convenient machine if you want to ensure all the forms are correctly sent. It's also not very versatile nor very portable (not that that's actually an issue)

It would therefore make sense that the next step would be to use some sort of computer. But which computer? If you were to scan forms into any normal computer and email them that would take even longer and be more complicated than a fax.

Luckily today you don't need to scan things in as much because digital cameras are high enough quality for a photo to be a good alternative to a scan. Digital cameras that is, like those found in phones and tablets.

In my opinion the most convenient way would be to just take a photo of the filled out form and email directly with either a tablet or a phone.

I would recommend the following work flow using an Apple iPad:
1) Have the nurses fill out the form manually, this would be something they are used to and it would be quick and easy.
2) Take a photo with an iPad
3) Send the photo via email or simply store it in an online storage service like dropbox (an online disk where you can store photos in a folder shared with the head office in Auckland)

I choose the iPad primarily because of its ease of use. It would also be a great idea to actually collect the information on the iPad straight into a database which could be synchronized with Auckland. This is not hard to do but has two drawbacks:
1) You would have to keep you eye on the iPad so it didn't wander.
2) It would have to be passed around, depending on how many people you have to collect data from at a time, one iPad might prove insufficient.

It would be great for the main office to have the data in digital form without them needing to process it, but I think that might be better left for the future. In any case it would be easy to do this on an iPad whenever you're ready.

The iPad also has other advantages for you:
*Be in touch easily via email
*Be able to send small text messages via Skype, iMessage or Whatsapp (3G required)
*You will be connected to the internet whoever you are.
*Thousand of useful app that could benefit you business (like accounting , database and productivity apps)

There are also three things you need to consider if you choose an iPad to "scan" (take a photo of) each from and email them to the head office:

You would be better served with the new iPad which has a higher resolution (and better quality) camera.
You should try to photograph the forms in good light, preferably natural light (i.e.. take the photos close to a window, the better light will help the photo to be clearer).
You will need to connect the iPad to the internet, There are three main ways of doing this:
* Connect it via Wi-Fi. To get Wi-Fi you will need a Adsl/Wi-Fi router connected to a phone line and you will have to pay a monthly service fee (and probably a line rental as well).
* Buy the 3G iPad version in which you can put a sim card and pay for a mobile internet service. This means your iPad connects directly to the internet. BONUS. If you do this, your iPad can also be use as a car navigation system.
* Connect the iPad to a mobile hotspot. You can use a cell phone or get a mobile router which can share it's internet connection (incidentally this is what I do). You need to make sure the mobile phone has the feature to create a mobile hotspot.

Which of these internet connection methods should you choose? Budget will dictate. If you can afford it, getting the 3G iPad and internet service is the best way to connect the iPad and have internet on the go. The other good thing here is that a phone company might offer a subsidized iPad on a contract. Typically this will cost quite a bit per month but also includes the cost of the iPad.

The cheaper alternative which is often even cheaper than using and adsl modem (a Wi-Fi modem connected to the telephone lines) is to use a cell phone as a hotspot. You cell phone company should be able to help you with a basic model which will do this.

Which ever way you go, I think the iPad represents an incredible little computer which can help you work while you're mobile and is versatile enough for any situation, it will also be easy enough to use (ahem, not saying anything here).