But for all my chagrin and snark over the iPad I’ve had a change of heart. Well, I’ve had a change of mind. I still believe the iPad was a fundamentally flawed concept due to its limited capabilities. A USB port would be nice. The ability to run more than one App at one time would be, too. "The iPad is meant to be an easy-to-use appliance, not an all-purpose computer. A USB port would mean installing drivers for printers, scanners and anything else you might hook up." Steve Jobs says in an article from Wired. (NOTE: Multi-tasking should be available this fall.)
Appliance? Appliance for what? It’s a digital device. It’s THE digital device, the one we’ve supposedly been waiting for to revolutionize hand held mobile devices. Could it be that Apple couldn’t get to do all the nifty things we, as tech-geek consumers, wanted it to do but had to release something in order to stay ahead of the curve? Maybe. After all, if we’ve learned anything in the computer and digital age, the early bird gets the worm. If Apple can hook everyone on the concept of the iPad, they can go back and work out all the wrinkles in time for the second generation. It worked for the iPod. Other portable media devices have tried to knock the iPod off the top of the market share hill but with every iteration or next gen iPod more features continue to draw in customers, including ones who had bought the previous version.
However, the iPad makes a leap, in terms of technology, and in this case, Jobs better start listening to the masses and add some of those features quickly, because while the early bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese. If someone figures out a way to emulate what Apple has done with additional features that please the consumer, Apple may be stuck in the trap.
An appliance? That makes me laugh. I do not pretend to be the geekiest geek that ever geeked but from a user standpoint I can see so many more uses for a tablet PC than to just read a book or run goofy apps, one at a time. I think in terms of outside the box application. Finding ways to use technology in areas that it was never originally intended to be introduced to. The iPad or a tablet PC by any company gives freedom. Yes, you can do a lot of things with a mobile device like an iPhone or Blackberry, but the tablet gives you greater ease of interface and visual aesthetics. Some people, like me, have fatter fingers or aren’t as good at fine manipulation of objects. Those of us suffering from banana hand syndrome or have all the dexterity of an oven mitt need a larger area in which to work. Case in point, I don’t text. I use a laptop but would much rather have a standard keyboard to type on and a mouse in my hand instead of a pad on the laptop to run my finger around. In that instance, a tablet PC would give me more workable area to maneuver my flippers around.
Like I said, don’t get me wrong, mobile phones already have the ability to do what I would like them to do. My brother showed me live images from security cameras where he worked on his phone. He could run an office from his phone, if given the chance. But one would think that, with the introduction of a device that is built on the technology introduced in the iPhone, it would be able to do that much and more.
So, I invite you into my fantasy world. Not that one… The other one, the Mongo Sandbox, where I have a disposable income and a blank slate on which to build anything I want. And for this sand castle I am using the “Mongo” brand smart tablet to run everything.
Back in my June post about the iPad I mentioned that it would be nice if you could come home from work and prop your feet up in front of a small screen to catch up on the news or sports. I’m not talking about a 50” LCD HDTV. I’m talking about a sleek and stylish thin screen sitting on a small stand hooked, via USB cable to a digital tuner. Once you are done watching Sports Center, you decide you want to read a book. You stand up and walk over to the screen you’ve been watching, unhook the USB cable and take the device from its stand. You turn it 90 degrees and now you have an eBook reader. That was my original idea. But in the sandbox of my mind that was only the beginning.
What if you decide that the lights are too bright in the room for you to read the eBook. You simply minimize your reader and open the app HOME which runs your home. You can then navigate a path to something like Systems\Utilities\Lighting which shows a wireframe map of your home by floor. You choose the room and, with your finger, adjust a slider which controls the level of lighting in the room, much like volume control on your computer. You then close that app and restore your reader app and continue reading your ebook.
Let’s say you get a phone call. Simply minimize your reader again and use the Phone App to answer the phone. Either through a blue tooth handset attached to the tablet or even by using the speaker on the tablet you can chat with your friend who wants to go catch a movie. Without ending the call you can open up the Web Browser and look up show times and purchase tickets which can then be printed via WiFi to your printer. All while you are still talking. I know phones can already do this, but this is a bigger interface that is tied to more systems and works with several other devices.
Remember, in the sandbox, the possibilities are endless as well as the funds to make them happen. Now, you could say all this dependence on a tablet PC is bad, like Skynet bad or Wall-E bad. True, but what if you are elderly or confined to a wheel chair or have the inability maneuver around your space to achieve these tasks? This might make your quality of life a little better and, in an age where medical costs are rising or they are not being reimbursed as well as they used to, the ability to be more independent with this type of technology could be a welcome savings. So, that covers one application in a small capacity, but I’ve got bigger ideas and with multiple devices around the home, thanks to that sandbox income. The previous scenario covers perhaps a den setting. Let’s move this towards the whole house.
One of the greatest things about my car, which I miss, is the remote start feature. I went to change the battery in the key chain remote and one of the solders broke, severing the circuit. I’m just too lazy, and probably inept, to fix it, so I have to go out and not only start my car on a cold day, while inside it, I have to use the key to unlock it. Since the car only has one key hole, I have to use the driver’s side lock to unlock all of the doors and open the hatch. But what if GM had an app for that? Well, someone does.
So, now when it’s ten degrees out there and a foot of snow is on the ground, you can use the that same technology, along with a few others to get to work easier. Now, the simple solution would be to park your car in the garage, but what if you forgot too or some other reason prevented you from doing that. You’ve got to go outside and get in your car, which is cold, and there’s a foot of snow in the driveway. You just don’t have time to shovel or get out the snow blower before work. With the Mongo Smart Tablet, you don’t have to. From any Smart Tablet in the house, you can call up your automobile app, and remote start your car. But what about the snow? Easy, when you first get up in the morning and notice the snow, you use your smart tablet to turn on the radiant heating system that is installed underneath your driveway. While you shower, shave, and have your coffee, your driveway is clearing itself of all that snow. You simply walk out onto the empty driveway and get into your already warm vehicle. Warmquest is a company that can do that. This same company can also install under shingle roof deicing equipment which would have been perfect this past year with all the reports of collapsed roofs due to snow from Snowmageddon. Not to mention, icicles are dangerous and could be eliminated in this case.
Wasteful energy could be a thing of the past with your Mongo Smart Home because you could remember that you left the lights on upstairs or in another part of the house and the smart tablet could alert you and could be used to turn off the lighting in those empty rooms. You could check out noises outside the house by accessing the CCTV system, like my brother showed me, activating or deactivating flood lights to get a clearer picture, and call authorities if needed. CNN had an article about this, but it was only one of eight different money saving tips which was crudely advertised as an article devoted to running your home on an iPad.
The applications are limitless in the sandbox of my mind. I could be in the kitchen, getting ready for guests and be using the smart tablet there to follow a recipe online while setting the light levels in the house, deicing the driveway and starting up the fireplace for ambiance. It sucks when you are trying to do 15 things at once while watching a pot of sauce or soup. In the event that you have to leave the kitchen and attend to something that requires some time, you can use the smart tablet in any room to call up kitchen functions and shut off the stove to keep things from boiling over. One of the coolest amenities we had in the beach house we rented this year was the sound system. From a main receiver/tuner in the living room we could supply the entire house with audio. There were individual volume control knobs in each room wired for sound, but the source of the audio came from the living room. We discovered this by accident after setting up my Nintendo Wii and letting my father in law play Cabela’s Big Game Hunter 2010 while we were outside on the deck one night. It was all peaceful and serene on the deck, overlooking the sound, when all of the sudden gun shots ripped through the air. We thought we were under attack. Hell, the neighborhood probably thought they were being invaded, Red Dawn style. We just didn’t know that all the volume knobs were left on by the previous renters and the surround sound of my father in law blasting away Bambi echoed outside and across the street. So, yeah, it would be nice if your smart tablet could control something like that, without having to go into every room of the house and adjust the volume.
All of these innovations are reminiscent of a Merry Melodies cartoon, called "Design For Leaving", where Daffy Duck retrofits Elmer Fudd’s house with buttons of all sorts. And to that end, all sorts of things could go wrong. As much as I would be a champion of this style of design, I understand chaos theory and Murphy’s Law very well. The power can go out, Blue Screen of Death types of failures, firmware issues, updates, and viruses could render your Mongo Smart Home inoperable. I would never dream of turning control of your home solely over to a computer. Everything would still function as it would without the smart tablet interface, but the addition of the interface is like a dimmer installed in a light circuit. You use a switch to supply power to the light but dimmers installed in certain places can adjust the settings to the already powered lights. The same here, it’s an added feature not a control over the functionality of the appliances and utilities.
Okay, perhaps the sandbox ideas are a dream for those who have the income and technical savvy to pull it off in the real world. But that’s the fun of imagining what a device like the iPad can do. There are plenty of real world, business applications for a smart tablet. Schools are beginning to adopt the iPad in the classroom. Teachers can conduct a lesson and students can interact with the lesson, adding notes and asking questions into a notepad style environment. Just think about huge lectures, with 400 students in them. If students had an iPhone app or smart tablet in the classroom, they could ask a question from the back row and the TA could capture all this for the professor to expound upon or address during the lecture, while it’s fresh. The student, at the back of the room does not have to shout or draw unwanted attention because the question could be anonymously asked, filtered by the TA, of course. The TA could even respond with an answer without having to disrupt the flow of the lecture.
As a Theatre Arts major in college, I have gone through tech rehearsal boot camp. You get up really early on a Sunday and come down to the space, ready to spend the next 12 hours doing mundane but very important work. You begin pulling together the important changes and cues that occur during a show with all of your tech heads like lighting, sound and such. With a smart tablet interface, you could run a sound board or light board remotely, while sitting next to the director or stage manager instead of up in the booth. The process could become more efficient without a lot of shouting back and forth or headset chatter. The director could simply lean over and talk to the designer or tech. No yelling, “Give me channel 4 up 10%.” Here is an article about the application.
Also, notes could be taken with a handwriting converter. I’ve done it and I’ve worked with directors who have stood there and tried to decipher scribbles into an important production note. Some of these innovations are already in place with iPhone apps but, again, broad spectrum, bigger interface and multiple applications running at once.
And let’s not forget the healthcare field. Doctors could see a patient, look at their charts, prescribe meds which could then be printed at the receptionist desk to be handed to the patient or even sent to the pharmacy, eliminating handwriting errors. Doctors could be linked into a database of information about symptoms and diseases. The CDC could help control an outbreak by recognizing these symptoms and posting to a board where providers could tag them and compare against diagnoses they have in their office, all during a patient’s appointment. Doctors could monitor patients’ vitals remotely and prioritize various patients from their tablet. Of course, there would have to be a huge amount of security attached because of HIPPA. Applications are endless.
Facilities management could be streamlined. Systems could be monitored for changes or failures. Lighting levels and schedules for automatic lighting could be adjusted on the fly. Sensors could pickup issues like security or climate controls. The ability to pinpoint a problem could correct it faster. And with that built in webcam, missing from the iPad, you could snap a picture and send it to the tech who will be correcting the issue in the case of building and grounds issues.
So, my mind isn’t too far into the clouds when it comes to technology. When I started writing this post, did the bare minimum of research to see if what I had thought of was already in use. Some things were there for the iPhone and some were there for the iPad but not everything as far as I can tell, although Smart Homes are a reality in regards to mobile devices. For now, I have little interest in buying an iPad because of the missing features I feel would be important. Also, as much as I tout being a geek, I don’t even have a data package for my phone. I don’t text and I use my phone to um… make calls. Whenever Apple or another company comes up with the smart tablet that I would want I’ll think about crossing that bridge. Until then, there’s always room in the sandbox.
Got any ideas on how to use an iPad for something it wasn’t designed to do?