It doesn’t take a huge stretch of imagination to picture some of the ways that the iPad can be used in the workplace. The idea of it as a sales tool, an electronic medical chart, and as a digital textbook device all come immediately to mind as common on-the-job iPad uses. But the iPad’s versatility lends itself to a variety of industries and jobs that you’ve probably never considered.
One example is agriculture management from the cab of a farm combine – one of the unexpected places to find the iPad that Hard Candy Cases CEO Tim Hickman mentioned to me during a recent conversation. His company, which also produces the ruggedized Gumdrop Cases, has received bulk orders for iPad from some surprising sources and has led to iPad adoption in places beyond where most of us would expect. I decided to follow up on that conversation with some research of my own.
Industrial agriculture – Large scale farming systems employ many different electronic systems from sensors to record field conditions to advanced irrigation systems to huge mega-vehicles that can be used to prepare, plant, and harvest crops on scale unimaginable to farmers just a century ago. Combining all these systems and making them user-friendly is a tall oder. Precision planting is one company that is leveraging the iPad as mobile solution for agricultural staff to interact with those systems both in the office and in the field (literally).
Note: In-vehicle systems aren’t just destined for specialized conveyances. Several car makers now off iOS integration and some are taking the concept further. Mercedes is planning to add iPhone 4S and Siri integration to in-vehicle systems while Volkswagen has actually explored replacing in-dash systems with iPads.
Clergy – Various leaders of faith communities have begun to use the iPad during services. The device can provide access to specific holy books and scriptures along with notes and copies of sermons. It also makes many religious texts searchable. The most dramatic example of liturgical use of the iPad is probably Pope Benedict using an iPad to tweet the word to Catholics worldwide.
Archeological sites – The iPad isn’t just making ancient texts available to men and women of faith. It’s actually helping to uncover the secrets of ancient peoples. The iPad is becoming a useful tool for archeologists in the classroom or library as well as on dig sites. The iPad offers instant reference material,it can be used for geolocation, and recording finds. It can even be used to explore potential sites using apps like Google Earth.
Construction crews – Picturing the construction industry calls to mind heavy equipment, pallets of wood, cement mixers, and the like – the iPad, however, can be invaluable. It provides instant access to plans and blueprints, work schedules, and functions as a task manager. With most construction and renovation projects being highly choreographed with multiple teams of specialists and special equipment, the iPad can keep things running smoothly and prevent delays.
Utility crews – Another one of the industries that Tim mentioned as customers for large numbers of ruggedized iPad cases was various public and private utility companies. Employees that maintain and repair power lines, water mains, and natural gas pipelines are always on the road and they need to be able to access detailed information about highly specialized equipment – including repair procedures. The iPad offers that information as well as the ability to get a bird’s eye view of problems and to coordinate multiple crews across wide area.
First responders – Paramedics need instant access to medical information as much as doctors and nurses in a hospital (sometimes they may need more). The iPad can provide general information about medications and conditions, detailed emergency procedures for specific incidents, and it can help coordinate search and rescue crews. This point was brought home to Tim and his colleagues after last years tornado damage in the mid-west where they saw iPads in the company’s cases being used on the scene of the devastation.
Mental health treatment – The iPad has begun replacing the psychiatrist’s couch as mental health practitioners have embraced the trend of remote counseling. Although not universal, the ability to offer counseling using FaceTime chats or Skype is becoming more common – particularly in niches where on-site treatment isn’t available or where specialists in a certain field aren’t available in a given region (which is common with child psychology specialists in more remote areas of the U.S.).
Dolphin and primate research – Perhaps the most fascinating use of the iPad is being done by dolphin and primate researchers. Working with the iPad offers a new form of communication with these creatures. Researchers at the Toronto Zoo are actually planning to provide iPads to its Orangutang population to let them communicate with remote members of their family groups.
This list captures just a handful of the iPad uses in unusual workplaces, but it shows the range of applications that Apple’s tablet can offer.
Know of additional unusual ways the iPad is being put to work? Share it in the comments.