iPads help USDA service survey farmers and collect agriculture data across the country.
The USDA is working its way through an ambitious iPad deployment that may come to serve as a model for a range of government agencies within the U.S. and around the world. The challenge was to develop a simple, intuitive, and effective field survey and data collection system.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is a division of the USDA that is charged with surveying and reporting agricultural data across the country. NASS operates in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. With a staff of around 3,000 enumerators NASS conducts thousands of survey each year about agriculture across the country. The service has been operating since the mid-1800s and, until the iPad, it conducted surveys and collected data in pretty much the same way that it had back in the 19th century – with paper forms filled out by hand and mailed to various field offices. Although various technology initiatives have been tried by NASS since the 1980s, none was a successful fit before the iPad.
Farming and agriculture are among the unusual places to find iPads at work
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.