From garbage trucks to cruise ships, companies are putting iPads and Android tablets to work. Here's what they're learning.
Four months ago, Waste Management outfitted about 20 of its trucks with the 7-inch touch-screen devices, which it loaded with software for route and pickup instructions that it had rewritten to work with tablets. The company was testing whether it could save money and improve performance with off-the-shelf consumer tablets rather than having to use industry-specific, ruggedized devices to replace its paper-based routing process.
Then, the night before the pilot test went live, Waste Management's telecom carrier sent an update to the tablet's Gingerbread Android operating system. The change meant the on-board charging system no longer worked with the tablets, so they would run out of power while crews were on the road.
Having rallied from that setback, Waste Management now has high hopes for the project and will decide later this year whether to use tablets in its 20,000-some trucks.
Waste Management's experience is just one example of the hard lessons companies are learning as they take consumer-oriented iPad and Android tablets and put them to work in ways their makers never planned. Tablets are showing up in warehouses, hospitals, cockpits, and boardrooms. They're making sales calls and even being tested on the battlefield. The simple-headed response to the "consumerization of IT" trend is that companies embracing easy-to-use gadgets and software will make IT organizations irrelevant. But early experiences with tablets show that it still takes creative IT work to make these tools do what companies need them to do. Here's what pioneering companies are learning.
People Need Content
Salespeople are often the first to get company-issued tablets, for a few reasons: They're mobile, they're showing stuff to customers, and they need instant-on access.