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TECH: 5 Areas of Business Which Tablet Computers are Reshaping
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Three years ago, leading up to the release of the first generation iPad, rumours were swirling over Apple's newest product release. Many analysts predicted that Apple would release a tablet but they differed on what kind of market there would be for this product. Upon release, the iPad was met with incredible demand, selling over 15 million units before the release of the second generation iPad. The rest of the industry scrambled to enter the market with competing products. Today, iPads and other kinds of tablets are being implemented into every kind of organisation from businesses to schools to hospitals to governments. Many analysts predict that it is only a matter of time before tablet sales surpass PC sales. Below is a glimpse of how various industries are currently utilising tablets and what future implications go along with them.
 
Retail

If you have ever been to an Apple store then you have already seen tablets being used in some way at a retail store. At the Apple shop, iPads are used to display spec details as a sort of interactive digital billboard for all their products (not just iPads). Apple Stores also use iPhones and iPads as portable POS registers that are also capable of other functions such as managing inventory, accounting and analytics. This allows for any associate on the floor to assist you with you purchase from anywhere in the store.  
 
Floor managers at retail stores can also use tablets to help them manage their floor personnel. For instance, if the floor manger walks around the store they notice a large build-up of customers at a certain area, such as the register or the fitting rooms, they can then use a mobile notification feature from their iPad that will direct staff members. However, for this feature to work, the associates must have a device that can interface with the manager's device such as another tablet, iPod or smart phone. The associate can also use his device to help customers with finding what they need, ordering things that are out of stock, and creating and using customer profiles in order to build brand loyalty. Managers can also use tablets to manage and oversee employee break times, scheduling, and to provide new and current employees with training and training materials.  
 
Tablets offer a newer, easier, cheaper and more stylish way to display an in-store kiosk while at the same time offering a more enriching experience than a traditional in-store kiosk. A tablet kiosk allows customers easier and more intuitively search techniques for products and their availability. They also allow for different kinds of interactions with customers such as signing up for newsletters, watching instructional videos, providing stories about company products and allowing the brand to stay connected with its customers.   
 
Healthcare

Digitalised health records have allowed doctors and nurses to more quickly and conveniently locate a patient's health records in order to save time, money and lives. Tablets are replacing hospital clipboards and paper based files, and are allowing physicians, nurses and pharmacists to be more mobile while having the most up to date patient information. Hospitals, clinics and laboratories are using tablets to monitor patients and collect data. This includes using WI-FI and blue tooth capabilities to interface with patient monitoring devices, which will transmit information to tablets within the vicinity. This allows for less errors and increased efficiency, as less things need to be written by hand. Tablets are also being used within the healthcare industry to help with prescriptions, authorisations, refills, and patient-drug interaction and dosage management. Smart phones and tablets are helping to reduce the turnaround time required by US doctors to approve the requests from pharmacies and patients for prescriptions by up to 90%!
 
Education

Tablets are rapidly being adapted by schools all over the world as they offer a number of benefits in the classroom and are cheaper and more portable than a PC or laptop. Young students will soon no longer have to lug around all their heavy textbooks from class to class. Instead, all their digitally interactive books can be stored on their tablet along with their class notes. Students and school systems can also save money on the cost of textbooks as the cost of digital textbooks is much cheaper than a printed copy. Another benefit to having tablets in the classroom is that it allows for easy video conferencing. Rural towns and villages can interact with guest lecturers or a foreign language teacher who work for a school from another country, allowing a wider variety of classes to be taught by experienced and qualified teachers. 
 
Of course, there are some drawbacks to having tablets in the classroom. Students will become easily distracted, sending messages to one another and playing games when the teacher is not looking. However, there are various software solutions coming out to help the teacher monitor and maintain control over what the students are doing on their tablets during class. Also, there is not a lot of data and experience in terms of how to integrate this new digital education platform in an effective manner. Despite this, most teachers will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. 
 
Government

The tropical resort city of Sanya in the southern Chinese province of Hainan recently had problems with local restaurants charging obscene amounts of money for some of its seafood. There have been a number of cases whereby customers who didn't ask what the price was before hand ended up with an eye-popping bill. In one highly publicised case, a man was charged CNY 6,000 for a fish. However, the local government has stepped in and is requiring all restaurants with at least 15 tables to use an iPad or PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) to handle their orders. This way the government can monitor the prices that the restaurant are charging and can investigate if they find any unusually high prices. 
 
The US government has implemented tablets on a number of different levels. Various government branches such as city councils, prosecutors and other departments have implemented tablets in order to eliminate paper and to enhance e-mail and web access. Several, law enforcement departments are using tablets to sketch suspects, record testimony at crime scenes, file police reports, and investigate background information without having to talk to their dispatch. The US military has also adapted tablets on a large scale. Last March the US Air Force adapted tablets in order to replace paper flight manuals and navigation charts. 
 
Customer Experience

On Royal Caribbean's newest remodelled ships they are putting iPads in the hands of their customers in order to provide better, more streamlined services. Customers will be able to check for daily activities on their cruise, book shore excursions and receive personalised promotions based on real-time anaylsis. This kind of information was made available in the past through interactive TV in the guest rooms. However, CIO Bill Martin believes that iPads are a more intuitive, personalised, faster and fun way to receive cruise information.   
 
There are a number of restaurants and cafes that are putting tablets in the hands of their customers in order to display their menus, which can sometimes come off as being a bit tacky or gimmicky if it doesn't match the venue’s style. However, these kinds of digital menus also allow for new interactions between the restaurant and its patrons. After customers have ordered their meals, for instance, they can use the tablet to find out more information about the restaurant including; history, fun facts, and upcoming promotions and events. Customers can also subscribe to newsletters, give feedback and suggestions, participate in raffles and competitions, or just use the tablet for a few minutes of entertainment until their food arrives. 
 
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Of course, not everyone is happy about all these digital changes. A number of people have spoken out against Royal Caribbean's plan to provide iPads to its guests, saying that they want to take a cruise in order to turn off technology and "unplug." But CIO Bill Martin insists that less than 10% of their customers want to unplug. "Increasingly, we see tech natives on the ship", he said.  

By Justin Toy
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