Alex Blake explores how businesses, schools and sports clubs are using the iPad to change the way they work
How the iPad is getting ahead of the crowd
It’s redefining how people analyse data and improve their lives
Most of us know how hugely the iPad has shaped the world. The device that took the tablet world by storm (and gobbled up 75% of the market a mere nine months after it launched) is instantly recognisable and unmistakably Apple. While it’s now suffering much-publicised declining consumer sales, the iPad is shaking things up away from the glare of the consumer spotlight. In hospitals, classrooms and stadiums around the globe, it’s redefining how people analyse data and improve their lives. It’s the impact it’s having in these places that we’re exploring here. So join us as we take a look at the lesser-known ways in which the iPad is changing the world.
It’s no secret that Apple is going after the healthcare market, and that’s been especially apparent since Tim Cook took the helm. The Apple Watch, with its various health sensors and wellness apps, is probably the most visible embodiment of this obsession.
But forget that for a moment. While consumers may not see Apple’s healthcare side as much as they do the Apple Watch, the iPad is gaining increasing importance in the world of medicine. Medical professionals have been using iPads for years to better aid them in their jobs. And now, Apple is trying to get iPads into the hands of not only doctors, but also patients. One example is at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, where iPads have been distributed to a number of patients. This allows them to view their prescriptions and their side effects, contact nurses, make notes or even just request reading material. Rather than having to press an on-call button and wait for any nurse to arrive, patients can directly message specific members of their care team and get a swift response.
Doctors have also been able to distribute iPads to patients at home, which has had a number of beneficial effects, both on patients and their doctors. In the rural Ozarks region of the US, for instance, iPads have been given to patients alongside other healthcare equipment they need, such as blood pressure cuffs and scales, as part of the Engagement@ Home programme. Patients can then use their iPads to learn about exercises they can do to improve their health, and can contact a doctor whenever they need to.
So far, around 600 patients have signed up in Missouri, one of the main testing areas for the programme. This has led to a 50% decrease in hospital admissions and emergency room visits among those who’ve enrolled, and a consequent 30% reduction in their total cost of care.
In fact, a study in France at Lyon’s Hôpital Femme Mère Enfant found that iPads were as effective as sedatives – and at times even more
so – at calming children who were due to undergo surgery.
Why is Apple so keen to get in on the healthcare market? Aside from its stated goal of making healthcare ‘more human’, Apple is no doubt keen to continue the excellent business iPads are doing in the medical sector, which is contrary to declining sales figures among consumers. “We now have hundreds of iPads for patients to use,” says Cedars-Sinai doctor Shaun Miller. “As we expand to more wards, it’ll be thousands.” That’s due, in part, to the inherent privacy and safety of iOS.
Steve Jobs famously hated the medical technology that surrounded him during his battle with pancreatic cancer, and even sketched out ideas for improving the patient experience. These days, Apple is just picking up where he left off.
Apple has always had a hand in education – in fact, that’s what helped it get to where it is today. In the early 1980s, the company helped pass legislation that granted tax breaks to firms that gave computers to schools; Apple subsequently donated a free Apple IIe to 9,000 schools in California under its Kids Can’t Wait programme. It also gave incentives to its local dealers to help train and guide school personnel. Even the very first Apple I ever produced was used in a maths class at Windsor Junior High School in California.
This trend continued with the launch of the original iPad. It was an instant hit with schools – it was easy to use, lighter than carrying a load of books everywhere, and had ‘star power’ with kids. “I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” said Scott Wolfe, principal of South Mountain Elementary School in New Jersey, in 2011.
Like the Apple IIe before it, the proliferation of iPads in schools was aided by US legislation, such as the Race to the Top initiative, which helped knock $300 to $400
off the price of an iPad for US schools. Apple’s commitment to getting its products into schools wasn’t entirely altruistic – Steve Jobs was creating a generation of Apple users, after all – but it helped cement the idea that Apple devices are good for education.
A different class
Since then, though, Apple’s rivals have caught up and surpassed it in the classroom, with Google’s cheap Chromebooks and Microsoft’s Surface line far outstripping Apple. In the years 2014 to 2016, its share in US classrooms almost halved, from 26% to 14%. In the rest of the world it held steady, but currently has a
Tablet computers are popular in the classroom as they’re easy for kids to use and have a large, bright display.
share of less than 10%. And that’s where the newest iPad comes in. Starting at £339 (and even less for schools thanks to Apple’s educational discount), it’s around half the price of the original iPad; even without state aid, it’s a much more affordable purchase for schools. With so much competition from Google, Microsoft and others in terms of price, it seems that Apple still wants to be the number one device in the classroom.
Back in the 1980s, Apple pushed to get children learning the Logo programming language in schools. These days, it’s doing the same with its own coding language, Swift. The main way it’s doing that is with Swift Playgrounds, an app that teaches children how to create games and get to grips with the basics of the language. It also gives out free iPads to what it deems to be the most needy US schools, where at least 97% of pupils are on free or reduced lunch programmes, and sends staff to help teachers with its devices.
It may have lost ground in recent years, but Apple is keen to dominate education once more, and the iPad is leading the charge.
The same qualities that make the iPad an excellent device for education – a quick, easy interface and a large display – are also well-suited to sport. Data companies like Opta and ProZone provide in-depth analysis to
Apple’s rivals have caught up and surpassed it in the classroom
Apple will provide 12.9‑inch iPad Pros to every MLB team
professional sports teams during games, covering everything from passes completed to distances run. Key information can be viewed on the touchline by the manager and key coaching staff. That means that instead of simply viewing the game and basing decisions on intuition or rough estimates, sports teams can alter their tactics on the go based on real-time statistics. It’s a much more informed way to manage a game plan.
But iPads aren’t just used during live matches; the same benefits they bring to games can also be used in training to improve players’ technique. For instance, at an ice hockey training camp in Mississauga, Canada, young players are assessed and developed with the help of iPads and Apple Watches. Says coach Adrian Lomonaco: “For me, the iPad is like my stick and glove used to be. We used to do [training and coaching] based on feel, but now you can physically see what each athlete is doing.”
And at UK football club Bristol City, it’s more than that. The club uses iPads not only to analyse players’ performances in detail, but also to send messages to individual players, distribute tactical plans and set up schedules. “It’s a portal, or a hub, for all things Bristol City,” explains club manager Lee Johnson. “The under-23s can look at what the senior sessions are, so when they step up they’re comfortable with the ten-bulk sessions we use on a regular basis.”
Scoring a home run
Over in the US, iPads are big business in sport. Major League Baseball (MLB) recently penned a deal with Apple wherein the Cupertino giant will provide 12.9-inch iPad Pros to every team to aid their data analysis efforts. While some teams were indifferent to the stats-gathering capabilities of the iPad (they had been using ring binders full of statistics for years), the real game-changer was video. Having video evidence to back up statistics turned out to be a powerful way for coaches to not only make informed decisions, but also for them to convince players they’re right, and to show them how to improve.
The iPad has another advantage: it’s secure. It has to be, of course – losing an iPad could mean losing information about every aspect of the club for the entire season. To minimise the damage from missing devices and leaked information, the iPads used by the MLB can’t access the internet or take photos.
Getting a wealth of information at your fingertips in a secure, leak-proof way could mean the difference between victory and defeat – something sports teams around the world are coming to realise.
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In Missouri, patients are being given iPads as part of their healthcare plan.
The new iPad is much cheaper, and it costs even less for schools.
iPads are increasingly popular in sport where real-time data can aid decision-making on the go.