iPad Dictation in the Lab & Cloud Computing

CultOfMac bring up a really interesting problem with Siri/Dictation… what you say is sent back to Apple and could be retained.

I can see why Apple do it; in reality it is the only way to get Dictation working with any kind of useful real-world accuracy. Not only does the recognition require a lot more data and potentially CPU than you have on your iDevice, but by gathering lots and lots of samples into one place, they can continually improve the performance in the real world.

However, this is probably a technical violation of some confidentiality clauses, government regulations, and potentially prior-art disclosure.

There’s a general point here about Cloud Computing. Yes, there’s a lot of Corporate-level discussion about “The Cloud” and people are starting to wake up to the privacy and legal implications of having your data on other people’s servers. But in parallel with that, and largely unremarked, as our phones get more capable they are also splattering our information all over the Cloud in various ways – some obvious, some declared but invisible (as with Siri), and some rather less honourable (the recent Path/Address Book issue as an example).

I don’t think this is going to stop adoption of iPads and other devices in the Lab; the trend is too powerful to resist. And I don’t think we’re going to see the emergence of a class of devices which “Do things properly” from an Enterprise perspective – Apple’s consumer focus has clearly shown where the market traction is, and anything focused on the Enterprise is never going to get a critical mass.

But I do think this is something to keep in mind; paranoia isn’t going to work, but Inter-company NDAs and Patent Law are going to have to start wrangling with Consumer-focused Cloud services. Those two worlds haven’t really interacted much, it is going to be interesting to watch it play out.

SAP and the iPad – and ELNs

We think the iPad has the potential to revolutionise Electronic Lab Notebooks, and clearly the ELN market is just one of many which will benefit from the new form factor. SAP are arguably the most “Enterprise” of any software vendor, so I was interested in their view of the iPad and other Tablets.

This interview of SAPs CIO makes interesting reading.

Oliver Bussmann told me that SAP’s chief scientist had done an analysis of computers in business, and where they will be going. In their scientist’s view, the mobile and desktop models are converging. That is, instead of rolling up to a desk every day to power up a machine, and sift through screens of information to arrive at a simple dashboard, users will come to expect a smaller device to focus on the data. This smaller form factor and more task-focused paradigm will allow you to call up information almost instantly, with laser focus on specific processes, rather than one large machine that does a dozen things. It’s an evolution of the species, if you will.

We’re seeing this ourselves, both in our internal use of the iPad and also by our ELN clients. The Tablet form factor and the very task-centric paradigm really does create a compelling additional device from which to interact with your data – and we’re pleased that PatentSafe continues to keep up with the innovations in the tablet space.

A large number of our customers have iPad trials ongoing; there are few who are refusing to entertain the iPad at all on the basis that it is a “toy”. With endorsements like this from SAP I can’t help but think they will be reconsidering!

iPads in use – repair process

Again from Fraser Speirs, some experience of running (and repairing) iPads in the wild. He’s got 115 of them (I think) in a school, which I suspect is as challenging an environment as a Laboratory. This is another small-but-important point – fixing the things:

We have had a couple of defective iPads. One device’s LCD developed rainbow stripes, the other developed a dead strip across the screen that wouldn’t respond to touch.

In both cases, the recovery procedure was:

  • Sync the broken device
  • Unwrap a spare
  • Restore the spare from the last backup

The procedure takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and the pupil is back up and running quickly. If you’re going to do an iPad deployment, I’m starting to think it’s essential that you have hot spares on site. The iPad is now so embedded in everything we do that to be without it for a single day – far less two or three – is unacceptable.

Both devices were replaced after a 10 minute visit to the Genius Bar. Try that with your £200 netbook.

A 30-minute restore time from bare metal is quite outstanding. And given they are consumer-grade devices, I can see this being done without IT involvement – just go and get a new one from the Stationery cupboard and send your dead one back to IT in an inter-office envelope!