In just seven months, Apple has shipped more than 8.25 million iPads — and ignited a market for apps that will hit 50,000 in December. While most of those apps cater to consumers’ every whim, a growing proportion is catching on in the enterprise — with financial services leading the charge.
Field service looks to be another early-adoption sector with intriguing potential — with apps that showcase the iPad’s utility as a mobile, blue-collar business tool. Case in point: ServiceMax (disclosure: ServiceMax is a sponsor of SmartVan) just made its iPad debut with an app that “allows field workers in manufacturing or service industries to retrieve the data they need on the spot,” says Chris Chiappinelli of Managing Automation. The app provides technicians with all the information they need, from customer history to video tutorials, all on a device that fits in their glove compartments.
Service technicians, who spend much of their time on site at customer locations, rely on customer and parts information to effectively do their jobs. And business rely on well-informed field techs to keep their customers happy and to drive business. Service, likes sales, is a job done on the road. Sales isn’t lacking in business applications that record, organize and store relevant information. Service, however, is often an afterthought left to make due with custom built software, plugins to existing CRM or ERP systems, or simple spreadsheets.
Alex Williams from ReadWriteWeb has also picked up on the trend of business world uses for the iPad. Williams’s article on iPad apps in the field identifies three new iPad apps that help people in the field get their work done. In addition to ServiceMax’s app, Williams mentions WatchDox, an app that provides secure document downloading, sharing and manipulation across mobile devices, and Google Docs, which Google recently equipped with mobile editing capabilities, meaning technicians (or their managers) can create text docs or spreadsheets and enjoy full access to the information on the road.
Today’s world is all about connectivity, and for little or no money, small and medium-sized companies can seize the opportunities that come with increased connectivity. Mobile may not be a panacea, but guys and gals who drive dented vans and work on four-year-old Dells can really benefit from the iPad — and we’re only at the beginning of innovation around the device.