iOS Devices Get Everywhere

I’ve had some time between travelling and teaching over the past few weeks and it’s been an opportunity to give my planted aquarium some much-needed attention. Writing Learning Tree’s Building iPhone® and iPad® Applications: Extended Features course at the end of last year involved many long hours writing materials and several trips across the Atlantic for course planning meetings and test runs. Plants went unpruned and unfed and the whole thing ended up looking rather neglected.

A complete clean out and re-plant seemed like the best solution and, after much scrubbing and uprooting, I visited a local aquatics chain store to pick out a selection of fresh plants. While up to my elbows in water picking out the healthiest specimens, my ears pricked up to a conversation between a father and daughter with a member of staff about adding some new fish to their tank. It’s common for aquatics stores to enquire about how long a tank has been running, the tank size and so on before selling fish, but what was interesting about this exchange was that the customer’s details were recorded on an iPhone and uploaded to a system where they could be retrieved on subsequent vists.

A little over the top I thought at the time, but an interesting use of an iPhone and web service to provide mobile data entry, just as we do in one of the chapters in the iPhone® and iPad® Programming: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction course. In that case, we use a business case of a student registering on a course via a JSON web service, but the principle is the same.

An even more unlikely use of the iPad generated a lot of publicity recently when my local council chose to issue iPads to refuse (trash) collection crews. Local newspapers picked up on the story, national news recycled it, and the local member of parliament attempted to rubbish the idea with the suggestion that a clipboard and map would be better. Personally I don’t think the cost-benefit analysis is as simple as that: Just like the aquatic’s store’s solution, collecting data using a mobile device saves the unseen data-entry task from paper to central database and there is an opportunity to deliver all sorts of valuable central data out to all sorts of categories of mobile workers. Certainly students attending Learning Tree courses often attend with similar business cases as their priority and the web services material is always popular.

Not all uses of iPad work out so well though. An iPad was seen in use on the pitch before the penalty shoot-out when England played Italy at the Euro 2012 championships recently. Unfortunately the “inside track” made available to England goalkeeper Joe Hart didn’t result in success!

On a similar theme, I’ve become quite a follower of the NFL as a result of my trips to Washington, DC and I’m surprised more coaches aren’t already on the touchline with iPads and custom apps for playcalling. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens piloted the idea last season (with constrasting levels of success, it has to be said) and I’m sure we’ll see other franchises doing the same in 2012/13.

Now someone just needs to write an app that helps soccer and football players kick the ball straight!

Richard Senior

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