The iPad is an excellent business tool, and we’ve seen it being used in a number of business scenarios so far — as a tool to go green, to collaborate or to increase productivity. Clearly, the iPad is helping businesses meet goals in style.
We did some poking around to see how companies are using the iPad as of late, and we observed a few recurring themes. The iPad obviously has a place in the retail environment, but we also heard from a surprising number of doctors using it to decrease operation costs.
Check out what we learned below, and let us know how you’ve seen the iPad being used in the business world in the comments.
1. Point-of-Sale System
Zinneken’s employee Joel Lashmore chats with a customer.
Mobile payment systems are redefining commerce, and so far, smartphone-related payment systems — such as Square, Intuit GoPayment, and PAYware Mobile, have been making the most ruckus. But the iPad is a contender in this space, too.
Zinneken’s co-founder Nhon Ma says that the startup cost of using an iPad POS system has been low, compared with other options. “We’ve spent around $1,300 in equipment as a start-up cost — iPad 2, cash register, acrylic display, printer. Other non-iPad POS suppliers would charge you from $5,000 to $6,000 upfront,” he says. Maintenance on the system is also ideal, says Ma, as ShopKeep’s software upgrades are free, compared with traditional supplier maintenance fees of $50 to $100 per month.
Training is a breeze, too, says Ma. “In the restaurant or retail industry, employee turnover is known to be high in general. With our POS system, every new hire has been operational with the POS after just 10 minutes of explanations.” That’s no time at all, considering some of Ma’s employees have commented that previous non-iPad POS training lasted around a week.
Zinneken’s keeps its iPad in an iSkidz flippable dock so that the cashier can easily flip the iPad over for customers to sign their receipts.
Ma says there are some downsides, though. “Peripherals — such as credit card readers and [product] scanners — must be iPad-compatible. As it is fairly a new market, few options are available. And to my knowledge, only one brand of printers is compatible with ShopKeep POS — that’s Star Micronic printers … expensive but highly reliable.”
Worst of all, though, is the fact that credit card processing is impossible if the Internet is down, Ma says. He recommends using a router with a 4G USB key as a backup.
For businesses in the market, another iPad POS system worth checking out is Revel Systems.
2. Restaurant Menus & Entertainment
HubWorks brings the iPad to the table.
While some retailers and restaurants are installing iPads up front to manage sales, others are installing them right at the table.
HubWorks Interactive, an iPad solutions provider for the hospitality industry, is one company making in-store iPad ordering a reality.
Customers can not only order and pay on the tablets, but also update their social channels, including Twitter and Facebook. The hope, of course, is that customers will talk up the restaurant to their social graphs.
HubWorks’ new technology — offering social media entertainment at the table — is proving to increase sales by 10%, reduce customer wait times by 30% and increase repeat customer visits by 85%.
Another budding restaurant chain on the block is benefiting from in-store iPads, as well. Let’s Yo, a frozen yogurt franchise launched in October 2011 in Marlboro, New Jersey, decided to install iPads at customer tables for entertainment purposes and has had great results. The iPads are hooked up to closed-circuit TVs that allow consumers to interact with one another and post on the Let’s Yo Facebook Page. The company recently ran a Facebook contest, powered greatly by the in-store iPads, which led to a 41% increase in Facebook Likes. Not too shabby.
3. Medical Records
While we may not like to think of hospitals as businesses, they have operation costs like the rest of us. Both independent physicians and large medical groups have to figure out how to slash operational expenses.
For years now, we’ve been hearing about electronic medical records, yet I haven’t seen a single iPad, mobile device or laptop in use in any of the waiting rooms I’ve frequented. So, what’s the hold-up? Well, once again, it’s the medical world we’re talking about here — slow to adopt, highly bureaucratic and weighted down with regulations. But it can’t stay that way forever.
We’ve seen a number of iPad apps on the market created to help doctors cut costs and manage data efficiently. One player in the market is DrChrono — the startup has created a cloud- and web-based electronic health record, accessible via iPad and iPhone, as well as via any Internet browser.
Along with its electronic health record platform, DrChrono also implements scheduling features, patient reminders and a billing system, making data collection and maintenance easy for doctors and their staff. Going digital benefits the patient, too — say goodbye to that chunk of papers you used to fill out in the waiting room. DrChrono enables users to create profiles that can be easily updated with future visits.
While researching the most recent innovative uses of the iPad, we came across a number of options — inventory trackers, in-flight entertainment, taxi screens, sales tools and more. These three topics stood out as the most interesting and promising, but it’s clear that the tablet is aiming to revolutionize many more industries.