Some of you might have read about Raymond Cody, the American pilot who landed a single-engine aircraft with the help of his iPad and instructions from the Transport Security Administration customer control after the electronics on his plane failed. Impressive as his heroics seem, I believe it is no big deal. In fact, I have also flown an aircraft and landed it using an app on my iPad. Yes, that aircraft was much smaller - a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 quadricopter that weighed under a kilo. But the iPad app let me do more than track the flight path as Cody did. Even when the drone was flying a bit far away from where I was, I could see what lay ahead and below - using inbuilt cameras that were relaying live feeds to the iPad app. Now there are even apps that let you play augmented reality games using the drone.
The AR.Drone 2.0 is a good example of how the tablet is now becoming more than a consumption-oriented computing device. The drone can be controlled only with a tablet or a smartphone as it does not have any physical controls. The day is not far away when you will carry a tablet, or even a smaller screen, to drive your car. Then, using it, perfect the settings of a connected home and finally employ it as a computing device.
Those checking into certain rooms at the ITC Maurya in New Delhi or the Grand Chola in Chennai in coming days will find a tablet near their bedside, which will be their digital concierge for the duration of the stay. It will be locked to an app called DigiValet, created by an Indian company called Paragon Business Solutions. The app will enable them to control the lighting and temperature in their rooms, check the menu and order dinner, book a spa appointment, and even request a movie or read a newspaper. DigiValet is already installed in over 4,000 rooms globally, including the Armani Hotel in Dubai's Burj Khalifa and the Oberoi Hotel in Bangalore. No, the tablet will not replace hotel folio or the room service number, but it can make life much simpler on both sides of the front desk.
Similarly, you will also see smart devices replacing the notepad or clipboard. There are already restaurants globally that use tablets, smartphones or even iPods to take orders that are immediately transmitted to the PoS (point of sale) system, thus reducing the room for error and delays. In India, Maruti Suzuki has already started empowering its service advisors with tablets, which they use to record service requests on the floor. They also use these devices to click images of the vehicles for dents and scratches. Maruti claims that this initiative has drastically reduced the time taken to initiate the service as the Android tablets are directly linked to their dealer management systems.
If you think these innovations are not going to find widespread use, you couldn't be more wrong. Thanks to the tablet's falling price tags, its adoption is going through the roof, especially in India. According to research firm IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker data for 2012, approximately 2.66 million tablets were sold in the country.
That is a whopping 901 per cent year-on-year growth from 2011. And tablets have only become cheaper in the first quarter of 2013. So, it would be no surprise if people start buying tablets for much more than regular browsing or content consumption. I recently came across a use for the tablet that could, in a way, put humans out of service. Double Robotics, an American technology start-up, has started accepting pre-orders for a contraption called the Double. Their catch line, 'Wheels for the iPad', might not give away much, but the Double, which can be pre-booked for $2,499, can replace you in places you cannot be physically present in. Just plug an iPad on top of the Double and you could be part of a board meeting in Mumbai, even though you are actually on holiday in Mauritius. And since the Double can move around, stand and adjust height, it could be more effective than regular videoconferencing.
Robotic telepresence, as the technology is called, has many other uses - from providing virtual teachers in remote schools to remotely letting you take a tour of the Louvre in Paris or any other museum. It certainly seems like a good time to pop that tablet.