The Victorian Metropolitan Ambulance Service has given tablet PCs a nod, arming more than 300 paramedics across 30 teams with ruggedised Panasonic laptops.
The deal will see the vendor's CF-18 Toughbooks in use across the service's entire fleet of 160 ambulances, Panasonic product marketing manager, John Penn, said.
Used primarily in tablet PC form, in combination with the Victorian Ambulance Clinical Information System (VACIS) software program, the technology is helping paramedics simplify the process of capturing patient data for further analysis and reporting.
Tablet PCs are playing an increasingly important role in select verticals like healthcare and emergency services. In this environment, there's an acceleration of wireless infrastructure and point-of-care devices.
In healthcare, tablets are helping medical staff stay at the bedside, increasing efficiency and quality of care, Penn said. In-vehicle deployments are particularly popular in emergency services. Tablet technology is also hot in utilities, mining, construction and transport.
"In certain verticals, tablets are attractive because of the rugged nature of the PC," he said. "People want to use the PC as a tool, and not have to use kid gloves. In healthcare, reliability is critical. It needs to be able to withstand knocks and bumps."
In all markets, there is a growing opportunity for resellers to pitch specialised software including GPS and integrate it with hardware, Penn said, highlighting the example of the Metropolitan ambulance service using the VACIS software.
"Resellers can take specialist solutions to market, use their integration skills and integrate the software," he said. "This offers additional margin compared to traditional notebooks."
Built to last
The built-in GPS module is particularly attractive in the utilities market for asset tracking but tablet usage scenarios are growing all the time. From scaling Mount Everest and facing extreme temperatures alongside Australian adventurer, Rex Pemberton, to being used in outdoor fireworks shows, Penn said Toughbook PCs are increasingly harsh environments.
Toughbooks were used to meet the extreme demands of live computer-controlled fireworks displays at outdoor events such as the Australia Day fireworks, he said.
"The Toughbook CF-18 convertible notebook/tablet PCs purchased by Howard and Sons provide protection against vibration and shock; are specially sealed to resist damage from liquid, dirt and dust; and are used tablet-style to provide touchscreen operation to drive the shows."
How is market acceptance? According to Gartner, the tablet PC market is still experiencing slow but steady growth in vertical applications. The market analyst firm predicted tablet PCs will start becoming mainstream computing devices until next year. IDC hardware analyst, Michael Sager, was less bullish about the technology's chances of gaining broad acceptance so quickly but agreed vertical markets were its biggest growth area at the moment. One interesting market shift beyond the vertical market play was the corporate push towards tablets. Sager said this was particularly significant because it was a new user group.
"It's now no longer just a vertical market story," he said. "There's been significant growth in the corporate market. Third or fourth generation users of notebooks are moving towards tablets.
"While the tablet heritage is in vertical markets, numbers show it's moving over to the corporate arena. Helping to drive the shift is the increasing number of third-party applications."