By Ian Hamilton
Originally published in The Orange County Register
A Newport Beach-based construction consulting company is in its first week of implementing a new workflow that incorporates 20 always-connected-to-the-Internet Apple iPads.
D7 Consulting is trying to carve out a competitive edge by turning “lead time into real time.”
The company was picked by cloud-based service Box.net as recipient of the iPads after D7 submitted an application describing how it could benefit from the iPad and the Box collaboration software.
The way the 20 iPads are used is now essentially a joint experiment and promotion between the companies.
“We really think Box can make mobile devices like the iPad an indispensable tool for businesses. So, we’re looking forward to getting a lot of great feedback from D7 and translating that into making Box an even better solution,” said Sean Lindo, product marketing manager for Box.
Box is a collaboration service (one of several) where individuals, teams or businesses can store collective documents, photos, presentations and other types of files online. With an always on and always connected to the Internet device like the iPad, an individual is capable of uploading and downloading files quickly at any time – and from anywhere.
D7 co-founder Joseph Daniels said, in theory, one of his workers could be suspended in mid-air inspecting something on the side of a hotel in Las Vegas, taking photos with a digital camera and sending in reports right from the iPad.
In reality, they’re still testing things out. One of D7’s employees is taking a trek up to a project in Fremont, Ca., this week as he files his work from his tablet. Instead of mailing reports from the job to the office he’ll file from the iPad. It’ll be even quicker than using a laptop, too, Daniels said.
He hopes using iPads will give his company a competitive edge. He said tasks that might’ve taken a week or two could be done in the same day now.
“It’s about speed and time in business. That’s what people want. They want it now or yesterday. If they can get it that way, we’re going to be the ones in the front,” he said.
A common concern about cloud-based services like Box.net is security. Sensitive files uploading and downloading all the time from a variety of different devices in a bunch of different locations isn’t exactly an IT guy’s security dream. Daniels says he’s not too concerned about it.
“Our information isn’t valuable to anybody but us and the client,” he said.
Box.net advertises data encryption, reporting tools on user and file activity and access controls too, among other security features.
Daniels said the important features of the iPad as a business solution are that it’s inexpensive, lightweight and fast. The iPads he is using are 3G + Wifi, which means the devices can access AT&T’s 3G cell network to access the Internet when not in range of free wireless Internet. He compared not using an iPad to using iPad with a wifi connection as being like going from 25 to 50 miles an hour. Going up to a 3G iPad, which enables connectivity everywhere, is like going from 50 to 100 miles per hour.
When asked if he could go back to not using an iPad, Daniels said he could,
“Do I want to go back? Never,” Daniels said.