Friday, September 12, 2008

Cool Technology of the Week

In the past, I've been called an Apple fanboy, despite the fact that I declared in a recent blog that the iPhone 3G is not a perfect device.

At Harvard Medical School, we've been evaluating mobile devices for education and clinical care. From our early surveys, it's clear that Palm OS is dying, Windows Mobile Smartphones are fading, and that iPhone and Blackberry are the smartphones of choice.

The iPhone has two downsides - you have to use AT&T, meaning that you may have to switch networks just to get an iPhone. Also, they keyboard does not lend itself to high volume email input.

We have publicly available WiFi throughout the medical school and throughout the HMS affiliate hospitals. This gives us an interesting possibility for the mobile clinical data viewing and educational device of the future - the iPod Touch, which is my Cool Technology of the Week.

You may think I'm going out on a limb, declaring the iPod Touch a game changing device, but I have my reasons.

1. The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone 3G without the need for an expensive AT&T 2G/3G phone/data plan. The applications are the same (everying at the AppStore including ePocrates), the email functionality is the same, and the user interface is the same. This means that anyone can use all the application functionality of an iPhone 3G without any connectivity cost by just buying an iPod Touch and using WiFi.

2. The web browsing, media management, and content viewing of the iPod Touch are remarkable. My complaint with the iPhone - the challenging keyboard for entry - becomes less of an issue if you're using the device for viewing data, webpages, and media.

3. Students have declared that they are no longer buying Palm OS or Windows devices. The iPhone and the iPod are their multimedia devices of choice.

4. We've prototyped using several of our web-based applications on the iPod Touch. They work perfectly as long as they do not require significant typing/data input.

5. The form factor of the device fits in a white coat pocket, weighs under a pound and the battery life lasts a shift.

Thus, I believe the iPod Touch is a device to watch for clinical and educational applications. I suspect it will be used in many novel ways in healthcare and not just for as a glorified music player.
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