How Apple’s Return to Basics Will Revolutionise Field Work

Posted on the 11th September 2015

At Apple’s latest event, it revealed the iPad Pro, a larger and more powerful version of the iPad. At first glance, it’s easy to feel a little disappointed by that revelation. Apple is the king of innovation and “the same as before, but with higher tech specs” doesn’t sound terribly innovative.

Happily, there is a “but”.

There is one key feature that differentiates the iPad Pro from the iPad Air, and that’s a stylus. Or, as Apple calls it, the Apple Pencil. Steve Jobs was resolutely opposed to the idea of the stylus. When he launched the iPhone he asserted quite confidently that the best pointing device was your own finger. He felt that styli were cumbersome and rather prone to going missing. However, they can be incredibly useful in some fields, and the Apple Pencil is no ordinary stylus.

A Graphics Tablet Replacement

The Apple Pencil is a sophisticated pointing device that can detect position, force and tilt. This means that it can draw like a real pencil, or can be used to write like a pen. It can even emulate brush strokes if the software supports it. Your iPad Pro could become a replacement for a traditional graphics tablet.

The pen has its own lightning connector, so it can be charged via the iPad when it’s not in use. App developers will be given access to an API to take advantage of the features of the device.

Enormous Field Potential

The most interesting uses of this new stylus will almost certainly be seen in the field. Even today, it’s all too common to see surveyors, site managers and estate agents walking around with a clipboard and a pen, because let’s face it, scrawling notes on a clipboard and annotating site diagrams is easier to do with a pen than with your finger.

The Apple Pencil could change all of that, allowing staff in the field to draw on interactive diagrams, take notes that they can erase, undo and change, and even tie those notes to location data or photographs on the fly. This could significantly improve the efficiency of field teams in completing day-to-day tasks.

An electronic pencil may not sound as though it is a quantum leap forward in technology, but Apple is renowned for taking simple ideas and finding the killer app for them. It made personal computing, smartphones and digital audio ubiquitous, so it makes sense that it may now do the same for the humble stylus.