New iPad Mini a Good Fit for the Fire/EMS World

A first look at the iPAd MINI

With Apple’s new release of the iPad Mini, questions are sure to arise relative to the suitability of the new device for EMS or fire-related uses. Already, hundreds of fire agencies and EMS services across the US and internationally are looking at the iPad as a possible solution.

The iPad Mini is perfectly sized to be stuffed into a turnout coat. It’s 7.9 inches tall and 5.3 inches wide, compared with the full-size iPad, which is 9.7 inches by 7.31 inches. At the same time, the resolution for apps, videos, and content remains the same.There are no changes needed to the more than 275,000 apps out there to be “mini compatible.”

The initial question is, how does it look?

At the unveiling earlier this week, one of our team spent some time with the new device, and found it to be captivating. The film “The Avengers” was available to watch, and it looked terrific, even when placed side by side with the larger 4th generation iPad. When looking at websites, such as the terrific San Ramon Fire District site, elements were crisp and clear. No squinting, no pulling it closer to your face to see, or anything else that would reduce its capabilities.

The camera does a terrific job, and the images our team member took were on par with the larger iPad visually, even though there is a different in megapixels. Taking the picture was actually easier, as the process could be managed with one hand.

The Mini works so closely to that of the standard iPad that it may cause people to have second thoughts about purchasing the new 4th generation full size iPad. And that is where things start to take shape relative to emergency services.

The first issue to consider is price. If you think about an entry price, then it’s very tempting to consider the iPad Mini. The latest iPod Touch with 32 gigabytes sells for $299. An iPad Mini with 16 gigabytes of storage sells for $329.

However, the iPad Mini with WiFi does not include GPS. And that is a critical component for emergency services. As such, the entry price for the iPad Mini is $459, or less than $50 under the cost of a full size 16GB iPad 4th Gen model. Oh, and that makes it $50 more than a GPS equipped 16GB iPad series 2.

The other issue is functionality in the world of emergency services. For managing an incident, searching for fire stations, fire districts, managing maps, etc., the Mini is a terrific option. As noted earlier, it’s small enough to fit into a turnout (bunker) coat, or an EMT’s uniform. It can be used with one hand.

However, when managing complex software, such as ePCR or EHR solutions, the Mini may be too small. Not from the perspective of seeing what’s on the screen, but as it relates to navigating with a stylus through complex menus and other elements. We won’t make a final decision until we’ve spent a month or so with an actual Mini, which should begin in a week or so. However, we are a bit concerned about complex menus and navigating during an emergency incident.

One other bit of good news relative to the new iPad announcements is the addition of new external cables, including a USB cable. While initially designed for connectivity to a camera, the electrical makeup of the cable is such (and the new “Lightning” pin connector from Apple), that connectivity to EKG machines and other devices is now a sure thing. It will just be a matter of weeks or months before the EKG connectivity issue is resolved. That, and performance (CPU and GPU speed) have been some of the primary bumps in the road preventing large scale purchases of the iPad by first responder agencies.

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Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

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