The BusinessPundit is wondering about using Tablet PC technology for data acquisition…
“We have some forms that we write client information on that are later loaded into a database software (such as ACT). I’d like to write in the form fields on the tablet PC, then write a routine to pull out that data and load it into the database automatically. Do tablets really recognize handwriting well enough for this?”
I’ve been using a Tablet PC for some time now– I own two, and now run my timesheets for my consulting company entirely in “digital ink.” One of my companies (Critical Domain) also has a number of requirements gathering forms that we do on a tablet using some custom software we developed, which are pretty close to what he describes, and we’ve been very happy with the results.
The upcoming update to the Tablet PC OS (currently in beta, will ship with the release of Windows XP Service Pack 2) dramatically improves the usability (and accuracy) of the handwriting engine. We’ve been testing this, and the difference is dramatic.
I should mention it is critical to custom-build an application of this type to at least some extent. The reason is that (as a developer) you can provide “hints” the recognition engine about what to expect– like whether the input is an email address, phone number, etc.– these DRAMATICALLY increase accuracy. It’s hard to over-state how important this is.
The newest version of Microsoft’s InfoPath form engine has excellent Tablet PC support, which would enable such an implementation.
One side benefit is the “cool factor.” It definitely has an impact in terms of the customer perception of how high-tech your business is. People are always commenting on it. (cross-posted to the small-biz-advisor blog)