The jewel in the Hand Held Products crown is its Adaptus Imaging Technology platform, which has made the company’s image-based data collection systems a hit in such industries as warehousing, sales, delivery and point of sale, to name a few. Kevin Ahearn, VP and general manager of Hand Held’s Mobile and Wireless Strategic Business Unit, has been championing its products for 16 years and is responsible for the development of several of its successful products. Recently, Hand Held entered a partnership that will increasingly make its products available to first responders and patient care providers, and so below, Ahearn describes the challenges and triumphs of working in a new vertical.
Mobile Enterprise: How new is Hand Held Products to the healthcare and first-response markets?
Kevin Ahearn: Our major focus has been on transportation and retail. In the last few years though, as a result of some of our partners, we have been focusing on healthcare, as well as on triage and first response. [After Sept. 11] in New York City we had equipment installed that was used mainly as an opportunity to track personnel and people and be able to communicate using some of the GSM data capabilities and real-time communications out in the field. So that’s really how we’ve started to migrate into the healthcare and medical fields.
We also have a very strong relationship with a company called Cerner, which has an application set that’s used by hospitals across the country, mainly for running all of their hospital systems—it’s almost like SAP is to manufacturing. We’ve done a lot of work with them, interfacing our devices into their systems, and ultimately have been used at the bedside for the administration of medications. So now we know who the patient is, who the nurse is, what the dosage is, and we can tie together all the equipment in the patient’s room, as well as any oral medication or shots they may have been given, into a single-day record.
ME: What are the unique challenges of this space?
KA: We see it as a huge opportunity for growth. We don’t see anybody out there who has a real leadership position, and we don’t see anybody that’s really leveraging the strengths that we bring [such as our imaging capabilities]. The fact that I can take a picture of a situation or a picture of a patient and then take that information and send it back through the network is opening a lot of doors for applications beyond the traditional barcode-only types of applications. We see a huge growth opportunity for us, and we’re focused very strongly on looking at the ergonomic aspects of the solutions.
ME: What’s an example of an ergonomic improvement Hand Held has made?
KA: We were working with our Dolphin 9500 product—which is a full keyboard with flashlight configuration—with some healthcare providers, and the feedback was that it was a little too big. The feature set was great, but it was a little too big. So we developed the Dolphin 7900, which is really the exact same product on the inside, as far as the operating system and the architecture, but we changed the form a little bit. We made it into a full PDA product, versus a keyboard product. We were able to still include the imaging, the wireless capability, the large display and the long battery life, and what we found was that it was much more readily accepted in the healthcare space, because it was smaller, and it had a better ergonomic interface, as far as how the users were interacting with the device—they didn’t need all the keys that we originally had on the device.
So first responders today are using our 9500s pretty effectively. They need the keyboard interface. ... But when you transfer that to the bedside, the 9500 really wasn’t the right product. The 7900 ... was much more readily accepted.