Today, we open up our blog to our colleague and guest blogger Alastair Dick - Microsoft CTO for Health. He takes a look at a new device on the market which is set to get NHS pulses racing...
As Windows 8 has been out for while I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at some of the devices that are around from our OEM partners that are particularly relevant for use in the NHS. Today I have a Q572 from Fujitsu to review.
This is a very interesting device it is my first look at the AMD System on a Chip (SOC) architecture and how it performs from both a battery life and usability perspective.
So out of the box, first impressions are of a very robust device, it feels solid and well made, it weighs 732g and has a 10.1 inch screen.
A quick glance around and things start to get interesting, five buttons on the right hand side, power, wireless on/off, volume up and down, and screen rotate on/off.
As you go around further there are two USB ports, a full HDMI out, 3.5mm audio jack, power in, front and rear facing cameras, finger print reader, smartcard reader, SD card reader and docking station connector.
Turning it on in its back, you can see the battery is removable, which I like, and underneath the battery is the slot for the SIM card for the 3G radio for data access on the move.
So right from the offset this is a high specification tablet, the inclusion of a smartcard reader means it will be of interest to the NHS, next job is to look at how it performs.
Turning it on, the device is very responsive, the touch doesn’t need heavy pressure to respond, and the screen tracks and redraws beautifully with your finger as your swipe across. So it looks like the AMD chipset performance for touch is up to the mark.
From inside Windows we can see that the level of specification continues, it has 4GB ram, and this particular device comes with a 128GB SSD, but you can get it configured with a 250GB SSD as well. From a corporate perspective as it has a TPM 1.2 on board, so we can use this with Windows 8 Enterprise for BitLocker and Direct Access, more on this later. But leave it to say first impressions are a device that has all of the security features we need for use in the NHS, it is fast, light and robust enough for typical usage.
Not a companion device
So when I talk to NHS IT people, there is a still a mind-set that these types of devices are companion devices, one device cannot fit all. I think the Q572 can challenge this thinking, firstly it has the essential accessory of a docking station, again this one is well designed with a locating peg on the right hand side of the dock, so you can easily locate and drop it into the base station. The base station comes with three extra USB ports and very importantly an RJ45 ethernet port, so for those of you familiar with my mantra of “deploying Windows so you never have to visit the desktop ever again”, you can build this machine automatically over the wire if necessary.
Back to the usability at the desk, so NHS workers can arrive at their desk, drop the slate in the cradle, and you have full use of mouse, keyboard, and fast network through wired connection. Perhaps an added bonus would have been a VGA port ion the docking station to allow a second bigger monitor, you can use the HDMI port on the side, but it would be better if you don’t have to plug anything in.
But at the desk, docked, this is a fully fledged PC, fast, plenty of USB ports for connecting devices for video conferencing etc, certainly not a compromise when in the office.
What about on the road?
Firstly one of the key requirements is a decent battery life, and I have to say I have been very impressed with the battery life of the Q572, it isn’t as good as an ARM based device (say a Microsoft Surface RT), but as a PC, it is better than anything I have had before, so the AMD chipset scores well
here, and remember you can have a spare battery, and there is a car charging kit available, so for community nurses etc, power is not a problem. Secondly it has a built in 3G radio, so you get connectivity on the road, and Windows 8 handles connectivity through this seamlessly, using WiFi when available and metering usage over the 3G radio. For NHS workers on the road, the fact that this device has a TPM chip means that they can login once at the Windows startup, connect to the internet over 3G automatically, and then by utilising Direct Access, will get access to the internal NHS systems without having to do anything, no messing around with VPN clients and dongles, just log in once and you are in.
While on the road, usage will fall into two categories, firstly as a slate, where you may want to browse the intranet/internet, read email, and this device functions brilliantly for this, but the Q572 has another trick up its sleeve, as it has a digitizer as well, which means that you get a pen with it and you can write and take notes.
It also allows for more precise when you are driving non-touch applications while as a slate. Here you can see me using OneNote for taking notes, for me this is essential.
The sharper viewers may note that I went paperless in 2004 with my first Tablet PC, which means I have all of my notes from every meeting in the last 9 years right in front of me, and I can search them as well! Just type in the name or word I am looking for and OneNote performs the handwriting recognition and searching for me, oh and yes all of these are synced seamlessly through Skydrive Pro to any machine I want, or my Windows 8 phone.
Here are some examples of touch based clinical applications we have released running on the Q572, I shall write an entry on these separately on how to get them running on your machine and also a quick breakdown of the apps, as we have released the code as well.
But what about when I need to get some serious content creation accomplished or use an application the really need a mouse and keyboard to drive, well here I am showing it being used with the Microsoft Wedge Keyboard and Mouse set.
The cover that fits over the keyboard unfolds and forms a stand for the slate, and off you go, full keyboard and mice over Bluetooth, connectivity to all your corporate assets through Direct Access and the 3G radio, this is a no compromise device which is your desktop in the office, slate and laptop when on the move.
What about the NHS Smartcard?
For many NHS applications, authentication is required through an NHS Smartcard, well again, not a problem, you can see here it is working with our soon to be released Identity Agent.
For some in the NHS Smartcard access is infrequent, but plugging in readers can be a pain as they get lost or forgotten, particularly on the road, so for GP’s using these out on call, this does mean they can still have full access to clinical applications if they need it.
What about protecting my data?
As mentioned earlier, because the device has a TPM, this means we can policy enforce BitLocker hard disk encryption on this device, the upshot being that all of my data is encrypted and protected automatically and from an organisational perspective this is enforced by policy rather than relying on staff to remember to do it. Now the one fly in the ointment of using pins to protect content at boot up on slates is of course you don’t have a keyboard to type in the pin, so you have to carry a USB keyboard around to start the machine, not a workable solution! Well the Q572 even has this covered, turn it on, press the top left of the screen and up pops a keyboard for typing in the pin. This is implemented in the UEFI BIOS, and I expect this to be mainstream for this class of device, but hats off to Fujitsu to be the first one I have seen.
It has been a long time coming but for me this is the first class of slate that has come to the market that has all of the horsepower and features to take over as a desktop based machine and function as an on the road device. For NHS Organisations looking at procuring laptops or companion slates for mobile usage in the NHS this device is definitely worth trialling. Coupled with the mobile features included in Windows 8 it makes the experience seamless and productive.
Microsoft CTO - NHS