Saturday, March 26, 2016

Father longterm care iPad videoconferencing project: Securing the iPad

My father has been doing well in a Quebec long term care facility for veterans (in Canada that has historically meant WW II, he’s in his 90s). Things are getting tougher though — the facility is shifting from federal to provincial control. Great staff are leaving and programs will be stressed.

I see him every 3-4 months, but in between I was surprised how well Skype worked with him. He does much better speaking when he can see me than he does on the phone. It seems to be related to knowing when to try speaking and when to listen. He also seems to hear Skype sound better than mobile phone sound. (It’s likely much higher quality.)

Even with the old regime though the Skype conferences often failed. Tech complexity and organizational issues forced us to discontinue them.

So now I’m going to try bringing him an LTE iPad Air 2. I’ll get a Rogers SIM card when I visit in a few weeks and we’ll see if it works from his room. If all goes well it will cost him an extra $10-$15/month — and the iPad cost [1].

Dad’s lost a few wallets from his room. I think most longterm care facilities see this kind of problem. Visitors can have issues. So we need to secure his iPad. Other than photo display I think he’ll only be using it for conferencing. So it needs to be secure [2], continuously powered up, stored somewhere he can sit, and not take up much room. The secure device needs to leave speakers and camera clear.

After some thought I ordered the $33 CTA Digital Universal Anti-Theft Security Grip with POS Stand for Tablets - iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, Galaxy Tab, Note 10.1, 7-10-inch Tablets (PAD-UATGS) (grip and stand). It seems solid enough, it will keep the iPad off his desk, and there are screw holes (but no screws included). It may screw into his (antique) desk, but, even though it’s not shown in the picture, the lock comes with a cable. So I might be able to secure it to his desk in a less damaging and harder to remove way.

Of course the iPad Air 2 is way too thin for this device. It flops around. There’s supposed to be an included adapter strip, but mine was missing. I don’t think it would have worked — this home made setup seems a lot better. I had some TrueValue gripping pads (549104, TV23148) lying around…


I put those inside the corner retainers:


and it works pretty well:


So the first step is complete. Next step will be to test some of the conferencing options for data use and usability with various iPad accessibility features enabled: Skype vs. FaceTime vs. Facebook Messenger (Hangout is not very useable.)

I don’t expect Dad will use it by himself, we’re hoping a friend who helps with him will get things set up. I want it to be useable for them though.

- fn -

[1] (Rant) Incidentally, the iPad Air reminds me what a mixed bag Apple is these days. Nice device in many ways, but when I brought my mother an iPad six years ago one of the features she loved most was it could be used as a high quality digital photo frame. It was easy to launch from the lock screen. She loved that.

So, of course, Apple pulled it from the lock screen around iOS 7 and then ditched the replacement with iOS 9. There’s exactly one half-decent alternative, an app called Picmatic. Not to be confused with spammy copycat apps of the same name in the kinda broken App Store.

I don’t know if Apple is merely senile, or if the app had to be reworked for iOS 9 and it got ditched in a last minute panic to get that half-baked release out the door. Either way, the good news is that now that Ive has retired there’s only Cook to launch.

[2] Would it have killed Apple to incorporate some sort of secure lock feature in the iPad? Ok, yes, it would have.

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