Personal digital assistant
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are handheld devices that were originally designed as personal organizers, but became much more versatile over the years. PDAs have many uses: calculating, use as a clock and calendar, playing computer games, accessing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail, use as a radio or stereo, video recording, recording notes, use as an address book, GPS and use as a spreadsheet. Newer PDAs also have both color screens and audio capabilities, enabling them to be used as mobile phones (smartphone), web browsers or portable media players. Many PDAs can access the Internet, intranets or extranets via Wi-Fi, or Wireless Wide-Area Networks (WWANs). One of the most significant PDA characteristic is the presence of a touch screen.
A typical PDA has a touch screen for data entry, a memory card slot for data storage and IrDA port for connectivity. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are often integrated in newer PDAs.
Many original PDAs, such as the Palm Pilot, featured touch screens for user interaction, having only a few buttons usually reserved for shortcuts to often used programs. Touch screen PDAs, including Windows Pocket PC devices, usually have a detachable stylus that can be used on the touch screen. Interaction is then done by tapping the screen to activate buttons or menu choices, and dragging the stylus to, for example, highlight text.
Text input is usually done in one of two ways:
- Using a virtual keyboard, where a keyboard is shown on the touch screen. Input is done by tapping the letters.
- Using letter or word recognition, where letters or words are written on the touch screen, and then "translated" to letters in the currently activated text field. Despite rigorous research and development projects, this data input method still requires much patience from the user since it tends to be rather inaccurate.
PDAs for business use, including the BlackBerry and Treo, have full keyboards and scroll wheels or thumb wheels to facilitate data entry and navigation, in addition to supporting touch-screen input. There are also full-size foldable keyboards available that plug directly, or use wireless technology to interface with the PDA and allow for normal typing. BlackBerry also has additional functionality as push based email and applications.
Almost all PDAs have some form of memory card slot. A standard on modern PDAs is the SD (Secure Digital) slot. Although originally designed for memory, in recent years the invention of the SDIO standard has allowed such things as Wi-Fi cards and Webcams to be used in the same slot. Compact Flash slots are used in many PDAs to provide extra expandability. For example, one slot is used for memory and the other for Wi-Fi. Some PDAs also have a USB port, mainly for USB flash drives.
Many PDAs have an IrDA (Infrared) port for connectivity. This allows communication between two PDAs, a PDA and any device with an IrDA port, or between a PDA and a computer with an IrDA adapter. Most modern PDAs also have Bluetooth wireless connectivity, which is used by many mobile phones, headsets and GPS devices.
nts and e-mail, allowing users to access the same information on the PDA as the host computer.
The synchronizing also prevents the loss of information stored on theestroyed. Another advantage is that data input is usually a lot quince text input via a touch screen is still not quite optimal. Trato a PDA via the computer is therefore a lot quicker than having to manually input all data on the handheld device.
Most PDAs come with the ability to synchronize to a PC. This is done ation software provided with the handheld, such as HotSync Manager, which comes with Palm OS handhelds, or Microsoft ActiveSync, which comes with Windows Mobile handhelds.
These programs allow the PDA to be synchronized with a Personal information manager. This personal information manager may be an outside program or a proprietary program. For example, the BlackBerry PDA comes with the Desktop Manager program which can synchronize to both Microsoft Outlook and ACT!. Other PDAs come only with their own proprietary software. For example, some early Palm OS PDAs came only with Palm Desktop while later Palms such as the Treo 650 has the built-in ability to sync to Palm Desktop and/or Microsoft Outlook. Third-party synchronization software is also available for many PDAs from companies like Intellisync and CompanionLink. This software synchronizes these handhelds to other personal information managers which are not supported by the PDA manufacturers, such as GoldMine and Lotus Notes.
As with personal computers, it is possible to install additional software on most PDAs. Software can be bought or downloaded from the Internet, allowing users to personalize their PDAs to their liking. An example of this would be the display theme for the PDA. Almost all PDAs also allow for adding some form of hardware. The most common is a memory card slot, which allows the users to get additional and exchangeable storage space on their handheld devices. There are also miniature keyboards that can be connected to some PDAs for quicker text input. PDAs with Bluetooth can also use Bluetooth devices like headsets, mouse and foldable keyboards with their PDAs.
PDAs are often used to access data where using a desktop or laptop PC is inappropriate. Although their size restricts their functionality, many users find that they are adequate for what you expect to do when away from a PC. There are many forms of PDA, designed for where they are to be used.
For many years businesses and government organizations have relied upon rugged PDAs for mobile data applications. Typical applications include supply chain management in warehouses, package delivery, route accounting, medical treatment and record keeping in hospitals, facilities maintenance and management, parking enforcement, access control and security, capital asset maintenance, meter reading by utilities, and "wireless waitress" applications in restaurants and hospitality venues. There are even PDAs designed to take significant amounts of punishment, probably meant for military use. Unfortunately, these devices often lack the features of other PDAs, and come with a steep price tag.
Medical and scientific uses
In medicine, PDAs have been proven to aid diagnosis and drug selection and some studies have concluded that their use by patients to record symptoms improves the effectiveness of communication with hospitals during follow-up. The first landmark study in testing the effectiveness of PDAs in a medical setting was conducted at the Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospitals in affiliation with Harvard Medical School. Led by the team of Sandeep Shah & Steven Labkoff, MD, the Constellation project used Apple's Newton (first PDA in the market) to cater to the demands of the medical professionals. Today, the company evolved from the effort Skyscape offers a wide range of resources including drug information, treatment options, guidelines, evidence based information and journal summaries including the drug & safety alerts. Other entrants include epocrates and ABX guide, which supply drug databases, treatment information and relevant news in formats specific to mobile devices and services such as Avantgo translate medical journals into readable formats and provide updates from journals. WardWatch organizes medical records to remind doctors making ward rounds of information such as the treatment regimens of patients and programs. Finally, Pendragon provides tools for conducting research on mobile devices, with a connection back to a central server allowing the user to enter data into a centralized database using their PDA. Recently the development of Sensor Web technology has led to discussion of using wearable bodily sensors to monitor ongoing conditions like diabetes and epilepsy and alerting medical staff or the patient themselves to the treatment required via communication between the web and PDAs.
As mobile technology has become almost a necessity, it is no surprise that personal computing has become a vital learning tool by this time. Educational institutes have commenced a trend of integrating PDAs into their teaching practices (mobile learning). With the capabilities of PDAs, teachers are now able to provide a collaborative learning experience for their students. They are also preparing their students for possible practical uses of mobile computing upon their graduation.
PDAs and handheld devices have recently allowed for digital note taking. This has increased student’s productivity by allowing individuals to quickly spell-check, modify, and amend their class notes or e-notes. Educators are currently able to distribute course material through the use of the internet connectivity or infrared file sharing functions of the PDA. With concerns to class material, textbook publishers have begun to release e-books, electronic textbooks, which can be uploaded directly to your PDA. This eliminates the exhausting effort of carrying multiple textbooks at one time.
To meet the instructive needs sought by educational institutes, software companies have developed programs with the learning aspects in mind. Simple programs such as dictionaries, thesauri, and word processing software are important to the digital note taking process. In addition to these simple programs, encyclopedias and digital planning lessons have created added functionality for users.
With the increase in mobility of PDAs, school boards and educational institutes have now encountered issues with these devices. School boards are now concerned with students utilizing the internet connectivity to share test answers or to gossip during class time, which creates disruptions. Many school boards have modernized their computer policies to address these new concerns. Software companies such as Scantron Corp. have now created a program for distributing digital quizzes. The quiz software disables the infrared function on PDAs, which eliminates the element of information sharing among individuals during the examination.
PDAs are used by glider pilots for pre-flight planning and to assist navigation in cross-country competitions. They are linked to a GPS to produce moving-map displays showing the tracks to turn-points, airspace hazards and other tactical information.
The term "personal digital assistant" was coined on January 7, 1992 by then Apple Computer CEO John Sculley at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, referring to the Apple Newton. In 1989, the Atari Portfolio, although technically classed a palmtop, was an early harbinger imitating the form of some of the more modern pocket devices. Earlier devices like the Psion and Sharp Wizard already had the functionality to be considered as PDAs. In fact, PDAs by other names were available as early as the mid-1970s -- first as very advanced calculators, then as electronic organizers, and later as palmtops. .
PDAs are some times referred to as "Palms" or "Palm Pilot" after an early PDA created by Palm, Inc. This usage is a case of genericized trademark.
The currently major PDA operating systems are:
- Palm OS - owned by PalmSource
- Windows Mobile (Pocket PC), (based on the Windows CE kernel) - owned by Microsoft
- RIM for the BlackBerry - owned by Research In Motion
- Many operating systems based on the Linux kernel - free (not owned by any company) These include:
- GPE - Based on GTK+/X11
- OPIE user interface/Qtopia - based on Qt/E Qtopia is developed by Trolltech, OPIE is a fork of Qtopia developed by volunteers
- Symbian OS (formerly EPOC) owned by Ericsson, Motorola, Panasonic, Nokia, Samsung, Siemens and Sony Ericsson
Many PDAs run using a variation of the ARM architecture (usually denoted by the Intel XScale trademark). This encompasses a class of RISC microprocessors that are widely used in mobile devices and embedded systems, and its design was influenced strongly by a popular 1970s/1980s CPU, the MOS Technology 6502.
According to a Gartner market study, the overall market for PDAs grew by 20.7% in the third quarter (Q3) of 2005, compared to Q3 2004, with marketshare resolving as follows (by operating system):
- Palm OS for Palm, Inc. PDAs and some other licensees- 14.9% (declining)
- Windows Mobile for PDAs that comply with the Microsoft's Pocket PC specifications - 49.2% (increasing)
- RIM BlackBerry for BlackBerry PDA (produced by Research In Motion) - 25.0% (increasing)
- Symbian OS - 5.8% (increasing)
- Various operating systems based on the Linux kernel for various special designed PDAs (many other supported) - 0.7% (stable)
- Other - 4.4% (stable)
The reason usually cited for the resumption in PDA market growth (after market declines in 2002 - 2004) is the growing interest in PDAs as Personal Communicators offering wireless email capabilities (such as BlackBerries), and PDAs with built-in GPS capabilities for navigation. It is possible that Smartphones, mobile phones with PDA-like abilities, will curtail growth in the sales of PDAs without telephony capability in the near future, as they subsume more of the same functions.
Perhaps, more than any other computer devices, the PDA lacks the fully-blown infrastructure of a Wireless Broadband network. This could be offered in future by WiMax.
Popular consumer PDAs
- Acer N Series
- Apple Newton
- hp iPAQ Pocket PC (originally Compaq iPAQ until HP merged in 2002)
- hp Jornada Pocket PC (phased out/merged with iPAQ line in 2002)
- Palm Pilot, Tungsten E2, LifeDrive, Treo and Zire
- Sharp Wizard and Sharp Zaurus
- Sony CLIÉ
- High Tech Computer Corporation's series of Windows Mobile PDA/phones
- Tapwave Zodiac(no longer manufactured)
- Dell Axim
- GMate Yopy
- Fujitsu Siemens Loox
- List of Palm OS Devices
- Abacus PDA Watch
- PocketMail (email PDA with inbuilt acoustic coupler)
Rugged PDA for business, government and military applications
- Symbol Technologies
- DAP Technologies
- Automotive navigation system
- Danger Hiptop
- Graffiti (Palm OS)
- Hipster PDA
- Information appliance
- Mobile software
- Mobile learning
- Mobile web
- Personal area network
- Personal Communicator
- Personal information manager
- Tablet PC
- Ultra-Mobile PC
- Wearable computer
- The evolution of PDAs, 1975-1995
- PalmInsider.com (Palm OS Blog).