Switching to iPads saves Vancouver City Council 50K pages a year

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The city of Vancouver, Wash., has seen substantial savings since switching to Apple's iPad for City Council meetings and expects to save as many as 50,000 pages of printing per year.

Vancouver began its paperless City Council test in January. After two months, the transition to iPads has brought about a 40 percent reduction in the amount of pages printed for meetings.

The city has tested Apple's touchscreen tablet as a replacement for meeting packets at council meetings, orientation sessions, a retreat and the applicant review process for advisory board/commission vacancies. The City Council will complete its transition to paperless later this spring, though it will continue to offer printouts to citizens attending its meetings.

The switch to iPad was championed by City Council member Jack Burkman, a former high tech executive. He worked with the city's management team to try out several methods for loading pertinent documents onto his iPad ahead of meetings. The city ultimately decided to use an internal FTP website to store PDF files for council members to download.

The iPad has also helped Vancouver's leadership team increase their productivity at meetings. "Many leaders had blackberry smart phones for email access, but with small video screens, they were difficult to reply in email. The iPads allowed staff to review internet sites as part of the meeting or share multi-page documents paperlessly for their discussion," the city's statement read.

Switching from Research in Motion's BlackBerry to the iPad results in a costs savings for the city as well. The city estimates it pays $71 per month for BlackBerry access and just $43 per month for unlimited iPad data. As such, Vancouver estimates savings of up to $336 per year for each iPad that replaces a BlackBerry.

Cost savings from printing will quickly add up for the city. It estimates that printing out packets for just one agenda item can cost as much as $21.10. With between eight to ten agenda items on the typical meeting, Vancouver could see printing savings of as much as $200 per meeting.

City departments have spent roughly $17,000 on iPads, with an average cost of $601.50 each. 25 additional iPads were purchased for the Vancouver Police Dept. Command staff using a grant. The city has "no definite plans" to expand its program yet, though it says it may continue to strategically replace BlackBerry devices.

A growing trend among government agencies in the U.S. has seen departments moving away from RIM and toward Apple's iOS. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will soon abandon support for the BlackBerry and will instead supply workers with new iPhones and iPads. The U.S. General Services Administration has added iOS to its approved purchasing list.

RIM said last month that it "continues to work closely" with government clients, touting its PlayBook tablet as the "only tablet certified for use by U.S. government agencies."

A recent survey by Morgan Stanley projected an accelerated transition away from printing within the enterprise. Analyst Katy Huberty picked up on a worse-than-expected 16 percent decline in printing, due, in part, to the rise of the iPad among corporate customers. 46 percent of tablet users said they printed less, with some survey respondents indicating that they printed as much as 16 percent less now that they own a tablet.

Morgan Stanley printing

Apple could see increased adoption of its touchscreen tablet as a printing replacement with the release of its next-generation iPad later this month. The third-generation iPad is expected to have an double-resolution display that will make reading on the device easier. The new iPad could see rapid adoption among industries such as aviation and medicine where the increased resolution would drastically improve utility.