What was probably a kidney stone occasioned hanging out for a while with some paramedics at Emergency receiving. A man was brought in who spoke only Italian. One of the paramedics was wishing he could tell him to sit down, and another one told him to use Google Translate. A minute later Translate was installed and spoken English was translated into spoken Italian using the iPhone. Really impressive to see it used in a critical situation. The recommending paramedic said he had used it in Chinatown to communicate with a unilingual Chinese speaker who had fallen on the bus, getting Yes/No answers to questions that Translate presented in Chinese.
Further discussion with the paramedic who had made the suggestion revealed:
* their laptop workstations have no wifi and can't do email
* they have to fight to get upgrades on their laptops, for example to get the latest mapping software (which is pretty important when you need to respond to calls at newly built housing)
* there is no support for iPhones or other devices provided by their corporate IT, so they have to buy them themselves and using them is ad hoc, as witness one of them with Translate installed and another without.
* he wished that the iPhone was supported by his corporate and came with "a standard package" of software like Translate that would be relevant for paramedics
* he speculated that his corporate IT simply wasn't set up to support new devices
This is a real example of an ongoing issue, where corporate IT (his expensive IT-provided laptop full of expensive custom software) is being outstripped by consumer technology. Corporate IT needs to find ways to adapt to this, as it is clearly in some cases becoming a life or death issue.
On the plus side, the Ottawa Hospital in general is doing a big push to go paperless, and has bought 1800 iPads. (I gather iPads for doctors doesn't mean iPhones for paramedics unfortunately.)