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Most people don't think of the iPad as a high-end computing device. These eight apps prove otherwise.
The iPad isn't known as a high-end computing device. Most users will buy the iPad Air because of the games and consumer apps like Skype and Evernote. However, there are many advanced apps that use a wealth of back-end data, provide a high-quality video stream, and can handle processing tasks normally reserved for a Windows or Mac computer. Here's a look at eight robust apps with uses as varied as home security, computer-assisted design and stock trading.
Vivint: Advanced Home Security
Vivint is a security and connected home service, and the Vivint app for iPad is one of the most advanced offerings around. It's not just a "viewer" with simple lock and unlock controls: The app also lets you adjust your home temperature, view live security camera feeds, arm and disarm the security system and control lighting. You can also see a history of all connected home events — each time the front door was opened, for example — and you can lock all doors or shut off all lights in one click. The app itself is free, but security systems and video and connected home system pricing varies.
Wolfram Alpha: Math and Science at Your Fingertips
Having quick access to a wealth of knowledge isn't always a good fit for the iPad. After all, the device has a limited amount of memory for local storage, and its mobile processor is designed for email and Web browsing. The Wolfram Alpha app ($2.99) proves you can do real work on a tablet. Thanks to an extensive back end (Wolfram has thousands of servers processing requests), you can search for answers related to mathematics, thermodynamics, physics, chemistry and much more using a simple search field. There's a browsing component as well; you can use the Examples sidebar to create queries and search the vast research archive.
NGRAIN: 3-D Augmented Reality Player
This app, free for NGRAIN Augmented Reality users, provides a 3-D augmented reality overlay on top of a physical object. It might be used to explain how to fix a part in a vehicle or overlay a medical drawing over a piece of human anatomy. The app uses millions of data points, or voxels, that are fed to the iPad in real-time. Each voxel can contain measurements, such as the temperature of the object or size. The diesel pump shown at left consists of 376 parts and 1.2 million polygons — yet NGRAIN manages to reduce this massive CAD image down to about 7MB to work on the iPad.
New Relic: Track Website Transactions
This app gives you access to the New Relic service (free), which tracks website transactions and back-end application activity in real time. Importantly, the app is not a simplified viewer. An ecommerce retailer can monitor about 85,000 transactions per minute, for example, and not just a simple subset of those transactions. The app has the same color-coded charts as the Web-based New Relic app to help make those massive data sets easier to comprehend.
Bloomberg: Visualization Tool for Financial Data
Another highly complex app that does a good job of making the information accessible, the Bloomberg visualizer (free) shows data for equity indexes, bonds, futures, commodities and currencies, along with breaking news and info about the debt crisis. You can also track your personal holdings and use tools such as Leaders & Laggers to help you with investments. The app also lets you browse video and audio clips. The home page gives you a quick snapshot of performers using color-coded queues for stock prices.
MLB at Bat: Everything a Baseball Fan Could Ever Want
For diehard baseball fans, especially those who want to track offseason activities, this Major League Baseball app shows how data-driven the iPad can be. There are full stats available, including those for pitching, batting and fielding — all of which the MLB recently added. You can listen to real-time audio for current games and see real-time indicators for each pitch and hit. MLB At Bat recently added classic game videos and highlights. Finally, stats are searchable by player, team or keyword. Price depends on a user's subscription plan.
Weatherbug Elite: Check Weather, Avoid Lightning Strikes
The complexity of an app is often based on how much data it collects. Many weather apps just use data from the National Weather Service. Weatherbug Elite, meanwhile, culls from the NWS but also from a sensor network that tracks weather conditions and lightning. The app also lets you avoid lightning: Set your location and the app can send minute-by-minute reports on lightning strikes near you. This is in addition to the usual forecasts, maps and other weather data. The Elite version ($2.99) recently increased forecast algorithms from seven to 10 days.
Dish Anywhere: Watch Live TV, Manage Recordings
While some video players give you only basic options to watch a show, the Dish Anywhere app (free to Dish subscribers) includes a full remote control, the ability to search quickly for upcoming and recorded shows, schedule your recordings and adjust any conflicts and — of course — watch live television. Even the search function is advanced: You can query by show title, actor, network channel, keyword or genre. Dish Anywhere has a 5-star rating on iTunes after about 800 votes.