Google followed up the release of Google glass with the recent release of an android based smart watch. Samsung released a similar smart watch on the same day. While miniaturization is the typical technology trend and often leads to new product categories, smaller is not always better. Take for instance smart phones. As the technology improved over the last 10 years, phones shrunk in size. However, in the last 12 months we have seen this trend reverse as users began to use these devices for a wider number of applications and as such demanded larger displays. The new smart watches will likely follow a similar product path. As they gain adoption users will identify new usage models and applications that will be limited by the small display and user interface, thus requiring larger devices or supporting products. And this is where mobile will likely transition from a single device (smart phone) to a network of personal devices that work seamlessly together in order to meet users ever increasing demands.
There is no arguing that mobile computing is exploding. There are new applications and devices released every day, but why? Many reasons can be put forward but they all can be categorized into one of two camps: technology advancements or human connection. Technology advancements are easy to see, small form factors, brilliant displays and ergonomic packaging. However, in my opinion the single technology that made the mobile explosion possible is the development of wide are wireless connectivity. It is the ability to have a conversation via voice or text and connect to the internet from anywhere without wires that led to the development of the smart phone and countless applications. Without this connectivity mobile devices would still be those specialized devices of the 1980’s and 1990’s being used in warehouse and retail stores to track inventory. Human connection is the other reason for mobiles mass appeal. It allows us to connect, share and learn in real time. The most downloaded and used applications contain one or more methods for connecting with others, whether it be family, friends, per groups or complete strangers. Technology will continue to change and evolve but our need to connect is eternal. While no one knows what tomorrow will bring you can be assured that mobile is here to stay.
Smart phones and tablet computers are extending the reach of mobile computing solutions in the enterprise. There are many reasons for this including CPU performance, new operating systems choices, size and availability. However, the most obvious reason is device cost as compared to traditional ruggedized mobile computing options. While the initial acquisition cost of a consumer device is often 1/3 to ½ the price of a ruggedized device, this is only one piece of the true cost over the solution’s life. When evaluating device cost there are a number of factors that should be considered including:
Additional protective peripherals: Consumer devices are not designed to take a fall. As such, many enterprises purchase cases, holsters and other peripherals to protect the device from the elements and abuse.
Device life cycle: Consumer devices typically experience a 12 to 18 months life cycle before they are replaced by a newer device. While this business model works well for individuals pursuing the latest and greatest technology, it can present challenges to an enterprise. These challenges are manifested by the requirement to support multiple device types over the duration of a project. This translates to increased user training, additional complexity associated with supporting and managing larger equipment spare pools, additional burden on the help desk and the requirement to manage multiple technologies as new features are released with each new device.
Operating system upgrades and support: Like consumer devices, consumer operating systems are continually evolving and new versions being released. Some device manufactures mandate that all devices upgrade to the latest OS while others discontinue support for previous versions. This can create havoc on a population of devices used for enterprise applications as changes to the OS often require modifications to the applications that run on the devices. As such, with each new OS release, the application software must be tested and modified to ensure that the new OS does not render the application inoperable. This requires that additional software testing and development resources be deployed prior to each OS upgrade.
Repair verses replacement: While some consumer device manufactures offer extended warranty programs they usually do not include damage to the display (which accounts for the greatest number of failures). As such, most users of consumer devices simply replace damaged devices. For this reason, it is important to understand all of the environmental and usage conditions in your operation so that you can take into account the cost of replacement devices.
In the final analysis: The good news is that after reviewing the preceding factors, consumer devices are a good fit for many enterprise solutions and that in those cases were they are not, you have many choices available from traditional ruggedized device manufactures.
The “last mile” is a phrase used in a many industries to describe the final segment between a company and its customers. In the public utility sector it is the segment of cable or pipe that connects each individual customer to the main trunk. In the transportation sector it describes the final distance between the last distribution center and the customers’ delivery point. The “last mile” is arguably the single most important segment of any distribution system for two reasons. First, it represents the only direct link between a company and its customers and second, without the “last mile” all preceding infrastructure, systems and processes have lessor value.
Mobile computing applications are the “last mile” of today’s enterprise systems by connecting mobile workers (customers) at anytime and anywhere. Mobile computers connect the parcel delivery driver to the enterprise system in his/her truck or at the customer destination, they connect repair technicians in the field and retail managers on the selling floor. Mobile computers (smart phones) even connect consumers to their favorite brands.
DecisionPoint is in the business of connecting remote people with enterprise information so that they can make better and faster decisions. We deliver the “last mile” of the information highway and thus we increase the value of the preceding enterprise systems and infrastructure.
Technology is constantly changing. Some technologies ride a rollercoaster of favor and fade as they seek to find their place (RFID), while others replace earlier versions (imagers for lasers), and then there are those that create a permanent place in our world (the internet). Three current technologies that appear to be creating a permanent mark on the IT landscape are “Big Data”, “Cloud Computing” and “Mobile Computing”.
Big Data as defined by SAS Institute Inc.
“Big data is a popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data, both structured and unstructured. And big data may be as important to business – and society – as the Internet has become. Why? More data may lead to more accurate analyses
Cloud Computing as defined by whatis.com
“Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.
A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic — a user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider (the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing.”
Mobile Computing as defined by Wikipedia.org
Mobile Computing is “taking a computer and all necessary files and software out into the field”. Mobile computing is any type of computing which uses Internet or intranet and respective communications links, such as WAN, LAN or WLAN.
There are at least three different classes of mobile computing items:
The existence of these classes is expected to be long lasting, and complementary in personal usage, none replacing the other ones.
So why all the fuss?
These are three of the biggest technology revolutions occurring and they have significant interdependency. Big Data requires large amounts of available storage, accessibility and processing power. Cloud computing provides unlimited storage, accessibility and processing power. Big data by definition requires the collection and consumption of valuable real-time information. Mobile computing is designed specifically for the collection and consumption of valuable real-time information. The promise of Big Data is using more information to make better decisions. The promise of mobile computing is getting better decisions to the right people. The decision making capabilities of big Data are enhanced with real-time information. Mobile computing delivers real-time information. Cloud computing requires user access portals. Mobile computers are ideal user access portals.
The world is changing, our industry is changing. We are the critical link between the enterprise and users, the “last mile” if you will. The future is here and DecisionPoint is leading the way.
Guest Written by Sunny Ahmed – Business Development Manager
APEXWare™ Field Service (FS) enables you to capture lost revenue, provide proof of service delivery, reduce inventory shrinkage, and reduce back office administration. A field deployment of wireless handheld devices with integrated bar code scanners enables your business to run completely paperless. APEXWare™ FS is also offered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, thus eliminating the need for costly IT infrastructure (on-site server, IT resources).
APEXWare™ Field Service (FS) is a function-rich application that provides the needed tools to effectively manage mobile field technicians while at the same time allowing them to efficiently perform their jobs in order to better service your customers. Customer work orders are dispatched throughout the day, mobile field technicians complete and invoice work orders and transmit them back to the central office as they are completed. Key features and functions include:
WHY YOU SHOULD AUTOMATE FIELD SERVICE:
- Mobile Field Service – Achieve Double Digit ROI
- Biggest Benefit Could Be Inventory Management
- Mitigate Risk – Software Fit & Solid Deployment Plan
BEST-IN-CLASS FIELD SERVICE OPERATIONS ACHIEVE THE FOLLOWING SUCCESS METRICS WHEN AUTOMATING FIELD SERVICE:
- ~8% More Work Orders/Day Than Average Performers
- 12.5% Higher Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance
- 2.5% More Profitable
- 88% of Best In Class Use Some Type of Mobile Technology
KEY BENEFITS OF AUTOMATING FIELD SERVICE:
- Improve the quality of service
- Increase field workforce productivity
- Bar code scanning and signature capture increase accuracy and efficiency
- Reduce inventory shrinkage by managing inventor y levels in real-time
- Reduce the service to payment cycle by 60-90 days
- Web-based portal eliminates the need for a back-end system
- Eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual data entry
- Improve the control of technician processes in the field
- Detailed historical work order data helps identify new revenue opportunities
- Eliminate requirement for annual inventory counts by tracking in real-time
- SaaS model reduces start-up costs
For more information on this topic, contact Sunny Ahmed at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
While Google and Apple advertise the availability of tens of thousands of mobile applications ready for download, the reality is these applications are not intended for nor meet the requirements of business users. Business ready or “Enterprise class” mobile applications remain the domain of specialized software development companies that focus on specific vertical markets and business processes. While the number and reach of these software development firms is growing, there still remain a very large number of customers that simply cannot use off-the-shelf mobile applications. Whether it is due to a lack of availability or because general purpose applications cannot support all of the unique business processes that give your company its competitive edge, the result is the same. The lack of a mobile application means that the company will not be able to take advantage of the benefits mobile computing can provide.
Luckily there is a solution. In addition to off-the-shelf mobile applications there are also a number of software development firms that provide custom development of mobile applications. In fact, custom applications are responsible for the mobile movement that we enjoy today. Custom mobile applications are exactly what they sound like; they are mobile applications that are specifically designed and built to meet the unique business requirements of their intended audience. As such, no two applications are identical. While this might sound risky, in fact, a properly designed and executed custom application often gains greater user acceptance, faster deployment and achieves a better ROI than off-the-shelf applications. The greatest reason for this is that off-the-shelf applications rarely meet all of your business needs and as a result, compromises for process or performance are necessary or application changes are required.
If a custom mobile application sounds like a possible solution to your mobility needs, please give us a call to discuss our CMAD (custom mobile application development) service offering. DecisionPoint has been building custom mobile applications for more than 20 years and has deployed 100’s of solutions to Fortune 1000 companies in many industries. For additional information visit the following links:
Many mobile workers have difficulty accessing to up-to-date content. Typically, mobile workers do not have a convenient way to access corporate content in the field. Because of this, they usually keep a copy of the content with them at all times. The problem is, content is constantly changing, therefore it is hard for mobile workers to ensure they’re carrying the latest spec sheet or pricing model in the field. What you end up having is 10 mobile workers carrying 10 different versions of your content – what a nightmare! Not only that, but they are carrying around laptops, 3-ring binders and stacks of collateral. Talk about inconvenient. That is why having a content management application on a tablet is a convenient way for your mobile workers to stay up to date with your corporate content.
With a mobile content delivery application, you can simplify the management and delivery of mobile content and organize this content so it’s easy for mobile users to access and utilize. That way, you can ensure that your mobile workers have the most up-to-date collateral right at their fingertips. A mobile content delivery application also provides huge savings on printing and shipping costs. It’s a win-win situation! DecisionPoint offers a mobile content delivery application called ContentSentral that runs on tablet computers and equips your workforce with relevant information. For more information on ContentSentral, its features and use cases, watch a live recording of our webinar here: Webinar Recording: Mobilize Your Corporate Content
By Greg Henry, Vice President Product Management, DecisionPoint Systems Inc.
The acceptance of tablet computing
Consumer tablets are out selling laptops while new form factors and features are continually being introduced. While consumers continue to be a significant purchaser of these devices for reading eBooks, watching videos, playing games and web surfing, these devices are also becoming common place in workplace. To understand why tablets enjoy such great acceptance we need to look at what makes them different from other computer form factors. First and foremost, their bright, large color displays make them ideally suited for displaying visual content (pictures, videos, large amounts of text). Additionally, they intentionally lack large storage capabilities, keyboards and other space requiring features, thus they can be contained in a small, lightweight package that is easy to take on the go. In short their success is largely due to the fact they filled a niche many of us did not know existed.
Having spent over 20 years building and deploying mobile solutions for both large and small corporations, the question arises, “Does a similar niche exist in the enterprise?”
To answer this question we must evaluate the following parameters in relationship to one another:
Does your company use or create visual content?
In reality all corporations use some form of visual content. The largest example is internet usage. There is not a corporation in existence that does not at least occasional require internet access to locate a partner, research a part or service or find directions to a customer location. However, this question is really more about what type of content do you use to run your day to day business. Like the consumer world, visual content in the business world also includes pictures, videos and large amounts of text. However, the types and usage of this content vary greatly. As an example, while consumer video is largely for entertainment, corporate video may be related to training on the installation of a specific piece of equipment or it may be an overview of corporate policies or even a corporate sales presentation that is delivered to prospects. Unlike pictures of your summer vacation, corporate pictures include building blueprints, circuit board schematics and product images. Large bodies of text include assembly manuals, procedures and policy guidelines as well as corporate forms. If you use this type of information within your business operations you need to consider tablet computing.
Do your mobile workers need access to corporate content?
This question should be viewed from two perspectives. First, will your mobile workers benefit from access to corporate content and second will the organization benefit from such access. Ask yourself the following questions:
If my mobile workers had access to existing corporate content…
- will they be more productive? Corporate content can mean many things depending on your industry and the work your mobile workers perform. Content may include: pricing guides, blueprints, repair manuals, invoices, order forms, deliver routes, maps and so on. “Productive” may be defined as the ability to perform more stops, repairs or calls in a day or the ability to sell more products or collect more revenue.
- will my operation run smoother? Think about the time consumed between corporate staff and mobile workers updating routes, checking inventory levels, order status, locating customer locations, generating invoices, etc. If these mobile workers had instant access to these corporate resources how much time, energy and money can you save?
- will my customers be happier and will I provide greater value? For many industries, mobile workers are in constant contact with the customer. As such, they are often the face of your company and trust me, the impressions they make are lasting. This is about how effective a sales person or service technician can be in identifying and resolving issues if they have access to existing information at the point of service. You will not only improve their life but build happy repeat customers in the process.
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions you should determine the financial benefits and evaluate this against the costs of deploying a mobile content solution to determine the resultant ROI.
Are there additional mobile requirements that may not be met by a tablet computer?
What makes tablets a great “go anywhere” display tool also creates some limitations. As we mentioned earlier, tablets do not have the flexibility of a laptop computer or durability of ruggedized handheld computer. Therefore, before going all in on tablets consider your needs for extensive data entry (keyboards), large file storage or support for peripherals such as printers and test equipment. If your mobile workers require such features tablets may not be the right tool for you. Or you may be able to create a hybrid solution as there are a number of supporting products on the market that extend the tablets native capabilities (cases, keyboards, printers, and expansion products).
Guest Written by Greg Henry – VP Product Management
We are all familiar with and have probably encountered computer viruses at one time in our lives. The intent of each virus is unique to the intentions of the creator. While many render your computer inoperable, cyber criminals use viruses as a method to gain access to computer networks with the purpose of stealing valuable information. With the explosion in smartphone usage and mobile application downloads, cyber criminals are now gaining access to this information through mobile devices.
You can protect yourself from cyber-attacks by taking the following steps:
- Only download applications from trust worthy providers
- Turn off your blue tooth and Wi-Fi radios when not in use
- Do not connect to unknown wireless networks or devices
In addition to users taking proactive action, enterprises can protect their information by implementing a mobile device management service such as MobileCare EMM which adds additional levels of security such as; password protection, data encryption, black listing and device wipe among many other features.