Thursday, December 21, 2006

MobileDataforce Announces a Reseller Agreement with Abox for Mobile Software

MobileDataforce announces today a reseller partnership with Abox. In this agreement Abox will resell MobileDataforce's mobile software, the PointSync Mobility Platform in Spain, Portugal, France and many areas of Africa. We are very excited about this relationship. This will help us provide our customers and sales prospects with localized sales and technical support across a significant geographical area for our mobile software solutions used on handheld PDAs and Smartphones.

MobileDataforce's market for handheld PDA and smartphone software has been growing rapidly around the world with offices in North America, Sydney, Australia and Den Bosch, The Netherlands.

Our channel partners are the key to our success. They provide localized business knowledge as well as vertical expertise.

MobileDataforce Announces a Reseller Agreement with Sybase South Africa

MobileDataforce today announces a reseller partnership with Sybase South Africa for delivering mobile handheld PDA and smartphone applications. In this reseller partnership, Sybase South Africa will be reselling MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform to companies and government agencies interested in field mobility including, inspection software, work orders and asset management on handheld PDAs and smartphones.

Interest in MobileDataforce's mobile software solutions is growing rapidly and we have a significant sales pipeline in South Africa that reflects an expanding market for mobile applications.

We are very excited to work with Sybase South African. This partnership will enable MobileDataforce's mobile solutions to be supported locally with the highest level of professionalism and attention.

Airlines and PDAs

NEW YORK (CNN) -- From cell phone use to high-speed Internet access, the connected life is spreading to the skies.

In January, Emirates airline plans to launch mobile phone usage in its planes, making it the first airline to allow passengers to make cell phone calls on its flights. And Australian carrier Qantas plans to start evaluating technology that lets fliers use their cell phones and PDAs during flight early next year.

10 Steps to a Successful Mobile Software Deployment on Handheld PDAs and Smartphones

Tim Cerami, a brilliant Mobile Systems Architect here at MobileDataforce, did us all a big service by documenting his thoughts on how to conduct a successful mobile software deployment on smartphones and handheld PDAs in the following article.

Introduction:
Companies around the globe are looking for ways to do more with less. Many recognize that their mobile workforce is being managed inefficiently and extending business process automation to mobile field workers is becoming a priority. The following 10 steps identify how you can get started automating and mobilizing these business processes.


Step 1 – Understand the ROI/Scope of the Project and Plan Ahead

“What’s the number one reason a mobile project fails?” is a common question we get asked. The answers are that many companies don’t put enough upfront thought into defining the requirements, scheduling testing resources and planning a deployment strategy. The results of these deficiencies are project scope creep, cost overruns, missed deadlines, poor user acceptance and sometimes even complete project failure.

Step 2 – Build a Team of Stakeholders

Make sure the members of your team have the right roles and responsibilities to help the project succeed. Mobile solutions usually tie into other corporate IT assets and business processes, therefore impacted members of your IT department and business units need to be on the project team. In addition, a representative mobile field worker(s) should be included on the project team to provide valuable “real-world” insight.

Step 3 – Select a Partner That Specializes in Mobility Solutions

Performing successful data synchronization from mobile computing devices can be a challenging and complex task. There are many variables that can affect the results of synchronization. To insure you get your solution done correctly the first time, you need experienced experts in mobile technology. You need technologists who specialize in the design, development, deployment and support of enterprise mobile solutions.

Step 4 – Know Your Target Users and Their Environment
During the planning and scoping phase of your mobile project, take time to experience the working environment of your mobile workers and observe the business processes in action. Pay specific attention to how information is collected and exchanged between the office and the mobile workers. These observations can significantly impact the design, development and deployment of a successful project! Evaluate the physical environment of the work. How do moist, cold and dirty environments impact the mobile devices? How does low light or bright sunlight affect visibility of the screen? Can workers read the small text on the PDA screen, or does the text need to be larger? Step 5 – Don’t Underestimate the Complexity of Synchronizing Field Data

One of the biggest mistakes a project planner or IT department can make is to underestimate how complex data synchronization can be. Part of designing a solid and reliable mobile solution is to select robust synchronization middleware and to spend time designing and testing the data synchronization. Without the right middleware and design your end users could encounter issues such as extra long sync times (hours, not minutes), duplicate records, incomplete data, lost data and even database corruption. Every one of these issues will trickle down to your support department, so designing it right the first time is very important.

Step 6 – Build in Phases

Most successful projects involve a series of phased implementations. Each phase can be developed, tested and implemented in an orderly manner. Once a phase is deployed and proven, additional phases can be layered on top that include more features and added complexity. Remember, the more data requirements that you add the more data you must synchronize, and the longer each synchronization session will take. Only synchronize data that your remote users require in the field. In addition, most mobile devices don’t have the same CPU power or memory as a PC/laptop, so be aware of how the performance of your solution will be affected by a smaller, lower powered device.

Step 7 – Evaluate Your Hardware and Connectivity Needs

The term “mobile devices” can have many different interpretations. Today, laptops, Tablet PC’s, UMPCs, PDAs and Smart phones are all identified with this term. When determining the best mobile device for your project you will want to consider screen size, data storage capacity, security, physical working environment, required hardware accessories such as barcode scanners, GPS, digital cameras, RFID, and the ability to upgrade the device with updated hardware and software components.

How do you connect your mobile device to your enterprise database applications? You have many options including cradle, WiFi, satellite, Bluetooth, wireless, dial-up modems and satellite uplinks to name a few. The method(s) you choose will be affected by how often your mobile workers need to send/receive data. How much data will be transmitted and will they always have connectivity. Study each option, your working environment and consult your mobility partner to make the best selections.

Step 8 – Deploy to a Limited Focus Group, Evaluate and Improve

Once you have completed version 1 of your mobile solution and you are ready to deploy in the real world, roll out your solution to a small group of trusted and motivated users. Define a specific period of time to evaluate the solution, document the results and identify any required changes and improvements. The result of this evaluation should be an improved mobile solution that is ready for wide deployment.

Step 9 – Set and Enforce Hardware and Security Policies

Mobile devices are small computers with the ability to store sensitive corporate data, communicate this data over the Internet and even catch viruses. You must clearly communicate how mobile devices are to be used and for what purpose. Establish and publish guidelines for using mobile devices.

Step 10 – Provide Full Support for Mobile Users

Mobile devices are guaranteed to break. What is your plan for keeping a mobile worker productive and communicating business critical information when their mobile device ceases to function or gets misplaced? These are inevitable issues that are best planned for in advance. Have a plan and a documented back up process.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mountain Tragedies & Modern Mobile GPS & Data Solutions


This last week I have been captivated by the tragic mountain climbing accident that took place on Mt. Hood in Oregon. Three experienced mountain climbers were caught in 100 mph winds and temperatures below zero on the very top of Mt. Hood at over 11,000 feet. It took over a week to find the snow caves that the climbers had used. Tragically it appears that they all may have succumbed to injuries and the cold. One of the climbers had been able to make a mobile phone call asking for help, but then went silent.
As a person involved in the mobile data collection software industry, I began to think about the software tools and technologies that could be used to help find missing climbers, hunters, hikers and other outdoorsman faster.
Today, many mobile Smart phones can be purchased with GPS receivers built in. Software companies like MobileDataforce can easily create data collection applications that would automatically report the location of the user at specific time intervals, distance covered, speed, and distance remaining to target destination. The GPS receiver captures the GPS coordinates, the data collection software pulls it into the database and connects to the internet at specific time intervals and uploads the data to a web based map. The user could also capture additional information such as the weather, supplies remaining, physical condition, status (resting, digging a snow cave, setting up camp, injured, etc). This is the same technology we use today for fleet tracking applications so fleet owners can know the location of each truck at any given time.
One of the necessary ingredients for a tracking solution like this is a wireless network (wireless mobile phone network or a satellite uplink). In the recent tragedy on Mt. Hood, there was indeed mobile phone connectivity available. If the climbers had had a mobile solution like this with them, their location would have been displayed on a map for the search and rescue teams to view. This would have saved hundreds of man hours devoted to searching, and would have quickly directed the search and rescue teams to the location of the Smart phones as soon as weather permitted.
The technology exists, although it remains to be seen how it would have worked in the fierce cold and rugged conditions these climbers experienced. I know batteries would be an issue, although spares could be carried. Conceptually, it seems that a simple data collection application could be configured, rented out or made available for purchase to climbers. They could register themselves with a unique ID on a website. Thus, family members and other folks interested in their location could view the web based map from any computer in the world.
This needs to be done.

Phi Data Announces Partnership with MobileDataforce

For all of you who speak and read Dutch - This is an announcement of a reseller partnership we formed with Phi Data in The Netherlands. We are working together on a number of interesting projects in the Benelux region. Even further down the blog article you can see a translation of this press release that was done with the translation software from Babel Fish.


Altijd en overal mobiel met MobileDataforce & PHI DATA BV
19-12-2006

Woerden, december 2006. Recent heeft PHI DATA met MobileDataforce een amenwerkingsovereenkomst afgesloten voor de PointSync Mobility Suite. PointSync is een uitermate flexibel platform voor het creëren van betaalbare, prestatiegerichte mobiele oplossingen voor field data collectie, inspecties en werkorder management. PointSync kan in alle mobiele devices geïntegreerd worden die PHI DATA levert (Intermec, Symbol, Datalogic etc.) PointSync is specifiek geschikt voor toepassingen in de Field Service & onderhoud, gezondheidszorg, beveiliging, agrarische bedrijven, Transport ( proof of delivery) en (milieu)inspecties. Complete en professionele mobiele oplossingenDavid Savage, Vice President EMEA MobileDataforce Europe BV: “PHI DATA staat bekend als een professioneel, betrouwbaar en meedenkend leverancier van totaaloplossingen,… drie eigenschappen die noodzakelijk zijn om succesvol te kunnen zijn. PHI DATA en MobileDataforce Europe vormen door dit partnership een sterk team om bedrijfsprocessen te mobiliseren.”
Ronald Pannebakker, Manager Professional Services PHI DATA: De software van MobileDataforce is enerzijds een “tool” waarmee we in korte tijd mobiele applicaties kunnen ontwikkelen. Anderzijds kunnen we op basis van de MobileDataforce software onze klanten een mobiele oplossing aanreiken inclusief communicatieserver, applicatiemanager, database synchronisatie en device- en licentiebeheer; kortom een complete oplossing op het gebied van mobiele applicaties.MobileDataforceMobileDataforce, opgericht in 2000, is een bedrijf gespecialiseerd in het ontwikkelen en leveren van mobiele software- en serviceoplossingen met als doel deze oplossingen makkelijker, sneller en betaalbaar aan te bieden. Inmiddels heeft MobileDataforce een groot aantal klanten wereldwijd en werken zij samen met partners, waaronder PHI DATA. PHI DATA PHI DATA BV, met vestigingen in Woerden (NL), Wemmel (B) en Windhof (L), biedt totaaloplossingen op basis van hoogwaardige automatische identificatie- en printsystemen. Door middel van deze oplossingen worden bedrijfsprocessen geoptimaliseerd en daarmee kostenbesparingen gerealiseerd. De producten variëren van barcode scanners en -decoders, labelprinters, mobiele computers (terminals) en industriële PDA's tot RF-datacommunicatie (RFDC) en RF-identificatie (RFID) en een uitgebreid pakket van matrixlijn- en laserprinters. Voor meer informatie kunt u zich wenden tot de afdeling Marketing & Communicatie van PHI DATA, telefoon 0348-439217.

Babel Fish Translation Software - English

Always and everywhere mobile with MobileDataforce & PHI DATES Ltd 19-12-2006 Woerden, December 2006. recent DATES with MobileDataforce amenwerkingsovereenkomst for the PointSync Mobility suite have concluded PHI. PointSync are an extremely flexible platform for creating payable, performance-specific mobile solutions for field dates collectie, inspections and work order management. PointSync can be incorporated in all mobile devices which provide DATES to PHI (Intermec, Symbol, Datalogic etc.) PointSync are specifically suitable for applications in the Field service & maintenance, health care, beveiliging, agrarian companies, transport (proof or delivery) and (milieu)inspecties. Complete and professional mobile solutions David Savage, Vice president EMEA MobileDataforce Europe Ltd: PHI DATES stand confessed as professional, reliably and thinking with a supplier of totaaloplossingen... three properties which are necessary successfully are able be. PHI DATES and MobileDataforce form Europe by mobilising company processes this partnership a strong team. Ronald Pannebakker, manager professional services PHI DATES: The software of MobileDataforce is on the one hand a "tool" with which we can develop within limited time mobile applications. On the other hand we can pass a mobile solution on the basis of the MobileDataforce software our customers including communication server, application manager, database synchronisation and device - and licentiebeheer; in short a complete solution in the field of mobile applications. MobileDataforce MobileDataforce, set up in 2000, a company has been specialised in developing and providing mobile software - and service solutions with the aim these solutions more easily, more rapidly and payable of offering. Meanwhile MobileDataforce have a large number of customers worldwide and cooperate they with partners, among which PHI DATES. PHI DATES PHI, Wemmel (B) and wind court (L), offer totaaloplossingen to DATES Ltd, with establishments in woerden (NL) on the basis of high-quality automatic identification - and printsystemen. By means of these solutions company processes are optimised and with that cost savings are realised. The products vary scanners and - decoders, label printers, mobile computers (terminals) and industrial PDA's to Rf-datacommunicatie (RFDC) and Rf-identificatie (RFID) and a vast parcel of matrixlijn - and laser printers of bar code. For further information the department marketing & communication of PHI DATES, tel. 0348-439217 can contact you.

Palm Treo & Otterbox for Ruggedized on the Cheap

The Palm Treo is one of the most popular smartphones now days. Palm's Windows Mobile 5.0 version enables enterprises that have standardized on Windows OS to extend that support out to their mobile workforce.

Otterbox builds ruggedized cases for the Palm Treo. We have one in-house that we are very impressed with. I think the list price for one of these cases is around $139. Many of my sales teams are using the Palm Treo 700 W these days, and the case seals it up very nicely and will provide adequate protection from most casual accidents such as dropping it on the floor and using it in the rain and protecting it from blowing sand and dust.
Nearly all of MobileDataforce's customers use handheld computers, laptops or Tablet PCs for field data collection, GPS, RFID, barcode scanning, etc. In all cases protecting the hardware investment is a critical issue. Otterbox has created some very useful cases for protecting Smartphones and PDAs that are not ruggedized on their own.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Symbol MC35 Handheld PDA - More Smartphones


I have been hearing rumors about a new Smart Phone from Symbol. If true, this would continue the trend started by Symbol when they released their MC70, MC50 and soon MC35. Symbol has historically been known for their large industrial grade devices used in retail stores, warehouses and other industrial environments. This new trend seems to point toward the business user.
It is also worth noting that Motorola is in the process of buying Symbol. It should be finalized in January 2007. Motorola, of course, makes consumer handsets. It will be interesting to watch how these two companies merge their product lines and strategies.

Here are some links to other blog articles on the MC35:

RFID on Mobile Handheld PDAs Not Quite Ready for Vendors

We have implemented several very nice RFID projects this year using mobile handheld computers and various PDAs for tracking assets, but these customers seemed to find us, we did not find them. I have tried several times this year, with various online ad campaigns, to find a market for RFID related software products. However, when I ran my ad campaigns they seemed to generate a large numbers of PPC (pay-per-clicks), but the online visitors were only interested in reading not buying.

I found this article today that seems to support my findings:

Frost & Sullivan recently reported that the total North American RFID market for manufacturing and logistics is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 20 percent over the next six years. Yet, about 75 percent of the technology companies responding to a CompTIA survey earlier this year said there are not enough people trained in the field. Eighty-percent said they believe that a lack of talent will hinder RFID adoption.

Several points to note - 1) when you are starting with nothing, 20% growth is not a lot, 2) Comptia offers training and certification classes - so to say the slow adoption of RFID is because of a lack of training is a bit self serving, 3) If you know of someone interested in RFID software solutions, please send them my way....a bit self serving I admit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mobile Handheld PDAs, Inspection Software and The Journal of The American Society of Safety Engineers

I was sent an interesting article today from the Journal of The American Society of Safety Engineers. It is called Best Practices - Audits & Inspections:Improving Efficiency with Technology By Rob Retzlaff. In this article it identifies MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform as a key mobile software solution for developing inspection software applications for handheld PDAs that are used for "improving efficiency" when it comes to inspections and audits.

Inspection software on handheld PDAs just makes so much sense. Many inspection companies are relatively small and the inspector himself is often the person re-typing the inspection data at the end of the day into a report. Using a handheld PDA the data could be quickly collected and fed directly into an inspection report without any re-typing.

MobileDataforce develops many custom inspection applications for companies.

Symbol MC50 - More Smart Phones


Smart phones are becoming more and more powerful. The MC50 from Symbol provides phone capabilities in a semi-rugged case with the power of Windows Mobile 5.0. Field service teams can choose to carry one device that acts as a database centric mobile enterprise database communicator to send and receive dispatched service orders, plus receive phone calls from the wife asking you to stop at the grocery store and pick-up a loaf of bread. What more can a guy want?
The MC50 is not made to drop in the pond or from the 6th floor scaffolding, but it fills a void in the mobile handheld world. It provides a semi-rugged device for only a few hundred dollars more than a consumer grade device.

MobileDataforce Launches PointSync Mobility Platform 4.0

MobileDataforce Launches PointSync Mobility Platform 4.0 for Rapid Mobile Software Application Development for Handheld PDAs

SYNOPSIS: New Version Features Visual Debugger, Data Mapping Wizard, Support for Hosted Environments, SQL Builder and 220 Pre-built Mobile Application Functions

Boise, Idaho—December 12, 2006 – MobileDataforce® today announced the release of the latest version of the PointSync® Mobility Platform, the next generation of the company’s award-winning rapid application development solution for mobile software development environments. This major release includes over 150 new features, innovations and enhancements to PointSync Developer, PointSync Manager, PointSync Server and PointSync Mobile.

This is a very significant release in MobileDataforce’s 7-year history,” said Kevin Benedict, CEO of MobileDataforce. “PointSync Mobility Platform 4.0 will change the way mobile solutions are developed and will reduce the time it takes for our customers to recognize a return on investment by reducing the time it takes to design, develop and deploy new business critical mobile solutions.”

Key new features and enhancements include:

· New Visual Debugger to quickly debug mobile applications during development
· New Data Mapping Wizard speeds up mobile application integration with enterprise databases
· New SQL Builder speeds up SQL statement development
· Enhanced library of over 220 pre-built functions for mobile application development
· Enhanced graphical user interface tools to improve the user’s mobile application experience
· Expanded support for multiple PointSync applications and databases in a hosted environment
· Enhanced server back-up and restore functions

To learn more, visit http://www.mobiledataforce.com/

About PointSync Mobility Platform

PointSync Mobility Platform is an enterprise class solution used to rapidly design, develop and deploy business critical mobile applications. It is architected to provide database centric mobile applications with bi-directional synchronization, connectivity, security and enterprise database integration all within one product suite.

About MobileDataforce

MobileDataforce is the global leader in the development of enterprise class and business critical software solutions for use on mobile handheld computers including Smart Phones, Tablet PCs and laptops. MobileDataforce has offices in Europe, North America and in Australia to support their expanding customer base and sales channels. Privately held, MobileDataforce has been mobilizing business solutions since 2000. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.mobiledataforce.com/.

Palm Treos and Grabba Card Swipers


We are working on a very cool smartphone and mobile software solution at this time. It involves Palm Treos using the Windows Mobile OS and a Grabba Magnetic Card Reader. This allows mobile sales people and route delivery personnel to take credit and debit card orders as they walk through crowds of shoppers, concert goers, delivery routes and outdoor venues.
My team is using MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform to design, develop and deploy the mobile software solution.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Smart Phones and Enterprise Database Applications


Nearly everyone in our company has a Smart phone now days. By Smart phone I mean a phone with an operating system like Windows Mobile 5.0 or Windows CE and typically includes a touch screen. These operating systems give you the ability to run powerful database centric applications that can synchronize with your company's business software and enterprise databases. This is important when you consider that 30-40% of the workforce is mobile or works remotely.

For the past 40 years companies have been investing in software for automating their business processes and operations. The problem we have today is that most of these investments have been to improve operations within the 4 walls of the office, warehouse or plant and they do not extend to the millions of mobile or remote workers. Smart phones, however, make it possible to utilize these 40 years of internal IT investments and extend them out to the mobile workforce.

My PSO (professional services organization) spends all their time helping customers extend business software applications out to Smart phones and other handheld devices. We are in effect developing "mobile clients" that integrate and synchronize with whatever business applications they use in the office. The technology we use to extend business software solutions out to the mobile workforce is MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform.

Here are a few previous blog articles on the subject of Smart Phones for your reference.

In this blog article I wrote about the convergence of industrial handhelds with consumer grade handhelds and Smart phones. The Smart phone in this article even has a built-in bar code scanner.

In this article concert goers can buy T-shirts and other retail items from sales people walking the aisles with Smart phones.

In this article hemophiliac patients keep in touch with their healthcare providers via a database application on a Smart phone.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

HVAC Service Orders on Handheld PDAs


In the last few weeks we have delivered 4 HVAC applications. The image attached is a recent application that was created using MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform and delivered to a Dutch company.

The ROIs found from automating work and service orders are easily defined:

  1. Daily service orders can be wirelessly dispatched directly to the service technician in the field.
  2. Schedules can be dynamically changed on the handheld
  3. Driving directions can be included and wirelessly dispatched to the handheld and integrated with numerous GPS navigation systems available on PDAs
  4. Customer history and equipment warranty information can be included in the work order and dispatched to the handheld device
  5. Parts can be ordered on the application and wirelessly synchronized with the office
  6. Parts inventory levels and shipping status can be queried on the handheld device
  7. Completed service orders can be invoiced and printed on a mobile printer and left with the customer for fast payment
  8. Completed service orders can be synchronized and integrated with the office database, so no re-typing is required.

These are just a few of the common features in the mobile HVAC applications we have recently delivered using MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform.

Monday, December 04, 2006

NFL Scout's Job - Watching, Measuring, Assessing


I read an article on a plane last week about how NFL Scouts do their job of finding talent for their football teams. Bob Morris spends much of the year traveling (20,000 miles per year) to different games, practices and workouts to analyze and evaluate players. The picture in the above right shows Bob carrying a reporter's notebook to collect this data. He evalutes over 500 players each year and records huge amounts of information on each player.

Of course - from my perspective as CEO of MobileDataforce, I believe he should be collecting all of this data on a handheld PDA or a Tablet PC so this information can be instantly sent back to the team's database for analysis, comparisons with other players and past data from each player.

The process of data collection that Bob Morris is using is not so dissimilar to many organizations that still collect huge volumes of inspection data and field tests on paper tablets or forms. MobileDataforce has developed 2 complete suites of data collection software to help companies and government agencies mobilize their field data collection processes.

Here is another blog article on data collection and inspections.