Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now the NMS 5000 Rugged Tablet PC I Like!


I came across this ruggedized tablet pc today and am a fan. I love the right hand buttons for short-cuts. Perhaps because I am right handed - sorry left handers. Many field data collection projects involve maps, blueprints and other files that benefit from a larger screen in a rugged case.
NMS 5000
The NMS 5000 provides data collection technology ideal in several applications including field service, military, industrial / manufacturing, medical, parking management, public safety, utility services and retail. More...
MobileDataforce's software for field data collection can be found here.

Chossing Between a Rugged PDA or Industrial Grade Handheld?

My sales team is asked hourly for recommendations for mobile handheld computers, smartphones and PDAs. The customer is always looking for the most cost effective solution. Cost effective must include value, reliability, usability, flexibility, expandability and much more - the total cost of ownership. There is a document you can download here that lists all the questions you need to ask before making the purchase.

I was reading about the industrial grade handheld PDA M3 today and their description points to some of the rugged features that users need to consider.

M3 Industrial PDA M3’s rugged design and IP54-rated sealing ensures continued use and uptime by protecting against dust, moisture and extreme temperatures (-20°C ~ 50°C), And, whether working inside or out, it has a drop spec of 1.5m to concrete across vast temperature ranges, reducing equipment and maintenance costs.More...

A lot of your decision needs to be based upon what kind of mobile software application you are going to use and what operating system it requires. Do you need a large screen to read drawings, blueprints and maps, or a simple data form?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Microsoft's Mobile Software Industry Growth Projections

Microsoft and Palm talk about the latest trends in the mobile software, smartphone and handheld PDA industry in this webinar.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Palm Treo 500v Smartphone


Palm has released a new version of the popular Treo series Smartphone - Palm Treo 500v. It sounds like it will be available in Europe in October and available from Vodafone. It will be using Windows Mobile 6.0. I think the Palm OS may be going away soon in favor of Windows Mobile for PDAs.
The Palm Treo 500v and the Palm 750w (available in the USA from AT&T) are good examples of "convergent" devices. Devices that can handle both your work and your play. For companies like MobileDataforce, devices like these mean more business owners, managers and field technicians will be using mobile devices capable of handling mobile field service applications. Good job Palm!

Don't Start a Mobile Software Development Project Yet


In Steven McConnell's book, "Code Complete" he describes why a person should not jump right in and start developing code for a mobile software solution for use on handheld PDAs on the first day that the business thinks it is a good idea. Often business motivations help drive a sense of urgency to start coding a software application immediately, but there are also business motivations NOT to start today. Coding without gathering ALL the requirements and architecting the system has a high cost.

Here is an excerpt from McConnell's book that is very interesting and true:

Explicit requirements help to ensure that the user rather than the programmer drives the system’s functionality. If the requirements are explicit, the user can review them and agree to them. If they’re not, the programmer usually ends up making requirements decisions during programming. Explicit requirements keep you from guessing what the user wants.

Explicit requirements also help to avoid arguments. You decide on the scope of the system before you begin programming. If you have a disagreement with an other programmer about what the program is supposed to do, you can resolve it by looking at the written requirements.

Paying attention to requirements helps to minimize changes to a system after development begins. If you find a coding error during coding, you change a few lines of code and work goes on. If you find a requirements error during coding, you have to alter the design to meet the changed requirement. You might have to throw away part of the old design, and because it has to accommodate code that’s already written, the new design will take longer than it would have in the first place. You also have to discard code and test cases affected by the requirement change and write new code and test cases. Even code that’s otherwise unaffected must be retested so that you can be sure the changes in other areas haven’t introduced any new errors.

...Data from numerous organizations indicates that on large projects an error in requirements detected during the architecture stage is typically 3 times as expensive to correct as it would be if it were detected during the requirements stage. If detected during coding, it’s 5-10 times as expensive; during system test, 10 times; and post-release, a whopping 10-100 times as expensive as it would be if it were detected during requirements development. On smaller projects with lower administrative costs, the multiplier post-release is closer to 5-10 than 100 (Boehm and Turner 2004).

McConnell lists 5 steps in the software development process:
  1. Requirements
  2. Architecture
  3. Coding
  4. System Test
  5. Post-release

There is simply NO way to bypass these steps for the purpose of saving time and money. If there is an urgent need for the mobile software solution, then there needs to be an urgent need to define the requirements, and architect the system so coding can begin.

An Interesting ROI for Mobilizing Business Processes Using PDAs and Handhelds


Here are 2 new and unusual ROIs (return on investment)that came in this week for a mobile solutions customer of MobileDataforce's.
  1. They don't want their inspectors taking up parking spaces at the office. The parking space is limited so they would rather synchronize data out to the mobile inspectors than have them come to the office.

  2. They don't have anymore office space for the inspectors. They want them to work from the field.

I had never considered these 2 reasons on my article entitled 28 Reasons to Mobilize that is available to download. Make that 30 Reasons to Mobilize.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Do Some Companies Use Mobile Software and Others Don't?


Daily we receive calls from companies wishing to use mobile software on handheld PDAs for their work orders, inspections, asset tracking or delivery services. Although we receive many calls, these companies are unique. For every company that calls my mobile software solutions team, many others in the same markets regretfully do not. Is it because my marketing budget is finite and they simply don't know MobileDataforce exists? Perhaps, but I am inclined to think there is more to the story.
The companies calling us are dissatisfied. They are dissatisfied with their existing business processes. They see inefficiencies and they are annoyed. They have seen the capabilities of mobile solutions and recognize what they mean to their business and profit margins. They are focused on growth and business process improvement. They have ambitions to accomplish more, capture more profits and to improve customer service. They call my team with questions like these:
  • How can I put a work order solution on my Palm Treo 750?

  • How can I dispatch a work order to my mobile device?

  • How can I accomplish instant invoicing?

  • How can I take digital photos of my work?

  • How can I get "proof-of-delivery" using a mobile handheld PDA?

  • How can I take these paper forms and convert them to mobile solutions?

  • My paper process is costing me $234,000 per year. Can I mobilize this process?

When is a Mobile Software Solution for PDAs and Handhelds a Bad Idea?


This morning, one of my sales team told me he had said "no" to a company wanting to purchase a mobile software solution for their employees' PDAs and handhelds. A few minutes later as he cleaned out his desk and was escorted to the the door he called out over his shoulder, "They couldn't tell me how it would benefit their company!"
Hummm...Good Point.
If a customer or prospective customer can not articulate the value of a mobile solution to their business, then why bother? Mobile solutions take time and effort to design, develop, deploy and support. Customized mobile applications need to be integrated with database systems and business processes need to be re-engineered to optimize the value of mobilizing. This all takes work. If the customer can not identify the value of this effort or the expected ROI, then their commitment to seeing the project through a successful roll-out is very limited.

I've got a smart sales person, or I did have.

If you would like to discuss potential ROIs and the value of mobilizing various business processes please contact us at http://www.mobiledataforce.com/, or call 208-384-1200.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

MobileDataforce and Mobile Software for Handheld PDAs in Singapore


MobileDataforce expands into Singapore with NetCob Technologies Pte Ltd partnership. They provide professional IT consultancy services to various organizations, including MNCs, government agencies and regional SMEs. Their service covers:
- Enterprise Solutions such as ERP, CRM and EDMS;
- Infrastructure and networking solutions;
- Radio Frequency Identification;
- Security Solutions;
- Enterprise CAD/GIS strategy;
-Mobile Software Applications for Handheld PDAs

MobileDataforce in India for Mobile Handheld PDA Development


MobileDataforce announces expansion into India with their new partner HiFX.

HiFX focuses on providing business extension through field force automation using handheld PDAs and mobile software for continuous synching of business critical data in the HO and field force. These solutions provide up to the minute information to all employees guaranteeing consistency of data. We are also able to provide services that escalate existing legacy applications, ERP and CRM solutions, workflow applications to seamlessly integrate with mobile applications. With all expertise fundamental to mobile solution development, HiFX rolls out enterprise mobile software solutions and custom business solutions for midsize to large enterprises using handheld PDAs.

MobileDataforce in China Working on Mobile Inspection Software for Moible Computers, PDAs and Handhelds


We had customers from China visit our office last week in Boise, Idaho to receive additional training on designing, developing and deploying mobile software solutions for handheld PDAs, mobile computers and Tablet PCs. The PointSync Mobility Platform will be used to develop quality assurance inspection software and the mobile software will be deployed both in Asia and in North America..

MobileDataforce Australia Launches New Website for Mobile Software and Handheld PDAs


Our team in Australia has launched a new MobileDataforce website for our customers and business partners down under. We are involved in some very interesting mobile software projects in Australia and in New Zealand. These applications are designed to be deployed on mobile handheld PDAs for use in the field.
Rugged environments and remote locations require special mobile technologies that allow for disconnected working environments and specialized synchronization capabilities.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Getting Started on a Mobile Software Development Project for Handheld PDAs and Smartphones

What does it take to get a mobile software application for a handheld PDA or smartphone developed? The quick answer is just time and money, but the long answer follows:
  1. Draw a picture or diagram of the various players, software systems, buildings, vehicles, etc., that will be involved in the system. It helps everyone to see where the data starts, where it is collected, edited, synchronized used and stored.
  2. List the business processes involved in the system (i.e. work orders, asset tracking, inventory, inspections, accounting, payroll, invoicing)
  3. List who will be using the system
  4. Ask an expert to draw out and detail how the enterprise application works and interfaces with third party software
  5. Identify how each person involved will access the information (i.e. mobile handheld computer, desktop application, web application, etc.)
  6. What reports do they need to have? Are they dynamic, or are they standard reports?
  7. What database application(s) does the mobile application need to interface with?
  8. Provide a database schema for the database where the data will be stored?
  9. Make an expert, that knows your database application, available so the development team can quickly get their questions answered
  10. Pick your mobile device or handheld computer early so the development team knows screen sizes, button configurations, bar code, RFID, GPS etc., configurations
  11. Have a person available to review and test the work each step of the way.
  12. Don't ask the mobile application to do all of the same things as an enterprise software application. Be careful to use the mobile software application in the right manner with an understanding of the limited screen size, processor speed and memory available on mobile devices.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Microsoft, Palm and MobileDataforce Recorded Webinar

Microsoft, Palm and MobileDataforce combined to record a webinar detailing how our mobile solutions for handheld PDA and smartphones work together to help small to medium sized companies mobilize their workforces. You can also register to try a Palm Treo 750 (running Windows Mobile) with the PointSync Mobility Platform for a 30-day trial.

Africa & Mobile Handheld PDA and Smarphone Applications

I am continually surprised by the wide variety of business processes and geographical locations where our mobile software applications are being used. We are regularly helping with large mobile software projects in Africa. Who would have predicted that? Here are some sample applications:

  • Mobile tax assessment application
  • Mobile water deliver application
  • Mobile clinical supplies and supply chain logistics application

All of these customized mobile software applications were developed using the same mobile software development platform called the PointSync Mobility Platform by MobileDataforce for use on handheld PDAs and Smartphones.

Auto Appearances - PDAs, Handhelds and Mobile Software Application


Mobile Enterprise magazine published an interesting article about a mobile software solution for PDAs and handhelds developed by MobileDataforce to help an automotive services company automate and mobilized their business processes. The solution included the following components:
  • Mobile auto inspections
  • Mobile job estimates for auto detailing and PDR
  • Mobile work orders
  • Wireless synchronization and integration with enterprise work order management system
  • Integration with Microsoft Dynamic GP for accounting
  • Production and work reports

RFID & Mobile Handheld Solutions from MobileDataforce


Our team in the UK has recently been working on a mobile "wheelie bin" application that uses RFID tags and RFID readers integrated into a Psion Teklogix WorkAbout Pro to uniquely identify the bins. They deliver, pick-up, inspect and repair these wheelie bins. The data is collected and synchronized with their enterprise database. You could list this mobile application in several different categories - inspections, delivery, asset tracking and field services.
The application was developed using MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Free Palm Treo 750 Smarphone for 30-days


Palm is running a promotion with Microsoft and MobileDataforce to provide a 30 day trial of the PointSync Mobility Platform software and a Palm 750 running the Windows Mobile OS. This promotion is for qualified companies interested in mobilizing their field services teams.
The Palm Treo combines the power and functionality of a PDA with the capabilities of a mobile phone.

The Handheld PDA - iPAQ 900 Series Business Messenger


Have you seen the new mobile handheld PDA or smartphone line up by HP? They have some interesting new Windows Mobile devices. The device shown in this image is the iPAQ Business Messenger.
Follow this link to a full description.
MobileDataforce provides mobile software tools for developing a wide variety of mobile business applications and data collection solutions on handheld PDAs. We love PDA phones running Windows Mobile OS. This PDA phone has a keyboard for data entry and the connectivity to synchronize data from just about anywhere in the world that has wireless network coverage.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

30-day free Trial of an Unlocked Palm Treo 750 Smartphone

If you are a field services company (anyone working out of the office and receiving service requests, job tickets or work orders) you may find this offer interesting. The details are on both Palm's and Microsoft's websites.

http://www.palm.com/us/business/solutions/mdf.html

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/enterprise/default.mspx

In summary - qualified field services companies can receive a free 30 day trial of a Palm Treo 750, the PointSync Mobility Platform, 4 sample mobile software applications and up to 4 hours of free mobile solution consulting by registering.

Pipeline Construction & Inspection and Handheld Computers


We are working with a large civil engineering firm on a 500 mile pipeline construction project. The engineering firm is using the PointSync Mobility Platform to develop mobile software to do environmental impact data collection in the field. If there is a negative environmental impact, then remedial plans and efforts must be implemented. They first collect data on a location using a mobile handheld PDA before the pipeline is installed, and later conduct follow-up data collection using rugged handhelds once the pipeline has been constructed to monitor the impact on the environment.
This is a custom inspection software application developed specifically for handheld PDAs.

Interesting New Projects

It is never dull here at MobileDataforce. Every day has its own set of interesting new projects. Here are some of the latest business processes and projects we are reviewing or mobilizing:
  • Time sheets
  • Pet vaccination tracking
  • Tracking medicine shipping to Africa
  • Concrete testing
  • Government housing inspection projects
  • Subway system switch inspections
  • Tracking condom distribution to clinics
  • Beverage distribution and promotion system
  • Clinical studies on sever spinal injuries
  • Electronic Patient diaries for Hemophiliac patients
  • ATM repair and maintenance
  • Heating ventilation and air condition work orders
  • Electric company's work order system
  • Oxygen delivery
  • Propane delivery
  • Medical supply delivery
  • Much more...

MobileDataforce's PointSync Mobility Platform is used by companies around the world to mobilize a wide variety of business processes.

Hospitals and Data Collection on Handheld PDAs

My wife and I spent Saturday evening visiting a friend in the hospital here in Boise. While in the hospital I quickly became distracted by the nurse. Not the nurse specifically, but by the handheld PDA she was carrying around. She was doing the following:


  1. Scanning a bar code on the wrist band of the patient
  2. Scanning a bar code on the applied medicine
  3. Capturing the date and time stamp on the handheld computer
  4. Synchronizing the data to an enterprise software application
  5. The collected data activates business rules
  6. The business rules prompt the user with questions
  7. The system alerts user if there is a problem with the treatment or treatment schedule
  8. Ask for response to alert

This was a fascinating example of a handheld PDA and a mobile data collection system that is integrated with an enterprise database. These same 8 steps can be implemented with many different assets. Let's consider a large piece of manufacturing equipment and a plant maintenance technician:

  1. Scan a bar code on the side of the equipment
  2. Scan a maintenance service bar code to designate the service you are performing
  3. Capture date and time stamp on the handheld computer
  4. Synchronize the data with your Asset Tracking or CMMS system
  5. The collected data activates business rules
  6. The system's business rules prompt you with questions about the service
  7. The system sends you service alerts based upon stored data
  8. You respond to the alert and verify you read it


These 2 data collection systems work the same from a mobile data collection technology perspective, but serve 2 completely different industries.

MobileDataforce develops mobile software applications that help companies improve their field services operations.