Thursday, October 29, 2009

Smart Phones, Mobile Software, Coupons and Grocery Lists


I can hear it now! Readers complaining that I should already know about this category of mobile applications, but I don't so I apologize in advance.

I want to be able to go to a grocery store (food store) and take out my iPhone, photograph the bar code label (UPC code) and have my GPS location uploaded to a website that will instantly provide me with all the discounts, coupons and rebates available for that product (UPC code) in that specific store location (GPS coordinate).

I want to take advantage of any savings that are available. I should not have to clip coupons from newspapers, file them and browse through different websites. I want the best price for the products on my shopping list for today only. Hummm, let me think about that. Perhaps if complementary products were also on sale that could prove useful. OK, let's add that feature and make it so it can be active or inactive in set-up.

It would also be useful to know how many of my products could be purchased for less, a mile down the road. Perhaps the total costs for my groceries at store A is $79.00, but 1 mile down the road those same products would only cost $63.00. I would like to know that. I may travel 1 mile to save $16.00. The radius of the search for savings could be configured in my mobile application. I want all stores within 1, 2, 3 or 10 miles.

Perhaps I could even save the UPC bar code scans from previous visits to the grocery store. These would, over time, make up my personal food lists. With a personal list of products and their associated UPC codes saved, I could quickly make a grocery list and request best prices from multiple stores within a designated area.

Once I have a list of all the best prices on my personal food list and their locations, I could request a best route to drive, plus a list of groceries I should buy at each store to maximize savings. I may have 4 stores within my designated search area. Each store has some food items that would maximize my savings. If I travel to each store, one at a time, I could save $34.00 on my list. If I went to only 2 stores, I could save $28.45.

OK, that is all good, but travel, time and fuel have a cost. I would like to know how much time it would take to drive to each store one at a time. Let me enter a time and fuel cost. That should be factored into the overall savings.

The result should be a very quick and simple mobile application that maximizes my savings in the most efficient manner possible. I would also need to show my electronic coupons to the cashier and manage the rebate process. Hummm...save that for another blog article.

OK readers what is the application called and where do I download it?

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Network-Centric Mobile Field Force Automation and OODA


This article explores the combination of some of the best military strategy thinking with mobile technologies, field force automation and business intelligence solutions.


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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Help Me - RFID on the Road

I want to obey the law. I want to stay within the legal spend limits, but it is so hard when you have two dogs in the car, kids asking questions, the radio on, a hot cup of coffee and you are trying to read a text message while driving through the rain at night. How is one to see every speed limit sign?

I want speed limit signs along the road to be RFID enabled. I want the speed limit signs to send my car the speed limit information via RFID. I want my car to receive the RFID signal and warn me if I go above the speed limit by more than 5 MPH.

I need less distractions while driving. I should be able to concentrate on reading my text messages without the distraction of looking for speed limit signs.

Who will join me and sign the petition?

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict

http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, Part 2

This is the second in a 2 part series on Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation. Part 1 can be read here.

Field Service Technicians spend much of their time working at remote customer sites. Often the job expands or they get dispatched to a new job where they don't have the right equipment, expertise, tools or parts to complete the job in a timely manner. This can result in delays and inefficiencies that result in higher costs. Let's ponder some ideas on how a peer-to-peer mobile computing environment along with LBS (location based services) could improve these situations.

Location based services allow you to identify locations, objects and people with GPS coordinates. Based upon these GPS coordinates, various actions can be programmed or configured. Once you are within 1 mile of a shopping center, you begin to receive product sales and discount information as an example. In a field service context, you could activate a database query, or activate a series of automated business processes. Let's consider a scenario.

A field service technician carries an inventory of equipment, tools and parts in his van. It has only storage space for a limited inventory. Different field service technicians carry different tools, equipment and parts in their van's inventory. Perhaps if all of the vans had GPS tracking, and all of the van's had identified inventory, then a field service technician could view a complete mobile inventory from all 6 vans within a 5 mile radius.

Why would viewing the inventory from all 6 vans be useful? If a van with the right equipment, tools or parts was closer than the company's warehouse, then you could save time and money by meeting the van and exchanging inventory. The company van with the right equipment or parts may be only 1.3 miles away from your location, while the warehouse may be 25 miles away.

It is also good cash management to turn over your inventory. You don't want your field service technicians purchasing more of a particular part, when your warehouse or other vans already has that unsold part in inventory.

How does mobile peer-to-peer or P2P computing come into this scenario? Each mobile handheld computer can be configured to communicate directly with all the other company's mobile handheld computers so their locations and associated parts and equipment inventories can constantly be surveyd.

I have not yet seen a a work order management or field service automation system utilize these emerging LBS and P2P technologies, but I believe this is a very intrigueing new area. If you have seen examples of this kind of solution in action, please share in the comments section below.

If you would like to exchange ideas on this subject please comment on this article or contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, Part 1

There are a lot of times when the supervisor or owner/operator of a SMB (small to medium sized business) is not at his or her desk staring at the computer screen. They are often in the field working with customers and their service teams. The problem with this is that it prevents visibility to other projects that may benefit from the supervisor's real time advice and oversight. Let's now talk about some possible solutions to this issue.

In many field service automation or work order management software applications, the design and architecture of the software is in a client server model. Information and electronic service tickets are wirelessly dispatched to mobile handheld computers and Smart phones, and the service technician completes the electronic service ticket and the information is synchronized back to the server in the office. The problem with this design again is that the supervisor who is most interested in viewing this real-time work order information is not in the office looking at the application on the server.

One possible solution would be to create a special managers view or summary of all operational data. A summary of all inbound and outbound work orders, business process or rule exceptions, identify issues or customer relationship problems and then synchronize this subset of information out to the supervisor's mobile handheld computer or Smart phone. This would provide a management summary in a dashboard view of all operations.

A second option would be to provide a complete duplication of all information to the supervisor. You would duplicate and synchronize all inbound and outbound work orders to the supervisor's mobile device. There would be no summary, rather all information would be synchronized out from the server to the supervisor's mobile handheld.

A third option would be to have the mobile device of all the service technicians synchronize in a peer-to-peer model directly with the supervisor's mobile device and the office server. This would require the supervisor's mobile handheld computer or netbook to have full server synchronization capabilities that would enable all of his or her mobile service technicians to constantly synchronize with it. This would be data intensive and may cause synchronization performance issues, but would enable the supervisor to see all operations in real-time.

A fourth option is to have a real-time online connection between the supervisor's mobile device and the office server. This would only work when there was wireless connectivity available, but could provide efficient and real-time visibility into all the operations of the company.

In Part 2 of Peer-to-Peer Mobile Computing and Field Services Automation, we will discuss some ideas for using location based services (LBS) and P2P computing with Field Service Technicians.

If you would like to discuss these options in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Friday, October 23, 2009

American Sins, GPS, GIS and Mobile Software Applications that Show It All

I wrote an article that was published on the Ulitzer site yesterday that was very fun to write. Just read the title and you can understand, American Sins, GPS, GIS and Mobile Software Applications that Show It All.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Future of Mobile and Route Sales Applications for Smart Phones, Part 2

This article is the second in a series on Mobile and Route Sales Applications for Smart Phones. You can read part one here.

In this recent article I described my need to know when the New York Times newspaper arrived at the local Starbuck's Coffee shop. I wanted an email or text message telling me that my paper arrived at 7:44 AM. Why? I wanted to buy a copy before it sold out. If it was sold out, I wanted to know the next closest location that may have one in inventory. This required some application integration and clever real-time notification systems, but it was very doable. The route sales/driver also would appreciate the above application as it would sell more papers and there would be less to pick-up and transport back to the warehouse for recycling.

In this second article in the series I want to focus on the use of business intelligence and business analytics as it relates to mobile applications. If you are driving a vehicle and/or using a Smart Phone, you do not want to be doing a lot of research and analytics on your small screen while driving. There should be a workflow already created in your central database application that you can simply activate through a request on your mobile device. This could be a series of queries, filters and reports that can all be activated and analyzed by the business analytics software in the central office. The resulting report of this analysis is your instructions and action steps as a sales person or route driver.

You should be able to know and do the following:
  1. What products generally sell the best the last half of October in this location? Don't make me guess or spend half a day researching. Just tell me the results and how many units you should sell. If there is a promotion, rebate or sale on these specific products tell me.
  2. If a store has sold out of a product line, and there is inventory in a nearby store or delivery VAN that is not selling, tell me so the inventory can be shuffled. (See related article)
  3. What is the profile of my best customers? What prospects match that profile in the part of the sales territory where you are travelling today? Give me the route and best sales approach so I can stop by for a quick sales call.
  4. I want my customers to appear on a map. I want LBS (location based services) shouting out to me instructions on what the customer has purchased, what they are likely to purchase, and what promotional campaigns I should be sharing with them. As you have limited time with each customer, you need to be using your time most efficiently to generate the most sales and profits.
  5. The business intelligence software in the central office, should be advising me as to what combination of products are most likely to appeal to a customer at this time. Don't make me research through my catalog and inventory. Prepare a list that can be quickly printed off on a mobile printer in the vehicle.
  6. If a competitor is running a national or regional promotional campaign, tell me. Tell me how we can compete effectively against it. Don't make every sales person try to come up with their own unique strategy and plan. Keep your sales people face-to-face with customers and prospects and using the company's best messages and programs.
  7. Don't force me to learn and remember every sales, discount, rebate, marketing and promotional campaign in advance. Provide me with the list that is relevant to each specific customer only. Let's be efficient with our time. Don't talk about a promotion on Prune juice if the customer's store doesn't carry it.
  8. Provide the route sales person with a list of retail locations (on a map with push pins and best routes) carrying your competitors products and then provide them with a good competitive proposal. Again, make it easy.

All of these points are simply ideas as to how CRMs (customer relationship management) applications, business intelligence software, business analytical software, marketing and promotional management software, mapping/GPS and inventory management software all integrated together with pre-configured workflows can quickly produce, in real-time the information most needed by a mobile sales and/or route delivery person. This information can be packaged and synchronized out to the sales person's Smart Phone.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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The Future of Mobile and Route Sales Applications for Smart Phones, Part 1

I can see multiple mobile applications and technologies converging rapidly to provide some very interesting scenarios for mobile and route sales people. Consider the following scenario.

A mobile sales person or route sales person is driving through an unfamiliar territory. She stops in a parking lot and activates an application on her Smart Phone that identifies her location and requests visibility into the location of all current and past customers, and any known sales prospects. Her application, using Google Maps provides a map with color coded "push pins" showing the exact locations of each. Tapping on any push pin identifies the street address, name, product and account history.

The mobile sales person only has 2 hours to spare, so selects a priority filter. The map updates and removes non-selected accounts. She then selects the option to have route optimization activated from her current location in the parking lot. She gets the optimal route provided to her. She then selects an option for account "Talking Points." This option queries the central office to identify all products the accounts have purchased in the past, (accounts are represented by the color coded push pins on the map) and any product updates, upgrades, warranties, trade-ins, discounts, account issues or complimentary products that she should mention on the visit. As she begins to drive, all of this information is described to her using the voice option. This allows her to safely drive to the next location while learning all about the account.

This kind of mobile Smart Phone and central server application would provide huge efficiencies for a mobile sales representative or route sales person. The central server application, using a CRM, business intelligence and business analytics with GPS, route optimization and LBS (location based services) technologies to make the life of the mobile sales person so much easier.

For SAP users you can see the value of using NetWeaver and the Data Orchestrator as the synchronization and integration engine.

The scenario described above is not rocket science. The technology exists in many different applications, but it is segmented. Adding business intelligence, mapping and GPS technologies to basic CRM functionality can be extremely powerful. If you add to that business analytics, product catalogs, marketing and promotional campaign data, then you have a system that can advise the mobile sales or route sales person as to what is likely to be most interesting to the client. Wrap all of this integrated technology and data into a mobile handheld or Smart Phone application and you can revolutionize route and mobile sales.

Again, if you are an SAP user you can see the role of NetWeaver, Data Orchestrator, Business Objects, CRM, etc.

The bottom line is to increase sales and reduce expenses through increased productivity that will generate more sales and higher profit margins.

Part 2 or this article series can be found here.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mobile Computing, High Speed Internet and Good Transportation is the Answer for the Heartland

There was an interesting article by Bill Kauffman in the Wall Street Journal today (October 20, 2009) in the Bookshelf section called Where Home Is, The Heart Isn't. It talks about the book Hollowing Out the Middle by husband and wife sociologists Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas that describes a trend where young people of intellect and ambition leave the middle of America for the coastlines. This migration has devastating effects on the middle of America according to the authors.

The sharpest insight in the book according to Kauffman is that "small towns play an unwitting role in their own decline" by promoting the idea that fulfilling one's dream means one must leave home for the big city lights along the shores.

I live in Boise, Idaho. A small town in the high desert at the base of the mountains far from any oceans. Mobile computing, high speed Internet and a nice airport has made this a great base to raise my family and develop a high tech career. I travel all over North America, Europe and even Australia from here. Hewlett Packard, Micron, Microsoft and Sybase have all established a presence here.

I propose that small cities or towns, far from the big city lights of the coast, can often provide a higher quality life, a higher standard of living and more options to travel and learn about the world. Why? The cost of living is often a fraction of what living in a large coastal city requires and you are left with more disposable income.

Let me pause here to say I love the coasts. I love traveling to San Francisco, Boston and New York City and other great cities. We travel to the coast often on business and as a family on relatively low cost airline tickets. We would be missing many wonderful experiences and sites if we never visited these locations. However, I must say it feels good to return home to the mountains and the blue turf in Boise.

Small towns in middle America must understand that mobile computing and high speed Internet have changed everything. Entrepreneurs can choose nearly any place in America to run national and international businesses. I am continually impressed by how many people I meet that work at large multi-national companies and live and work from home offices in Boise. The flights leaving the Boise airport are full of highly educated people working from home offices and traveling to see customers and attend company meetings around the USA and globally.

Today, "small" town should refer to the population size, not a frame of mind. I see Boise, Idaho as a place I live and raise a family, but the world is my workplace thanks to mobile computing, high speed internet and a great little airport.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Equipment Centric Mobile Software Applications and Workflows

A service technician receives a mobile work order dispatched to his rugged mobile handheld. It calls for the immediate repair of an air conditioning unit in a specific factory. Under the account status it says annual service contact in flashing red. He pushes the red flashing button and the mobile work order application then queries a different application - the central office CMMS (computer managed maintenance system) for any additional maintenance or inspection work that needs to be completed on the broken air conditioning equipment, or any other equipment under a service contract in the area.

Let's pause a moment and consider the implications of the above scenario. A need for a customer's equipment repair generates a work order that is wirelessly dispatched to the service technician. While at the jobsite, the service technician wants to know if any other equipment needs serviced while he is onsite. If he can accomplish more work while he is onsite, then that can save fuel and travel time expense.

Ideally, there would be an automated workflow that would link the Work Order Management System with the CMMS (computer managed maintenance system) and service calls would be organized (repairs, regular services and inspections) prior to the service technician dispatch, but even without this integration good mobile software application can synchronize with multiple backend database applications so onsite coordination can be done.

What kind of "regular" services are needed? Often, HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) companies will service their customers' equipment on a schedule for an annual service fee. To be profitable, the service company needs to make each visit the most efficient possible. They will inspect the equipment, do minor maintenance and change out filters. If a service technician is already onsite with a service dispatch, then he can efficiently conduct the "regular" services on additional equipment while he is there.

Often the environments described above involves a number of different software applications. CMMS, Work Order Dispatch, CRM and the customer's Asset Management software application. Ideally the service company would have the CRM/CMMS and Work Order dispatch system in place and all of these would integrate and synchronize with the mobile handheld computer. Once the work was completed at the jobsite the work order details would then be integrated with the customer's Asset Management application. This would allow the customer to keep their records updated on each piece of equipment.

For a related article on geotagging equipment for Asset Tracking and Management please see this article.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

M2M, Route Optimization, Handhelds and Business Intelligence

Recently I wrote about mobile software applications physically moving objects such as unlocking car doors. I have also seen interesting scenarios where mechanical objects activate mobile applications. One example is the PTO on a snow plow activates the GPS to track the routes being plowed, sprayed with deicer or sanded and this information is wirelessly updated in real-time to GIS system to view coverage areas.

Another scenario is a mini-inventory management system or a M2M (machine to machine) scenario whereby a snack vending machine wirelessly notifies the vending machine owner of current inventory levels.

I can envision a scenario where 1,500 vending machines automatically and wirelessly update the central office ERP with their inventory levels. The ERP checks inventory in the central warehouse and automatically creates shipping orders and replenishes low warehouse inventory through automated ordering rules with preferred vendors.

Business intelligence software predicts the demand for specific products for each location and vending machine based upon sales and date and time stamps. This prediction is used to load the route vans.

Next the route optimization software creates the most efficient routes for the drivers and synchronizes this with the driver's handheld computer.

M2M data synchronization is being added to more and more equipment these days.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy, Sales and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Multi-Purpose and Multi-line Smart Phones

It occurred to me today that I would like a Smart phone with both a personal line and a business line in it. I work remotely so most of my work related phone calls come to my iPhone. When I create a voice mail I must choose between a business sounding voice mail, or my imitation of Elvis Presley. I don't want to choose. I want both.

What Smart phone manufacturer is going to give me both a personal and a work phone all in one Smart phone handset?



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wirelessly Controlling Equipment with Mobile Software Applications

In a recent article I wrote about mobile software applications that could physically move objects. Here is another example for you to ponder from Telemetrics. This is how they describe themselves, "We deliver cost-effective wireless communication and control solutions for a wide range of distribution automation and power reliability applications." One of their products is called Monitor and Control Reclosures. It uses small monitors with wireless communications equipment to remotely report on equipment status. The most intriguing part though is mentioned below in feature #2, Here is what it does:
  1. Monitor recloser status points, such as a trip and lockout event, and automatically notify dispatch personnel. Notifications are sent upon alarms or events via pager, email or voice and can be sent to multiple individuals.
  2. Assist repair crews with the ability to provide open and close commands by supervisory (wireless) remote control of the recloser.
  3. Offers real time status of all the inputs/outputs of the recloser:- open/close state of recloser contacts- high and low voltage readings (AC powered models)- time of the events- presence of AC voltage (outage monitoring)- recloser malfunction indication- local/remote or hot line tag switch status- total count of recloser operations
Note feature number 2 - it provides the ability to remotely open and close the reclosure (see definition of reclosure). Mobile devices are being used to remotely monitor equipment, physically control and move them, in addition to things like visually watch, locate and track equipment assets.

We live in very interesting times. The challenge this year for mobile technology companies is to start aggregating these various mobile applications and technologies together and marrying them with mobile workflows, business process engines and business analytics.

If you would like to discuss these technologies in more detail please contact me.

Here are some related articles about mobile workflow, business processes, location based services and mobile business analytics and intelligence:

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
***********************************************

Mobile Applications that Move Things

There is a new category of mobile software applications for Smart Phones and handheld computers that physically move things. I love it!!! Zip Car, a rental car service, allows you to use your iPhone to both find and unlock the rental car. Zip Car's business model is they park their rental cars around a metropolitan area and people can register and pay for the rental online, then they are provided with a list of locations where these cars are parked near them. Once there, they can enter their rental code into their iPhone and the Zip Car is unlocked for them.

In this USA Today article, a California company has now created an application called Viper SmartStart that can replace your car keys. Your iPhone will now be able to lock, unlock and start your car. Again, your Smart Phone is controlling mechanical movements. Next I can see throwing away my garage door opener, TV Remote and using my iPhone to start up and warm my car during the dark of winter.

I have read in other articles about home security systems and security related video cameras all being managed and activated by Smart Phones. There has been the concept of convergent devices for some time, but this generally referred to converging different pieces of equipment such as bar code scanners, GPS, digital cameras etc, together in one mobile device. This new Convergence 2.0 includes taking control of and managing the mechanical movement of things.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Strategy and Marketing Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Mobile Applications, Location Based Services and Distribution

In this article, I wrote about a concept of having CPG companies or distributors of perishable products notify customers when their products are in inventory at a particular location. The example given was The Sunday Edition of The New York Times. I wanted to receive a text message or email when The New York Times was delivered to my local coffee shop. That way I could quickly drive down and grab a copy before they were all sold out.

The LBS (location based services) and real-time notification system would need to be notified by the distributor when the product was delivered and available to be sold in a particular location. The system would require the distributor to scan a bar code label on the product with a handheld computer that includes a barcode scanner. The product, date and time stamp and location would be synchronzied with a real-time notification system that could send our text messages and emails to the subscribers.

This article, and the article linked to it, are identifying an entirely new category of mobile and real time inventory systems that could be of enormous value to wholesales distributors and CPG companies.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Expert and Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mobile Blogging

This is my first attempt at blogging remotely from my iPhone. Hummm...I guess this will enable me to update readers from mobile and remote jobsites. I haves managed mobile implementations in New Zealand, Uganda, South Africa, South America and Wales. Not that Wales is quite as remote, but it would be fun to blog in Wales again.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Mobile Applications and Location Based Systems for Supply Chain and Inventory Management

In an article I published recently about grocery stores using LBS (location based services) on mobile devices and Smart phones, I proposed there were additional areas that large enterprises could benefit from real-time data collection, B2B integrations, business intelligence and location based services. Let's take a look at a couple of additional scenarios:

  1. 14 trucks are delivering perishable products on routes
  2. Truck #7 has a customer that has an unexpectedly high demand for a product
  3. Truck #7, using a mobile handheld computer, requests additional inventory from the SAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) software in the central office.
  4. The SAP ERP reports inventory levels on all 14 trucks based upon the real-time synchronization of data with each of the handheld barcode scanners of the trucks
  5. It is determined that truck #9 has excess inventory of the needed perishable product
  6. The GPS service in the handheld computer used by truck 9 identifies it's position and a meeting location is quickly identified so inventory can be transferred from one truck to another to enable maximum product sales
  7. The route driver for truck #7 scans the bar codes on the boxes of perishable products in truck #9 and transfer the inventory from #9 to #7 and goes on his/her way.

That is a simple mobile inventory example using GPS integration with barcode scanners. What if there was an example of products sold on consignment? Let's use pre-paid calling cards as an example:

  • The product is distributed to 500 stores
  • Some stores sell more of these products than others
  • When one store is low on these, an EDI message should be sent to the product company informing them of a need for additional inventory at a specific location
  • The product company should be able to quickly determine where additional inventory is available in other locations.
  • A representative of the product company should be able to remove excess inventory from one store to replenish another.
  • With a handheld computer that includes a barcode scanner, the product representative can check inventory back into the SAP ERP system, which removes it from one store's inventory, an EDI or B2B electronic message is sent to the stores ERP notifying them of the product's removal from inventory.
  • Next the product representative takes the excess inventory to the store that needs additional inventory, the products are scanned, using the barcode scanner and added to the local stores inventory. The barcode scanned inventory information is then synchronized to theproduct company's SAP ERP system which sends an EDI message to the store notifying them of the additional inventory at that location.

Where does LBS (location based services) fit into these scenarios? Inventory levels from various locations are constantly being uploaded via EDI/B2B and monitored. The inventory of each location, rather than being static, becomes a dynamic inventory that is able to be shifted according to local demand.

If inventories can be considered dynamic and mobile, able to be shifted according to demand, then there is the opportunity for incredible savings. Much of the guess work can be avoided as the inventory for one entire region can be moved and shifted according to demand.

I picture a scenario where a consumer can visit the website of the product manufacturer and request the location of the nearest available inventory to their moving vehicle. iPhone applications already request to use your current location. This information can be automatically passed to the product manufacturer and used to query for the nearest product location. Perhaps best prices can also be included at some point and mobile coupons.

The ROI for the distributor or manufacturer comes from avoiding loss, excess or slow moving product inventories that trap or lock-up cash flow, reduced inventory storage costs, and a reduced need to discount in order to move the products. A benefit is the ability to move product inventories to the locations where there is the most demand so sales can be maximized at the locations with the highest margins.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Expert and Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Location Based Services on Mobile Handhelds and Smart Phones

LBS, location based services are very interesting. LBS refers to services that can be activated based upon your GPS location or cell phone tower proximity as identified by your Smart phone, mobile device or handheld computer service. I know how local pizza joints can benefit, but I am currently pondering how large businesses can utilize LBSs. I wrote about one of my new ideas in this article. It involves real-time notification of changing pricings and discounts to a grocery store's customer base.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Expert and Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Monday, October 05, 2009

Mobile Coupons and Gambit Mobile - I Love it!

This mobile coupon concept by Subway is BRILLIANT! I found this excerpt in a press release from http://www.gambitmobileinc.com/.

Big brands such as Subway have embraced mobile coupons. The thing Subway likes the best about the mobile coupons medium is that it can reach its target audience when that audience is most likely to buy. Subway sends text messages to its opt-in database just before lunch time when workers are deciding where to go for lunch. Receive a mobile coupon and it’s almost already decided for them.

They time their mobile coupons to hit the Smart phones and other mobile devices when your stomach is growling and you are watching the clock for lunch time. I love it!

Give the customer exactly what they need, on a mobile device, exactly at the time they need it.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Mobile Software and Mobile Business Intelligence

Business analytics and business intelligence is one of the few hot areas in enterprise IT sales now days. In fact, SAP is shifting resources from other business groups to focus more on their Business Objects solutions. All companies, executives and managers seem to be crying for more information that they can use to make faster and better decisions. In tough economic times, information is even more critical. Take this trend and consider that over 40% of the workforce is now considered mobile and you have an emerging requirement for mobile business intelligence and analytics.

In this recent article on Mobile Business Intelligence that I authored, an example of how service companies and their field service technicians can use mobile business intelligence was detailed. The bottom line, managers and mobile employees need access to critical business intelligence and business analytics while they are out of the office with customers or on remote job locations. This information needs to be published and formatted to fit the mobile devices used by these workers so this data can be used on location where ever that may be.

Today business intelligence and business analytics applications are designed for desktops and servers connected to large databases. There is also a need for better business analytics and intelligence on the mobile device. Mobile handheld computers have become powerful hardware platforms for many data collection accessories including RFID readers, barcode scanners, GPS units, data collection applications, Bluetooth to anything applications and much more. This collected data can be considered business intelligence. Business analytics is the processing and reporting of this data and what it means to the business. This information, in a mobile format is needed just as much by mobile managers as sedentary managers.

Mobile business intelligence and business analytics is an important segment of mobile software applications that needs a lot more development and thought. Other areas of mobile applications that need additional development are detailed in these articles:
If you would like to discuss any of these topics in more detail please contact me.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Independent Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Friday, October 02, 2009

Mobile Application Integration Platform - For Data Collection and Cloud Computing Services

An increasingly large amount of data is being consumed by mobile handheld computers and Smart phones. This data can come from a wide variety of sources and be in many different formats including GPS, LBS (location based services), SMS, voice, Email, Video, digital photos, barcode scanning, RFID, voice memos, documents and Bluetooth data connectivity to a large variety of data collection tools and equipment. The data can come from many different ERPs, database applications and SaaS (software as a service) offerings in a cloud computing environment.

The demand for mobile applications and mobile devices to be able to consume all of these various data sources and formats creates a need for an mobile data aggregation platform for mobile data feeds. This data often needs to be integrated into a mobile application somehow so the data can be used by the mobile worker. Some of this data can be aggregated on the database server side and downloaded or streamed to the mobile device, but data collection equipment and some applications are connected directly to the mobile device. For example, a voice memo application, GPS reader and a barcode scanner may be directly connected to the mobile device. The results of the barcode scan and the GPS data may be synchronized with the ERP to identify an asset that is located at a particular location. A data collection form that helps document the condition of the asset needs to be integrated with a digital photo, GPS data, voice memo, barcode scan and the asset data downloaded from the ERP. All of this data once aggregated, can be updated and synchronized back with the ERP.

There are some data sources such as weather conditions, shipment tracking and currency exchange rates that may be available as web services. This data also may be required on the mobile device, and even incorporated into the mobile asset management application. How do you bring all of this data together from the server and from the data collected on the mobile device so it can be used by the mobile worker in the field? That is the challenge. It can always be done in a custom manner, but how can this be solved in a reusable manner?

Mobile applications need:

  • GUIs or mobile application forms that have an integrated data validation and business rules engine
  • GUIs or mobile application forms that include a mobile workflow engine associated with the screens
  • Mobile database and synchronization technology
  • Mobile data aggregation platform (this article)
  • Mobile business process platform and ERP integration so the mobile worker can be part of the enterprise business processes in the ERP even outside the four walls of the enterprise

There needs to be a design and development strategy and a solution that can aggregate all of the various web services with the feeds from data collection equipment on the server side and on the mobile device side. This will become increasingly important as additional LBS (location based services) and consumable web services become available.

A mobile application on a Smart Phone or ruggedized handheld has access to a great deal of data. The value of the data comes from aggregating it in a standard way that can be used to make good business decisions. Today this takes a great deal of custom software development for each application. It is time for some good mobile software developers to solve these problems.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact or hire me :-)

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Author Kevin Benedict
Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Evangelist and Consultant
www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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Mobile Workflows and ERPs

As mobile applications become more complex and sophisticated and used by large enterprises there will be an increasing emphasis and requirement for automated mobile workflows and supported ERP business processes. I wrote about mobile application support for ERPs in this article, but today I want to focus on the automated workflow on the mobile handheld computer, Tablet PC or laptop that is used in the field. ERP business processes and automated workflows have been supported within the four walls of the enterprise for decades, but they often don't extend outside the four walls to the remote jobsite and/or mobile sales and service processes. That is a big problem that needs to be addressed by mobile application vendors.

Let's begin by recognizing that it is often the service technician that is face-to-face with your customers. They are the face and personality of the service company. The actions they take, the words they say, the professionalism they display and the quality of work they perform all impact the customer's perception of your company and their willingness to continue to do business with and refer your business to others. Since the activities that happen in these remote and mobile jobsite environments can have such a big impact on your business, wouldn't it be important that you ensure the best quality work and presentation of your company? This is where automated workflows on your mobile devices comes into effect.

Let me now outline a process that you may want to consider when designing a mobile application for use in the field.

  1. Outline the tasks and actions you want each service technician to perform at the customers location. Examples - Greet customer by name, give business card, thank them for their business, ask about animals or children that my be in the work area, interview the customer about the problem, understand the customer's schedule, understand how the customer will pay, is there a warranty or service plan, provide estimate, complete work, get customer's signature, etc.
  2. Once all of the "best practices" tasks are identified for a generic service call, complete the same process for the other kinds of service calls you may have. For example: a warranty process has 11 tasks, an annual maintenance call has 16 tasks, an emergency system repair for HVAC equipment has 19 tasks.

Once you have identified and documented these tasks, your mobile application developers can design and develop these workflows to become part of your mobile application. Once in production, these mobile applications can direct and guide each service technician through the specific best practices that the company wants completed in a standardized manner in the field. As a result, quality and professionalism can be standardized into the company's customer interactions.

What does this process look like on a mobile handheld computer?

  1. The workflow processes should be a layer in the mobile application that is tied to a specific set of screens that go with the workflow. If the mobile application has multiple workflows, then the first step is for the service technician, or the service ticket itself, to identify which automated workflow is most appropriate for the needed service. This then launches the appropriate process/workflow on the mobile device.
  2. If the automated workflow consists of 17 steps/tasks, then this workflow will dictate that mobile form fields including check boxes, radio buttons and data fields are completed in the right order and with valid data entries.
  3. If the service technician skips a step an alert sound or pop-up message should guide the service technician to finish the process and continue it in the appropriate manner.
  4. Automated scorecards can also be created to monitor the performance of service technicians to the standards and detail any exceptions to the process so they can be analyzed for process improvements over time.
  5. Brief customer surveys can also be provided for the mobile handheld computer to tie the customer's opinion of the service provided with the exact service order and service technician. It is great to reward the service technician for work well done.

The mobile workflow process is specific to the role of the user and service performed. A recent report I read said up to 40% of workers are mobile. That represents a lot of remote jobsites and customer interactions. If companies want to ensure a high level of professionalism and quality customer interactions, then means of standardizing those processes need to be employed. As more and more of these mobile workers are equipped with Smart Phones and mobile handheld computers, these processes become easier to deploy.

For a related article read - http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/2009/10/mobile-application-integration-platform.html

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact me. I am available for SAP and Mobile Solution related consulting and permanent hire opportunities. My Linkedin profile can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinbenedict.

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Author Kevin Benedict
Mobile Computing, SAP, EDI and B2B Evangelist, Marketing and Business Development Consultant
http://b2b-bpo.blogspot.com/
http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/
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