Wednesday, May 05, 2010

MEAPs, Thick Clients and Mobile Chain of Custody Applications

For people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries like Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, and Ghana, receiving AIDS mediation in a cost effective, secure and reliable manner is critical to saving the lives of millions.  In addition to the health crisis, the geographical challenges of trying to care for patients that live in remote villages where access to medical facilities is minimal is a huge obstacle.

The challenge undertaken by global health organizations and companies funded by PEPFAR was to create a drug delivery system that would accomplish the following:
  1. Expedite the delivery process.
  2. Ensure the secure transfer of drugs.
  3. Provide visibility and transparency to participating agencies.
  4. Ensure accurate deliveries.
  5. Automate ARV drug processes that provide a rapid, regular, reliable supply of medications to patients.
  6. Provide a transactional record of the ARV drugs and test kits at every key point in the distribution chain.
The bottom line goal was to provide a truly mobile chain of custody system that could extend across a challenging geographical landscape with minimal technology infrastructure. How was this goal accomplished?  The answer - by implementing a MEAP solution that enabled delivery drivers to utilize a mobile application designed to work in a disconnected or connected model.  The application leveraged the power and flexibility of an enterprise quality mobile database in a thick mobile client that enabled the delivery drivers to maintain inventory counts, accept proof of delivery, and store key data on a consumer grade PDA until they could be connected with the internet at a later time.

Prior to implementing mobile solutions, agencies were only able to track drugs to a warehouse located in the larger cities in many countries.  Now delivery drivers are supplied with a mobile application that can track the delivery and re-ordering of ARV drugs from the warehouse, to regional distribution centers, to area regional centers and finally to the patient.  Every time the ARV medications change hands, a digital record is made of the transaction.  The information collected is synchronized back up the chain where program managers can actively manage the continual flow of mediations.

Since implementation this mobile solution has helped over 50,000 AIDS patients receive treatments in the Ivory Coast alone.  This, coupled with the fact that the mobile solutions decreased the delivery cycle from three months to as little as three weeks, has caught the attention of many other countries and relief organizations around the world.   These thick client mobile applications that operate in a connected and disconnected mode are critical to these kinds of environments.  Many organizations are looking at using MEAPs and thick client applications to offer better and more timely treatment to those afflicted with AIDS.

In the SAP ecosystem Sky Technologies, Sybase, and Syclo are the SAP mobility partners that seem to focus on supporting custom mobile applications with MEAPs that operate in both connected and disconnected modes using a thick client architectures.  By thick client I mean a mobile application that can operate with or without connectivity and that includes a mobile database for storing data on the device while waiting for synchronization.

In my opinion a good MEAP should have an SDK so that the IT department can utilize it to update and edit mobile applications and develop new ones.  Without a good SDK that the IT department can learn, the enterprise is hostage to the vendor.  The world of mobility is moving far too fast, and the IT department needs to be able to update and upgrade mobile applications on their schedule not the vendors.

Mobile micro-applications and mobile browser based applications are valuable and provide significant ROIs in many situations, but they cannot support the rugged environments described in this case study and would not have saved thousands of lives like the thick client mobile solution that was used.

Kevin Benedict
SAP Mentor, Mobile Industry Analyst, Founder/CEO Netcentric Strategies LLC
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant and Web 2.0 Marketing Services
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************