Monday, November 29, 2010

Enterprise Mobility, Embedded Wireless Devices and Robotics

I believe it is useful to not only study current enterprise mobility trends, but also to look at future trends when planning an enterprise mobility strategy.  One of the places to keep an eye on for future trends is the US military.  Why?  The US military must plan years ahead for each new generation of fighter jet or weapons platform, as the technology takes many years to develop and perfect. 

Recently US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the Department of Defense will begin planning for the next generation (6th generation) of fighter jets.  One of the most interesting requirements is that it will be capable of being flown pilotless. 

What is the significance of a pilotless fighter jet to those interested in enterprise mobility?  Think about the real time mobile and remote communications required to operate a fighter plane effectively at speeds in excess of the speed of sound.  Think about the mobile security required.  Think about the mobile device management (in this case a fighter jet) required.  You would not want to lose a hundred million dollar fighter and have its data compromised.  Think about the need for real time data and video feeds.  Everything about the concept of having a pilotless fighter jet or pilotless drone will ultimately impact enterprise mobility.

How many of you have ever owned or seen the small robotic vacuum called a Roomba from the company iRobot?  I have.  It was quite interesting to watch it navigate around the room sucking up dust and dog hair.  The company that makes the Roomba also has another lucrative product category which is ground robots.  In this category are the 510 Packbot, 710 Warrior and 210 Negotiator.  These are military grade remote control robots.  They have even evolved to the point of being weapons platforms.

What do these ground robots have to do with enterprise mobility?  These are increasingly sophisticated mobile devices.  They are mobile data collectors that can support a wide array of sensors, robotic arms, GPS tracking and surveillance equipment (live video, night vision, infrared, etc.) that require real time and secure mobile data exchanges. The military is now ordering these kinds of mobile devices by the tens of thousands.  The military now has ongoing debates about which tasks are best suited for robots and which are best suited for humans.  Often the high level of danger makes a robot a better choice than a human soldier.

Embedded wireless sensors are increasingly being used in many industries today.  In fact, the MNOs (mobile network operators) see embedded wireless devices and M2M (machine to machine) solutions as major growth areas for them to sell mobile data plans.  Often these embedded wireless sensors send small updates of measurement data to a centralized management solution on a schedule.  It could be pressure gauges, electrical substations, irrigation canal levels, etc.

Again I ask the question, "What does this have to do with enterprise mobility?" The answer is everything.  Increasingly consumer appliances and industrial equipment, vehicles and high value assets will come with small, inexpensive wireless sensors that report their status to a central asset management, field services or plant maintenance system.  This information needs to be integrated, analyzed and incorporated into maintenance schedules, work orders systems and perfect plant strategies.

I recognize that many companies are just now trying to mobilize their ERPs and workforces, but just as the military must plan for the future, companies should also recognize where the trends are pointing and plan today to support these fast evolving technologies of the future. 

I recommend that you ask your mobile platform vendor about their ability to support M2M communications as part of your selection criteria.

Read more about embedded wireless devices and M2M solutions in my weekly newsletter found here.

Learn more about my one and two day enterprise mobility strategies workshops here.


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Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
Phone +1 208-991-4410
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.