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Showing posts from January, 2006

Digital Thermometers, Restaurants & Handheld PDAs

One of the more unusual projects we were asked to bid on involved the integration of digital thermometers with Pocket PCs. The requirement was for restaurant inspectors to be able to make surprise inspections and insert the thermometers into meat that was being cooked in the kitchen to ensure it was cooked to the right temperatures. They wanted the digital thermometers to record the temperatures and for our inspection software to grab the thermometer readings and automatically add it to the inspection forms on PDAs. Once the inspection was completed, the inspectors wanted the information to be synchronized to a central database via wireless synchronization. I wonder if the medical field would like this feature? An additional requirement was for service technicians installing and maintaining equipment in these restaurants to be able to take "before and after" digital photographs to document their work. I know Plastic Surgeons would like this feature. This was important bec

Military Use of PDAs & Monitoring Grass Clippings

A few months back one of my sales reps came into my office to brag about a new customer. Seems they had sold our Intercue Mobility Suite to the US Airforce. I get excited about sales to large organizations so wanted to learn the details. I could image all kinds of mission critical applications involving the war on global terrorism. I could see the press releases, articles, news interviews and a visit with Oprah on the horizon, but alas it was not to be. Our application was mission critical only to the groundskeepers on the US Airforce base in Germany. Seems they needed to inspect hedges, lawns, sprinkler systems, third party landscape contractors, flower beds and the removal of grass clippings . OK, not as exciting as I had hoped, but valuable none the less. Their current method of tracking the quality and work to be done on the landscape of this very large military base was to document everything on paper forms. This data would then be entered into a database application in the off

PDAs and Inspections

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I have spent a lot of time with government agencies this month reviewing how they monitor and inspect an organizations' compliance to various laws and regulations. For example, today we delivered a solution to a government agency called the Board of Pharmacy. They will be monitoring and inspecting facilities to ensure they are handling and storing medical drugs in compliance with the laws and regulations of their state. Last month we supplied PDA based inspection forms to the City of Amsterdam in Holland. They are inspecting and monitoring compliance with environmental laws and regulations. We are now starting our 3rd mobility software project with the Idaho Transportation Department. They inspect their facilities and the work third party contractors do for them. This data is synchronized to a central database from all across the state. Our latest project involves enabling mobile printing from their Pocket PCs in the field. When government agencies contact us about inspection s

PDA Phones with Integrated GPS

This morning I read about a new PDA phone with integrated GPS and TMC (traffic management channel). This article tickled my imagination. When these kind of handheld devices are easily available, it will become natural for mobile workforces to have software on the PDA that will report their location to a central dispatch management system, where dispatchers can help route field service technicians to the closest next job. This will improve the response times, lower fuel costs, make customers happier and improve profits for the service company. Once you have integrated GPS with your "work order management system" you can add GIS and geospatial data collection to your application. Basically what this means is you can associate your work, orders, deliveries, inspections, etc. to a GPS coordinant. Once again this will help management understand patterns, costs, best routing methodologies, locations to build new facilities, and much more.

PDAs in Angola, South Africa, New Mexico, Germany, Portuguese & Kwanza

Everyday we receive calls about new projects. We have a global VAR channel that seems to be able to uncover all kinds of interesting and unusual projects. Over the last couple of weeks we have been working with a reseller partner in South Africa that has a client and project with the following description: German citizen Living in South Africa Owns a bottled water business in Angola Has a home in New Mexico, USA The handheld computer applications must be written in Portuguese & English The currency must be in US Dollars & Angolan Kwanza Solution requires a bar code scanner and mobile printers A Ruggedized handheld computer Must be as graphical as possible (many of the users can not read) Synchronization using satellite internet connections It has been our strategy since 2000 to develop “ software development kits ” for mobile environments. Because of the power and flexibility of the " software development kit " approach, we can easily develop and implement cost effe

What Part of Your Application Do You Mobilize?

Today I had an interesting discussion with one of our favorite software partners. They are in the process of mobilizing about a dozen different software modules in their asset management software application. The question we were debating was - how much of their enterprise database application do they replicate on their handheld computer? This is an important question for them and impacts the amount of money and time the projects will take. Here are a few of the issues we pondered: How does your mobile workforce capture data today? Do they use paper forms and a clipboard? Where is the primary ROI (return on investment) coming from? Is it eliminating data entry at the office? Is it extending business processes to the mobile workforce? Is it getting complete and valid data from the field? Is it the ability to query enterprise information from the field? Is it visibility to real-time data (inventory, shipping, project status, etc.)? Do you need your entire enterprise database applicatio

Handheld PDAs & Mobile Home Healthcare Services

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MobileDataforce was founded as the result of several mobility projects on Palm OS devices in year 2000. We started as the IT department for a company providing community based assisted living care to mentally disabled adults. The Department of Health and Welfare support the care of many of these individuals and all of the services must be completely documented and regularly audited. The volume of paper forms that are required and the challenges with managing care state wide motivated our founders to seek ways to use electronic forms on PDAs to capture data and synchronize it with a central database. The first step was to convert paper forms into electronic forms that could be used on PDAs. After successfully creating a few of these electronic forms with a lot of time and effort, we realized it would be more efficient to create a software development tool set to speed it up. This development tool set became Intercue Mobility Suite . Our founders used Intercue Mobility Suite to autom

Synchronizing PDA Applications Remotely

I am often questioned on how data gathered on handheld PDAs in remote locations can be synchronized to the company or agency database. This question is especially common from government inspectors who work in Remote-Mountains, Idaho. Here are some options: Synchronize using your GPRS mobile phone network with your PDA Phone, or ruggedized handheld computer using a data card. Synchronize using a traditional dial-up connection on your phone. You can get modem cards for your PDA or ruggedized handheld computer. Wait and synchronize when you return to the office or your home computer with internet connection. Synchronize using WiFi, this is not common in Remote-Mountains, Idaho, but Boise and beyond all have this. Synchronize using a bluetooth connection to a laptop database. If you have a large database on your laptop, and want to synchronize some of the data to the handheld, but not all, you can configure the appropriate data to be synchronized from the laptop to the PDA or ruggedized

Field Services, Work Orders & PDAs

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Work Orders on handheld PDAs are the most common requests from companies contacting us. Why? Traditionally field service technicians use paper forms and a clipboard to document their work. Once the field service technician returns to the office they deposit these completed (hopefully completed) work orders in a stack to be entered into a computer system at a later time. Immediately we recognize a problem in that 2 people are required to enter the data, not just 1. Here are a list of additional costs with a paper process: Incomplete work orders that require the data entry person to track down the field service technician for additional information. Unreadable handwriting that requires translation by the field service technician Delayed response time when additional parts need ordered to complete the work Delayed re-scheduling when return visits are required Lack of visibility to part's inventory Lack of visibility to other field service technicians' schedules Lack of effective

Pocket PC Solutions for Waste Management

In the last few months my team has been involved in a number of different Waste Management projects using Pocket PC computers. I would not have predicted this industry as a niche market for mobile solutions. Let me briefly outline the problem and solution. The European Community has passed a series of laws regulating the handling and disposal of waste and recyclable materials. I also read in the newspaper last week that the state of Maine has recently passed similar laws . Waste producers must have an audit trail or documented "chain of custody" of their waste from origin to disposal. They must maintain records of the amount, and type of waste, when it was picked up by a trucking company and delivered to a collection facility, and ultimately delivered to the final disposal company. This audit trail involves a lot of paper and must be available for access by government agencies that audit this process. The waste collecting trucking companies need to collect data at the si

Route Delivery - PDAs & Handheld Computers

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My team is just wrapping up the implementation of an interesting project that involves route sales and delivery. This project involves the usual features on their PDA software such as: Delivery person login/password, time/date stamp Store look-up query Review of store inventory data Product delivery update Inventory update Sign-off The unique part of this software application developed in PointSync is the " planogram ". This PointSync micro-application predicts how much product the specific store usually requires between deliveries. For example - store 104 averages 6 boxes of widgets number 97 between deliveries. The delivery driver/sales person does not have to determine the appropriate number, the application predicts it based upon historic data in the database on the handheld computer. This kind of application is interesting because rather than simply displaying data, it uses this data to "think" on behalf of the user and to provide instructions to the user. T

New PDA Website

Conrad, a software developer and web guy on our team, has created our first PDA formatted website . This website will allow PDA and handheld computer users with WiFi or mobile phone connections to view information on our software solutions, download applications, view screen shots of applications in our library and much more - all formatted for PDA screens. This new website is small now, but we have ambitious plans that will keep it growing into an import resource for companies researching our mobile software solutions .

PDAs, Elk, RFID & Geospatial Data Collection

This last week I had the opportunity to meet with 2 different state government agencies here in the USA. We discussed many different business processes that lended themselves to mobilization, but one stood out for its uniqueness. In Idaho people farm elk, not all people, some farm potatoes. These elk farmers need to protect their herds against disease, and document the fact that their herds are disease free. These farmers must register the locations of their herds using GPS coordinates, and then collect geospatial data concerning the details of the herd, their immunizations, history, etc. This is becoming increasingly important, since if one herd has a disease, it could impact the sales of all meat in that region. Farmers must not only protect their animals, but effectively market and promote the health status of their herd in order to continue selling during times of disease. It is not enough to document the location and health of your herd, one must document the location and health

PDAs in the Automotive Industry

Recently our team has been working on numerous projects and proposals in the automotive industry sector. I am impressed by the broad range of applications that are being brought to our attention. Marketing and consumer input - PDAs are being used to gather consumer feedback and information after a person test drives a new car Automobile Inspections - PDAs are being used to automate the process of inspecting automobiles at auctions Work Orders, Part 1 - detailers at automobile dealerships are tracking work completed on PDAs Work Orders, Part 2 - third party mobile auto body shops are using PDAs to track windshield repair, dent removal, spot painting, and headlight repair on used cars. The PDA based work orders are used to document work and to invoice for the work. Banking in the Automotive Industry - PDAs are being used by banks to verify automobile inventory at a dealership Location based applications - PDAs with RFID readers are being used to identify the location of a specific car

Fleet Management - Handhelds and Satellites

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Yesterday Wireless Matrix and Psion Teklogix published press releases concerning a project they both did using MobileDataforce's PointSync that involved some interesting technology in the transportation of rail crews. Here is an excerpt: The new rugged system enables RailCrewXpress to record the location and transportation activity of the company's vehicle fleet in real-time. RailCrewXpress handles the majority of the U.S. Class 1 railway crew transportation needs, including crew pick ups, transport to trains, shuttling crew to hotels for overnight stays and in-yard crew transport. With its new mobile computing solution, RailCrewXpress has complete visibility into the cargo and location of its fleet at all times. This was a fun project that my team delivered. It involved a combination of GPRS and Satellite uplink technologies and our PointSync software solution on Psion Teklogix handheld computers mounted to the dashboard of the vehicles. When a vehicle in the fleet co

PointSync 3.0 Released

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My engineering team has put over 12 man years into PointSync 3.0 , and they are both thrilled and relieved to have it finished. I think we should give them the afternoon off before we start on version 4.0. In all seriousness, our engineers deserve a big congratulations! MobileDataforce's successes are the result of their amazing skills. I am going to advertise a bit. PointSync is the culmination of all that we have learned about mobile software development tools since 2000. We wanted a comprehensive rapid application development environment that gives both novices and coders the ability to develop powerful end-to-end turnkey mobile solutions and PointSync accomplishes that. You can download the PointSync Developer , and sample PointSync applications to view on your handheld computer. Let me know your thoughts!

Business PDA users a 'dream segment' for mobile operators

This article is interesting and reinforces what I learned in several discussions with wireless carriers in 2005- Business PDA users a 'dream segment' for mobile operators The latest Wireless Enterprise Strategies service report from Strategy Analytics, "Profiling the PDA User: Strategies for Generating Network Traffic," affirms that business PDA users represent a prime segment which mobile operators and OEMs should actively identify and target for wireless solution sales. Device set-up, email synchronization and content creation must be dramatically reengineered.Cliff Raskind, Director of the Wireless Enterprise Strategies service commented, "When mobile operators survey their base of business customers, PDA users potentially represent a `dream segment' of users that is tailor-made for upselling many wireless data solutions enabled by next generation networks. While over half of the PDA users remain unconnected beyond simple text messaging, operators, devic

PDAs and Engineers

Engineers need PDAs more than most. Especially those engineers walking the job site collecting data on paper forms and clipboards for their clients. Common tasks are: Phase 1 Site Assessments Nuclear Density Tests Soil samples Ground Water Concrete testing Many more In addition to these field tests, often samples need to be documented and sent to a lab for analysis. This involves a "chain of custody". A chain of custody is when a sample is collected by a field technician, labeled and sent to a lab. The lab needs to document their receipt of the sample, analyze it, and report the results back to the engineering firm which passes this information back to their client. This process involves a chain of participants that all need to document their relationship to the test sample and test results from beginning to end. This brief explanation of a simple process, identifies the necessity for documentation. Since the process starts in the field, it is appropriate to begin thinking a

Enterprise Mobility Framework

A large utility in the NW of the USA contacted us a few months back with an interesting problem. They had 7 enteprise applications that their field services teams needed to access from the field with handheld computers. Each of these enterprise applications had their own mobile client (software that runs on a handheld computer). The problem is the utility company did not want to support the following: 7 different synchronization methodologies 7 different mobile data security architectures 7 different ways of customizing mobile applications 7 different integration methodologies 7 different applications with different handheld computer support 7 different technical support centers 7 dfferent mobile software application vendors The request they brought to my sales team was, "Can MobileDataforce help us develop a standardized mobility framework that can integrate 7 different enterprise applications with 1 mobile enterprise framework?" They wanted to purchase 1 solution that could

Handheld Inspections at Government Agencies

I had the privilege of meeting with a state agency yesterday to discuss field data collection and inspections. This team of government employed IT professionals was tasked with automating many different kinds of inspections. I was amazed at the large number of inspections one team must manage. Today it is nearly all done on paper. The more we discussed the various projects and inspection responsibilities, the greater the ROI was for automating them. Here are some of the inspections identified: Boxed and shipped fresh produce Sugar content of produce Ground water quality Registered cattle pastures Certified immunization of cattle RFID cattle tracking Inspecting and certifying fertilizers Dairy farm inspections Dairy processing plant inspections Nitrogen levels on fields Insect and pest control much more.... The list was enormous and I was impressed with how mobilizing these inspections could save this government agency a considerable amount of money. I've got some work to do!

Mobilizing Facilities Management and CMMS

FM or facilities management is an industry that utilizes our mobility software solutions for handheld PDAs in large numbers. This industry has over 18,000 members registered with the IFMA, International Facilities Management Association alone. The business processes and tasks that FM users most often want to mobilize are the following: Inventory Work Orders/service orders Preventative maintenance orders CMMS - computerized maintenance management systems - custodial/janitorial services Hazardous material tracking Server room management Inspections of all kinds Asset Management Health & Safety inspections Contractor Quality Assurance Moving instructions and details Office leasing information Fire extinguisher and emergency medical equipment inspections Much more... FM professionals often are responsible for the operations of large buildings, campuses, warehouses, and remote properties. Their work consists of gathering all kinds of data from remote areas and entering this data into a

Adding Value to Your PDA

Once you have jumped into the world of PDAs and learned how to check your email, contacts, calendar, etc., what can you do with your PDA that can add to the bottom-line of your business? The following list contains some ideas: Replace paper forms that you use in the field, with electronic forms on your PDA. These can be automatically synchronized with your back-office database applications. Load your product catalogs to your handheld PDA with price and product attributes Load work order/service orders onto your PDA so you can fill them out and synchronize remotely. Develop an inventory update application so you can check inventory levels and update them from the field. If you are an inspector, or dabble in filling out inspection forms, create electronic versions that automatically load to your database or spreadsheet. Add a bar code scanner to your PDA so you can scan product barcodes and see inventory levels. Add GPS to your PDA so you can quickly find your next job site or customer l

Implementing Mobile Projects

Now that you have decided to mobilize one or more business processes, how do you choose a system integrator or consultant that can implement it? There are a few basic details that all consultants who develop and implement mobile solutions should ask you. If they don't ask you these questions, you may want to look for a more experience implementation team. Here are some sample questions: What handheld hardware will you be using(make and model)? What add-on accessories will you be using (GPS, RFID, Digital Imager, Barcode, etc)? Where and how will the user be synchronizing their handheld(at home, office, shop, WiFi, GPRS, cradle, bluetooth, Satellite)? What operating system does your handheld computer have (Win CE.Net, Pocket PC, Palm)? Do the users have working conditions that will impact our solution design (users wear gloves and need big touch screen buttons)? What business process will be mobilized (work order, invoice, time sheet, project status, etc.)? What database do we need

Paper Forms or Electronic Forms on PDAs?

Many companies that contact my sales teams are seeking to replace their paper and clipboard processes with electronic forms on PDAs. Let's take a few minutes to understand why this is most often a good idea, but not always. What is the downside to using a paper form with a clipboard? Paper forms are often submitted with missing information. This lack of completeness wastes considerable time in the office as staff try to contact the original author and gather the missing data. Paper forms can often be left on the clipboard for days or weeks, so there is a delay in getting the information transferred from the paper form into a computer software application for processing. Handwriting on the paper forms is often hard to interpret. This allows for bad data entry into the computer system. Bad data in - bad data out. Paper forms can not validate the information entered on them. So invalid information can be written on the paper forms. Paper forms are easily misplaced, lost or damaged by

Working with a Budget, Part 4

In segments 1-3 we discussed the various parts of a mobility project, and the different options within these parts. Now let's bring all these together and discuss how they impact the price of a mobility project and our strategy. Someone needs to develop the "mobile client" software that synchronizes with your Work Order Management software in the office. Is this going to be your cousin Bob, or a professional IT developer or consultant? If you are going to use a professional, get a quote on the project costs. Are you going to develop your own mobile software from scratch, or purchase a "software development kit" for mobile solutions from a company like MobileDataforce, http://www.mobiledataforce.com ? Get a quote from the software vendor. Are you going to buy a $300 consumer grade PDA that can be easily broken when dropped, or are you going to spend $1,500 on a water resistant and dust resistant handheld that can be dropped to concrete from 6 feet. Search on rug

Working with a Budget, Part 3

In the previous 2 segments of this discussion we covered: Work order management systems "Mobile client" software that runs on the handheld computer and synchronizes with your work order management system How to determine the kind of handheld computer to purchase Now we are going to explore some of the options for dispatching work orders to your teams in the field. Handheld computers can now be PDA phones. You can buy a Pocket PC Phone from just about any mobile wireless carrier now days. Palm is even coming out with a Treo 700 Pocket PC Phone this Quarter. The challenge with these devices are their lack of durability when Fumble Finger Fred is using them. Ruggedized handheld computers can also come with wireless data cards built-in. These allow you to send and receive data using the mobile wirless carriers networks, but often do not include "voice" communications. This capabilitiy enables your field work crews to both send and receive work order data at the push of

Working with a Budget, Part 2

In the last segment we assumed you already had a functioning "work order management system" in the office. As a first step you needed to find a "mobile client" software package that would synchronize with your "work order management system". MobileDataforce has a "software development kit" for PointSync http://www.mobiledataforce.com/pointsync/pointsync_developer.asp that would resolve this issue. So the next step is determining which handheld computers to use. Here are a few thoughts on determining which handheld computers to use: Do you need a numeric, or alpha numeric keyboard on your handheld? If not you can save money by simply writing on the touch screen with your stylus, or using touch screen buttons. Do you need add-ons like a bar code scanner, RFID reader, digital camera, GPS or electric chainsaw? These can be very useful, but add costs to your handheld. How rugged does your handheld need to be? If you are repairing desktop tape despen

Working with a Budget, Part 1

OK, so you want to know how much it will cost to get your 10 field service technicians set-up with handheld computers so they can be dispatched work/service orders in the field. Let's explore the issues? What are the major pieces to this mobility solution/project? -Work order management software in the office (hopefully this is already in place) -Mobile client software (software on your handheld computer) that synchronizes with your work order management software in the office -Handheld computers -Data network through your favorite wireless carrier (e.g. Verizon, Sprint, Cingular, Vodaphone, Orange, etc.) The first task is to find a "mobile client" software package that will synchronize with your work order management application. The problem is your cousin Bob developed your work order management system 4 years ago for a high school project and he is now back in prison. What next? You may want to find a company like MobileDataforce, http://www.mobiledataforce.com tha

Mobile Solutions a Consultant's Nightmare

The first time is not always your best. Consultants and integrators get better the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time they have implemented the same mobile solutions. The problem is- nearly every mobility project has unique and different requires. -different handheld computers -different add-on hardware accessories -integration to different backend database applications -different business logic needed on the mobile application -different ways of doing the same business -different screen layouts -different data requirements -different synchronization methodologies How can a consultant or an integrator profitably and successfully implement these mobility projects? The answer - find what is common about all of these projects and productize a solution that can be flexible and powerful enough to be used over and over again to implement mobility projects. All of us involved in consulting know that reusing previously made code, and leveraging your expereince is how you gain the efficiencies that make y

Secret ROIs from Mobilizing Business Solutions

There are many obvious advantages and cost savings that come from mobilizing paper processes. You enter the data once in the field and wirelessly synchronize with your database application. You avoid the office staff needing to re-type all the information, you avoid introducing typos during data entry, and you speed up the process of making the data available for other mission critical business applications and business analytics. Yet there are many not so obvious advantages to replacing paper processes. Here are a few for your consideration: -Mobile field workers don't have to drive to the office just to deliver their paper forms -Mobile field workers don't have to drive to the office just to pick-up their paper forms and assignments -Invoicing can be completed much quicker since work can be updated from the field for immediate processing (better cash management) -When using handheld computers you can avoid issues with bad handwriting -Mobile software applications can validat

Mobilizing Business Solutions

Over the past decade companies have invested heavily into ERPs and other enterprise software applications only to realize that a sizable portion of their employees are mobile and do not have access to these expensive investments. Managers are now asking their IT departments for ways to "mobilize" these existing enterprise software applications. Let's spend a few minutes discussing what it means to "mobilize" a business solution. Mobile application development at a high level involves providing the field user with either a connected, or a disconnected mobile application on a handheld computer or laptop. Connected applications are dependent on a "live" connection using WiFi or mobile phone networks to access the enterprise software application. Disconnected applications have the ability to continue functioning whether there is a "live" connection or not. Most experts in mobility today recommend developing applications that can be connected or

Reusable Mobile Frameworks

It is easy for an IT developer, working hard in their cubicle, to feel that the technology requirements of their business are unique and special, although in truth many companies may share similar business processes and requirements, even companies in different industries. Let me provide you with an example of similarities: -a mobile software solution needs screens designed for use on handheld computers -a mobile software solution needs graphical buttons, labels, fields and functions on their screen -a mobile software solution needs to be able to validate the data inputted -a mobile software solution needs a database on the handheld to store information -a mobile software solution needs mobile middleware that enables synchronization between the mobile device database and the enterprise database. -a mobile software solution needs to be able to add custom business rules -a mobile software solution needs to be flexible enough to handle many different kinds of handheld computers and add-o

More on Convergence and Handheld Computers

In an earlier posting I discussed the converging technologies available on handheld computers. However, convergence is not only happening in the hardware arena. When you design a mobile software solution for use on a handheld computer, you have the opportunity of converging multiple databases and database applications into one mobile application on the handheld. Let me explain: You may have a "work order" application that you want available on your field service team's handhelds. In this single mobile application you may want to include data from several different internal database applications. -a work order management application -an inventory application -a shipping application -time sheets -CRM system -GIS system -Accounting application for invoicing -product catalogs This is "convergence" at the software level. Mobile solutions can be as simple, or as powerful as you want them to be.

Buy vs. Building Mobile Software Solutions

Regularly companies that need mobile software solutions for their field force are confronted by the choice of whether they should buy a mobile solution or build their own custom solution. This is a fair question, and I am sure there are times when your requirements may be so specialized that custom building is the only way, but this is rare. In most cases your needs are very similar to other companies, and the ability to reuse solution templates and proven frameworks is the better choice. MobileDataforce invested over 12 man years into the development of PointSync. Our goal, which we have now achieved, was to provide a rapid application development solution for mobile environments. We invested in the grunt work so you would not have to. Most of our customers find that their solution is over 80% completed before they even start. They can configure a database connection, instead of coding it. They can configure their mobile application interface, rather than code it. They can configure

2 Kinds of Mobile Software

Today we are going to discuss two different kinds of mobile software. An electronic forms based application, and full functional mobile database centric applications. You can start simple and cheap by replacing all paper forms and clipboards with electronic forms on handheld computers. These applications usually don't contain databases, just simple data files that you can sync to your backoffice database. MobileDataforce's Intercue Mobility Suite http://www.mobiledataforce.com/mobility_suite/mobilitysuite.asp achieves this aim admirably. You are able to quickly achieve a positive ROI by avoiding the need to re-type data from paper forms to computer systems in the office. The data goes straight from the handheld computer to the enterprise database thus avoiding re-typing errors and misinterpretations. You can also synchronize via a wireless or mobile phone connection and avoid the need to hand deliver the forms. If instead, you not only want to fill out an electronic form on

Convergent Handheld Computers

In the past PDAs were used for simple time management, contact management and email. Now days you can purchase ruggedized (water resistant, dust resistant, drop to cement resistant) handheld computers that include VoIP, mobile phone, barcode, digital camera, RFID and GPS all on the same device. Add to that full functional database centric software applications that can synchronize with your office software applications, and gigabytes of memory on your device. PDAs are no longer toys. Since nearly any of your internal software applications can be "mobilized" and made available in a disconnected mode (not connected by a network, but able to be synchronized when connected to a network at a later time) you have a lot of power at your disposal in the field. The real challenge is how to systematically mobilize your software applications without your ambitions overwhelming your field workers and your IT departments.

Where Do You Get an ROI from Mobile Solutions?

ROI s (return on investment) is the term used to define the value of a project relative to the cost. If the project costs are $25,000, how will you justify this cost to your senior management? Senior management wants to know why they should spend their hard earned money on your mobile application solution and handheld computers. The following list contains some of the most common justifications for mobile software projects. Save the office staff's data entry time. Enter clean, valid data in the field using your handheld computer and have it automatically synchronize with your office business software application. Dispatch service or work order information directly to your field worker's handheld computer in real time. Improves work efficiency and customer care. Synchronize data from the field, so you don't have to drive into the office to deliver your paper work. Provide access to database information anywhere you go. This can mean customer history, product documentati

Business Processes and Handheld Computers

It is important to recognize the impact on business processes - caused by extending your internal software applications out to your field workers. It is far different than just adding another desktop computer to an empty cubicle. With handheld computers, the user must think about battery life, environmental issues such as water, sand, temperatures, etc, and how they are going to connect to the enterprise software application. One must stop and think about the traditional methods of using paper forms, clipboards, etc, and how a handheld computer will change these processes. One of the first questions to ask is, "what will change?" If a field worker is accustomed to paper forms attached to a clipboard, how will they need to change their habits and routines to take advantage of a handheld computer. It may be that the real advantage of using a wireless handheld computer is the value of sharing information real time. So again, how will having real time updates of information in t

Ruggedized PDAs

Most companies that contact us about buying mobilitiy software, have not yet selected their handheld PDAs. This is not a problem if the requirements for the mobile application are simple data collection, but when the mobile application requires the use of specialized hardware (i.e. bar code scanning, GPS, imagery, digital photos, RFID) it is important to understand your needs before implementing a software solution. Why? There are hundreds of different handheld computers with hundreds of different add-on features. These add-on features and hardware components have "software" drivers. These "drivers" enable a software application to "communicate" with the hardware component. These drivers are most often publically available, but they still require someone to add them to your mobile software application. So when my PSO (consulting team) reviews a project's requirements, they will look to see if there are any new "software drivers" that need to

PDAs for Real Work

Greetings Readers - I am the CEO of a software company called MobileDataforce, http://www.mobiledataforce.com . We develop software for people wanting to use their PDAs for work. Not the traditional white collar email applications, but industrial grade data collection, bar coding, RFID, GPS, etc. PDAs are finding a new life in the market as real tools for people working in the field. They don't want games and chat, they want an extension of their office applications on pocket sized computers.