Thursday, June 29, 2006

10 Minutes & 78 Holstein Calves Using RFID & Handheld PDAs

Ten minutes is what it took to register 78 calves using a Psion Teklogix Workabout Pro (with a pistol grip and an integrated RFID reader) with MobileDataforce's PointSync software on a farm in Idaho yesterday. What does it mean to register? A truck load of Holstein calves are brought to the "calf farm" and each calf is assigned a "hutch". After each calf is placed in the hutch they are given both a visual ID tag and an RFID ID tag. Next, a farmer walks down the row of hutches with the handheld computer and takes a reading on each calf, links the RFID tag with the calf, visual ID and hutch. This information is wirelessly synchronized with a central database in the farm office. The ID information will stay with the animal for its entire life. This allows the animal, the animal's health records and location records to always be traceable in the event of an illness or health concern.

This is just one part of a fascinating revolution in cattle management and animal tracking that MobileDataforce is helping to implement around the world.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Music Fans & Handheld PDAs with Barcode Scanners

My PSO (professional services organization) is just wrapping up a project that helps bands track their "true" fans by using handheld PDAs with barcode scanners. Music fans are provided with plastic "band" cards with a barcode label on them. Whenever they purchase band or concert products, their card gets scanned and recorded. This allows the team to record and reward fans for their ongoing support through a variety of "true" fan programs and special promotional offers.

How does the mobility solution fit in? Often, band related concerts and products are purchased from "mobile" sales locations that are not networked into existing database systems. Therefore, the sales staff use mobile barcode enabled PDAs to record "true fan" sales activities that can be recorded and synchronized with the main database systems at a later time.

This solution was developed using MobileDataforce's PointSync Software Development Kit. The barcode scanners were Socket Bluetooth scanners that work with consumer grade PDAs.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How Do I Mobilize Business Processes?

Every business has certain defined ways of transacting business. Often these transactions involve the collection of data on a paper form. The paper forms are then moved into various holding areas where the data is read, acted upon, and then stored. This process has many inefficiencies, quality control issues, and opportunities for failure.

When you mobilize business processes you are automating these steps, introducing electronic quality assurance measures, making this process much faster, and enabling all these processes to be completed automatically while you are out in the mud and rain on the jobsite.

For small business owners, mobilizing business processes often brings a sense of relief from the knowledge that the data was collected, transferred and stored all automatically. It is not dependent upon office staff to complete the work and do it right.

Job estimates, work orders, project updates, inspections, audits, product orders, etc., can all be completed on handheld PDAs, and then transferred to office database applications without human intervention.

You are extending your business software outside the office to the jobsite. You are enabling the person collecting the data to do it immediately at the site of the work that is being recorded. This improves the accuracy of the data, and allows for the complete collection of data at the source. If you wait to complete the paper forms until you return to the office, you often forget the details and no longer have access to the field data.

There is a concept taught in the book "e-Myth" that all business owners should be managing their companies as if they were going to "franchise" it. The point the author was making - set up your businesses so they are operated on repeatable business processes. Processes that can be defined, documented and automated if possible to avoid points of failure or possible errors or dependencies on staff. Mobilizing your business processes is a very efficient means to accomplishing this goal.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cartegraph & MobileDataforce - Handheld Solutions for Government Agencies

MobileDataforce and Cartegraph began a partnership last year to provide mobile solutions to cities, counties, states and other public works focused organizations. This partnership has generated significant market interest and we are now delivering solutions such as Mobile SignView which provides the following for sign asset management:
  • On-line MUTCD sign library
  • Location identification
  • Complete history log
  • Queries and reports
  • Attach images and videos
  • Data synchronization with multiple field commands

MobileDataforce's mobile solutions combined with Cartegraph's applications also provide mobile work order management, mobile vehicle tracking, GIS, mobile inspection applications and much more for government agencies involved in public works and asset management.

MobileDataforce's "Green" PDA Solutions

We received yet another order this week from a company in the NW that picks up recycled bottles from stores. They want to be able to use handheld PDAs to record the number of returned bottles at a specific location, and reimburse the stores. This simple solution was done with MobileDataforce's PointSync.

Newspaper Deliveries and Mobile PDA Solutions

This week my team is working on a proposal to help a major newspaper reduce waste and the overstocking of newspapers at specific locations. They want better visibility into the actual sales of newspapers at commercial locations, and the number of overstocked inventory they are picking up and recycling.

The benefits they are seeking are:
  1. The ability to accurately predict, produce and deliver the amount of newspapers that will sell at a specfic location
  2. Reduce the cost of picking up overstocked newspapers, transporting and recycling them
  3. Improve their ability to sell more newspapers at under-stocked locations

The cost savings from having near real time data collection by drivers can save large amounts of costs in over production, over-stocking, under-stocking, recycling, etc.

This is another example of how much a good mobile solution can impact the bottom-line of a company. The solution we are proposing will take advantage of the power in MobileDataforce's PointSync.

Friday, June 16, 2006

US Senator Larry Craig Visits MobileDataforce

US Senator Larry Craig stopped by recently to learn how MobileDataforce's software can help with the implementation of cattle/animal tracking systems to monitor and track animal health. He is involved with animal tracking legislation and many other technology initatives in the US Congress. In the above photo I am showing the Senator how our mobile solutions can collect data, using RFID readers and RFID tags and wirelessly synchronize it to a central database for identifying the movement and health of animals.

US Department of Commerce Award

The US Department of Commerce presented MobileDataforce with an Export Achievement award last month to celebrate our growth and expansion into the European markets. In 2005 we opened an office in Den Bosch, The Netherlands and began selling solutions throughout Europe.

A Mobile Solution that Took 24 Man Years to Develop

I often talk with IT departments that are considering whether they should code their own mobile solutions, or if they should use MobileDataforce's PointSync development platform. I agree that coding their own solution is an option, but I then advise that we have spent over 24 man years in development time, salaries, and testing to provide them with PointSync. PointSync provides a platform for rapidly developing mobile applications. In many cases 80% of our customers' requirements are already available in PointSync. The user simply needs to identify the data to be used and collected in the field, the design of the handheld GUI, and the destination database. All the difficult and time consuming aspects of developing mobile applications and synchronizing the data are already available in the PointSync platform.

At a high level, PointSync provides a development environment for creating mobile applications that can synchronize wired or wirelessly with enterprise databases. The headaches caused by synchronization of data are all resolved in PointSync. The need to create unique mobile applications for unique handheld devices is resolved. The ability to print reports from mobile devices is resolved. The ability to quickly design user friendly GUIs for mobile devices is resolved. The ability to support multiple handheld devices, laptops, Tablet PCs and PDA phones is resolved. My team has done a great job, making your job easy.

A 30 day trial version of the PointSync Developer is available for download.

We walk the professional services teams all use PointSync to develop and deliver custom mobile solutions for our customers around the world.

Automotive Services Software for PDAs

I am amazed at how much computational power a software application on a handheld computer can have. Let me give you an example - We are finishing up an application for a company that provides mobile automotive services such as vehicle cleaning, washing polishing and detailing. This one handheld solution actually includes all of the following components:
  • Work Orders
  • Payroll records
  • Time Sheets
  • Customer invoicing
  • Mobile Printing
  • Bar code scanning
  • VIN decoding
  • Wireless database synchronization
  • Web enabled access to the data
  • Report printing

All of these components are available from one menu on a Pocket PC handheld device. We developed this application using MobileDataforce's PointSync Suite. This application allows the mobile service providers to effectively communicate with headquarters while remaining on the jobsite making money and providing services.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Inspections on PDAs

Inspections are one of the most common types of applications that customers request, and there are soooooo many different kinds of inspections. We are currently working on projects and proposals for the following:
  • Tulip bulb inspections - The Netherlands
  • Environmental Occupational Safety and Health for the FAA
  • Board of Pharmacy - Inspecting pharmacy licenses
  • Cattle inspection
  • Automobile inspection
  • Quality Assurance - food processing plant inspections
  • Street sign inspections
  • Many more....

On a phone call today, the gentleman said he could conduct 20 inspections in a day, but each inspection takes 3 hours to type into the computer system once he returned to the office. The inefficiencies are enormous and expensive.

Handheld PDAs, PDA Phones and rugged handheld computers can all collect, store and synchronize the inspection data from remote locations directly into a configured database application back in the office. No wonder inspectors love handhelds!!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Trapped Data Issues

One of the common reasons companies say they want to mobilize their business systems is to release data that is trapped on paper. Let me give you an example - Unilever, one of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the world, approached us about mobilizing their quality assurance auditing processes. One of the key deliverables they were seeking was to make the audit results available for business analytics that would lead to quality improvements. At the time all of their audits were completed on paper, and filed in paper file folders. The data was trapped on paper and was not available to be analyzed using business analytic software.

With data trapped on paper, the ability to review the data as an aggregate is lost. The ability to mine the data for gems of wisdom, trends, problems, successes, etc., is lost.

Replacing your paper business processes with mobile software applications on handheld computers enables your field teams to provide all of their data electronically. This data can be wirelessly synchronized to enterprise databases in the office without the need to drive to the office and deliver trapped data on paper.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Janssen-Fritsen Selects MobileDataforce® Europe

Janssen-Fritsen selects MobileDataforce to mobilize their Gymnastics Equipment Service and Maintenance Teams. This project is being implemented in The Netherlands. Janssen-Fritsen has 50 field services teams that repair and maintain gymnastics equipment around Europe. Their maintenance and work orders will now be done using MobileDataforce's PointSync software, on handheld PDAs, customized to their requirements.

Mobilizing Automotive Services

MobileDataforce is enagaged on yet another automotive services project. This customer repairs "bumpers" on used cars, and wants to invoice the customer for the work completed. This application will involve the ability to scan a VIN number so the car can quickly be identified, and the work done on it invoiced. All of this will take place on a handheld computer with a barcode scanner, wireless connectivity to a database at headquarters. They will user PointSync Mobile software on each handheld computer, PointSync Server to bi-directionally synchronize the data, and PointSync Developer to configure and develop the complete system.

VIN decoding is a big part. It helps our customer identify the details of the car, so the invoice can specifically identify the car, and the exact work done on it. This helps both our customer and their clients avoid confusion and payment delays.

VIN decoding is not easy. New models are added monthly, and different models are sold in different regions of the world. So the VIN decoder needs to be able to accommodate these weekly additions in an organized manner that protects the integrity of the data. MobileDataforce has a lot of experience designing for these requirements.