Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Orthotics, Medical Systems and Mobile Handheld Solutions

We are currently working on a project proposal for a company that provides mobile services to nursing homes, hospitals and patients in their homes. This company provides orthotics (braces), prosthetics (artificial limbs), dibetic shoes and other home based medical equipment. The majority of their work is done in mobile environments.

They have a medical billing system, an accounts payable system, patient SOAP notes solution and an inventory system in their offices, but they want to be able to access data and collect data remotely at the point of service/work...so they contacted us at MobileDataforce. We are now working with them to document and prioritize their requirements for a mobile solution.

We have completed numerous projects in the healthcare industry that are similar to this one. We developed a full remote patient monitoring system that I discussed in an earlier article. We have developed applications related to compliance with health and welfare departments. We recently delivered a mobile solution to the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy that is discussed in this recent article.

Monday, July 24, 2006

National Park Services & Handheld PDAs

Our customer, the National Park Service, has come back for more handheld licenses of our Intercue Mobility Suite. I first wrote about their solution and project in a February blog article. They are using handheld solutions to inventory and maintain archeological sites in the Southwest.

Parking Garages & Parking Tickets on Handheld PDAs

I love walking into the office on a Monday morning and having orders for mobile solutions waiting. It is a great way to start off a week. This morning we had an order for a company that manages parking garages and parking meters for municipal governments primarily on the east coast and in the south. They want the ability to monitor parking meters, issue citations and record other relevant information about cars in their parking garages. They want to be able to write citations and print them out on a mobile printer.

We will be using MobileDataforce's PointSync software as the mobile platform to develop this application and synchronize the data to a central database.

Chickens & Handheld Computer Solutions

I received an email this week from a very large multi-national company requesting our help to develop a solution to monitor chickens and their egg production. Seems they manufacture chicken feed and want to test the chickens, and how effective various foods and ingredients are. You can never predict in advance the wide variety of business processes people want to mobilize.

This solution would actually be vary similar to the animal tracking solution I described in an earlier blog article. It involves individually identifying the chickens/animals (leg band), identifying their location (bar code their pens) and then adding production, health, and other relevant data to the mobile application. The researchers walk down the row of pens, bar code scan the pen, enter the chicken ID and then collect the data. This information would then be synchronized with a central database server for analysis.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Buy vs. Building Mobile Solutions for Handhelds

I had a conversation this week concerning the issue of buy vs. building mobile software solutions. I have previously written about this subject in a blog article in January and again in May, however this issue comes up regularly so let's spend some more time on it.

Developing a mobile solution is a major challenge for most companies. Why? Let's identify some of the key components of a mobile solution:

  1. If you have never created mobile applications, there is a steep learning curve to understand the mobility architecture, development environments, synchronization rules, integration processes etc. A lot of mobile middleware development is just plain tedious, expensive and risky.
  2. Are you going to develop for just 1 kind of handheld computer or many? There are many different screen sizes, buttons, accessories, etc. If you want to support many different kinds of handhelds and their unique add-on components - expect a couple of years of development.
  3. How do you develop a solution that will work equally well on multiple operating systems such as Tablet PC, PDA Smart Phones, Pocket PCs and/or laptops? What if your business user wants you to support laptops, PDAs and Tablet PCs with the same mobile application?
  4. How do you develop and manage a synchronization server? Have you ever contemplated how difficult this might be?
  5. How do you add database integration to your synchronization? How do you do this without messing up the production servers?
  6. How do you add data validation to your mobile solutions?
  7. How are you going to manage secure communications between your mobile application and your central database?
  8. How do you build in mobile printing support?
  9. How do you manage the deployment of mobile devices and track all the users and mobile applications?
  10. Who is going to write all the help menus, user documentation, etc., if you develop in-house?
  11. How do you add support for new hardware add-ons such as bar code scanners, RFID readers, GPS, digital cameras, printers to your application?
  12. When Microsoft releases the next version of Windows Mobile 6.0, are you going to re-write your application to support the new hardware? You will be required to since all new handheld devices are sold with the latest OS.

I am a big advocate of internal development projects, but only if you have a RAD tool (rapid application development) for this purpose. MobileDataforce has the PointSync Suite which already has most of the features you want already developed and ready for you to configure for your specific requirements. It is rarely worth a company's time and money to re-create, design and develop that which is already available for $5,400.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Timesheets on Handheld PDAs

We are currently working on a project to supply a large international engineering firm with a mobile solution that will enable managers to review and approve their staff's timesheets. This is important because many of the managers frequently travel and need to approve timesheets while sitting in an airport.

This solution will be developed using MobileDataforce's PointSync, Palm Treo's and a backend database application used internally for time tracking.

Pepsi Mid-America & Inventory Management

One of our long time customers, Pepsi Mid-America, has started their second mobile application project with us this week. Their first project was completed using our simple data collection application called Intercue Mobility Suite, but their second application is going to be developed using our advanced PointSync Suite for bi-directional database synchronization.

The application is an mobile inventory management solution. Inbound and outbound products will be scanned and wirelessly updated in the central inventory database.

Asset Management, PDA Handhelds & Oil Rigs

We are currently working on a project that requires a handheld PDA based application to manage temporary assets that are moving through a supply yard on their way to and from oil rigs.

What is the problem we are solving? Many of the assets, are not owned by the oil company, so are not tracked in their standard ERP/Asset Management software. This might include transient or rented equipment. This is a big problem. How is a manager supposed to manage, what they don't know they have?

The solution - a database specifically designed to track transient/rented equipment and materials - with a mobile handheld application used to check-in, and check-out equipment and materials in the yard. When equipment is delivered to the yard without an asset tag or number, the Supply Depot manager uses the digital camera on the PDA to snap a picture, then uses the integrated GPS to capture the GPS coordinates of its storage location and then synchronizes the data from the handheld to the "transient" inventory database in the office.

Here is a typical use of this system -

Oil Rig Caller - "Have you received my widget?"
Suppy Depot Manager - "I have received many widgets, which widget do you seek and does it have an asset number in the system so I can look it up?"
Oil Rig Caller - "No, I rented the widget and it was supposed to be delivered yesterday to the yard, and I need it tomorrow."
Supply Depot Manager - "Ah...a transient widget...let me check my Transient Asset Management system for all widgets that arrived in the yard and were "checked-in. I see 4 widgets were checked-in yesterday. What does it look like (the digital image helps here)?"
Oil Rig Caller - "Large red widget with yellow floatations on each side."
Supply Depot Manager - "Ah yes, it arrived yesterday, and it is in the southeast corner of the yard (GPS helps here). I will load it on the next supply run and you will get it tomorrow morning."

This application uses MobileDataforce's PointSync for the mobile handheld application. PointSync supports field data collection, bar code, RFID, digital image and GPS integration.