Getting on the fast track to mobile line of business applications

Many value added resellers (VARs), system integrators (SIs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) are starting to realize that a wide range of real customer problems can be solved by putting their solution into the hands of the people on the frontier of current IT systemsthe mobile workers.


In the past, the needs of the mobile worker have been inadequately addressed with mobile devices. The market has been restricted in size due to the cost of available devices and the lack of cost-effective and reliable connectivity solutions that liaise with the head office.


Now, affordable tools are available to extend corporate systems into the hands of a much larger community of mobile workers. Programmable smartphones and connected PDAs provide ideal platforms for developing these applications and, just as in the start of the PC market, the successful companies will be those that marry an understanding of their customers needs with the available technology.


The opportunity is large. Mobile workers have been provided with mobile voice communications that spawned the huge mobile telecommunications industry. More recently, these devices have been extended to allow text and multimedia communications.


See the future for mobile apps

The availability of mass market, programmable mobile devices with highly evolved development environments and robust, cost-effective connectivity to the enterprise, creates a unique opportunity for VARs, SIs and ISVs. It allows them to extend their existing solutions into the hands of mobile workers, creating a new category of widely deployed, mobile line of business applications.


These mobile applications, in turn, offer significant opportunities for their customers to gain a competitive advantage through business process improvements in the field.


Meeting the challenge

A key challenge in creating usable mobile solutions is producing workable, ergonomic applications and devices that fit the mobile context. Small mobile devices are, by their very size, constrained in their input and display mechanisms. This can cause issues in applications that require data entry such as order entry in sales force automation applications or parts inventory management in service applications. However, technologies developed for the supply chain, like bar code scanning, radio frequency identification (RFID) and magnetic cards can be used to produce applications that allow fast and, most importantly, accurate data capture.


These automatic identification (Auto ID) technologies are simple to integrate and provide real benefits in applications that are far from the warehouse where the technologies were originally targeted. Think of any part of your solution where speed and accuracy of data capture makes a significant financial impact to your customer. If you can, then you have almost certainly spotted a candidate for Auto ID.


Auto ID solutions can be simply and quickly added to standard mobile devices using expansion technologies that are tried and tested in the field. For example, Aspin Management Solutions has developed a sales force automation package called MiniSell, particularly targeted towards companies selling to retailers. One of the company's happy customers, Alistair Henderson, from Churchill China said: MiniSell is ideal for companies whose business is face-to-face selling, or who have a large range of products. Investing in bar coding and scanners during implementation will give you immediate benefits as well.


Partnering with Socket

Socket Communications has the most complete range of plug-in and wirelessly connected data collection devices for standard mobile devices available in the market. The company also has a wide range of other accessories useful for building line of business mobile applications.


Socket has also launched a new developer programme that allows VARs and ISVs to quickly integrate these technologies into their applications. Socket not only provides the technical tools to enable fast development of Auto ID solutions on a wide range of smartphone and connected PDA devices, but also the marketing tools to promote your solutions internationally. We call this our Strategic Vertical Integrator programme (Editor's note: comprehensive details about this programme can be found on the company's website).


We already have an impressive list of partners providing solutions integrated with our Auto ID and connectivity products that can be found on the Socket Communications website. When browsing through this list you can see the wide range of different industries where mobile solutions are being developed.


We are always on the lookout for new innovative solutions to add to our portfolio. Socket realizes that widespread deployment of mobile solutions will only happen in partnership with the IT channel. The expertise in systems integration, which is the crucial element in the success of any IT deployment, is just as important in a mobile world.


Martin Croome is the vice president of business development for Socket Communications. The company develops innovative data collection and network connectivity products for use with mobile computing devicesrugged and consumer hand helds/PDAs, smartphones and tablet PCs.

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