What Corporate Wireless Applications Are Available Now?
So far, most wireless application programming efforts at the corporate level have been directed toward building special-purpose machines for vertical applications. Such efforts have been under way for several years. Among the companies showing vertical applications at the Gartner conference were United Parcel Service, which first armed its delivery personnel with analog mobile technology more than 10 years ago, but has since built special-purpose wireless digital devices, and is incorporating Bluetooth and 802.11b technology into its next-generation systems.
Other companies are capitalizing on wireless in completely different ways. With the advent of cheap and easy Wi-Fi access points, Starbucks (via T-Mobile) now offers HotSpot connectivity at many of its stores, letting users reach the Internet, send email, and chat while sitting in comfort and buying more coffee. In addition, Starbucks managers, who typically manage several stores and travel between them, are able to communicate with employees, get reports, do paperwork, and generally work more efficiently by taking advantage of those same access points.
But building special-purpose devices, or simply providing wireless access to employees and customers is not going to be enough to bring wireless into the mainstream. The next wave of wireless innovation will capitalize on ubiquitous connectivity and general-purpose devices in the same way, and for the same reasons, that companies adopted personal computers, networks, and the Internet—the technology has become inexpensive and powerful enough to be an asset.
One early adopter is the city of Bellevue, WA, which is giving city employees wireless technology that improves customer satisfaction. But it is having unexpected side benefits as well. For example, city parks employees are able to shut off sprinkler systems remotely during rainstorms—providing both water cost savings to the city and convenience to the employees.
|The next wave of wireless innovation will capitalize on ubiquitous connectivity and general-purpose devices in the same way, and for the same reasons, that companies adopted personal computers, networks, and the Internet—the technology has become inexpensive and powerful enough to be an asset.
In the corporate world, it's easy to imagine how the newer, more powerful devices and capabilities can affect the bottom line. Paul Whitaker, Program Manager for the Nokia Content Syndication Program, recently gave us an example: Insurance adjusters often visit automobile accident sites to investigate the causes of accidents and estimate the damages involved. Till now, if they wanted to document the scene visually, they've had to carry a camera or hire a photographer. They take notes and make diagrams, and then they typically go back to the office to write up a report. But now, using a smart phone with video capability, they can fill out the report, take pictures to document the accident situation, and upload everything directly to the corporate database.
In other words, the device gives these people the capability to combine both the on-site and off-site tasks into a single on-site operation while improving the organization's response time. The time-savings also let adjusters visit more sites in a single day. And all this increases convenience for the adjusters, who no longer necessarily have to travel back to the office to do their paperwork. The result is huge cost savings for the organization.
If it hasn't already, this kind of logic will eventually sprout roots in your industry, and it will quickly travel down the chain to squeeze some wireless products out of you.