Choose Wireless Application Candidates Wisely
Despite the similarity of the problems to those involved in other development efforts, Lanowitz maintained that developing for wireless devices is fundamentally different from developing traditional wired applications because the devices are potentially always-on, always-connected, have different interfaces and different display requirements, are used in different settings, and application errors affect users in a much more negative way than do errors in traditional applications. She stressed that developers must, more than ever before, know the users, know what they need, and know how they plan to use the applications. "Not all applications can be usable in a mobile environment," she said. "Many organizations will want to port all of their apps to the mobile environment, just as we saw a few years ago everybody wanting to port allof their applications to the Web. You don't need to port all of them."
So what kinds of applications are good candidates for wireless applications? You might approach the decision by looking at what people do and the provider/client model you're using to deliver them. Clark characterized these applications (and their users) into several categories.
B2C (Business to Consumer): Consumers will primarily use applications such as SMS, Voice over IP (see the sidebar "VoWIP Quick Start: Getting up to Speed on VoIP on 802.11 Wireless LANs"), and games.
M2M (Machine to Machine): Wireless access built into machines will become more common. For example, a coin-operated drink machine, rather than requiring periodic checks by a human, could notify an organization or a mobile worker's wireless device when they need refilling or maintenance.
B2E (Business to Education), B2B (Business to Business), B2G (Business to Government): This category encompasses the bulk of mobile workers, which Clark subdivides into three groups:
- Road Warriors: People such as executives, sales, knowledge workers, fleet, delivery, field service, and others who travel outside the workplace need true wireless applications; however, the coverage areas and data volume plans required may vary by job or by individual. For example, some maintenance personnel may only need to enter a check mark next to a machine identification number each time they check a machine. A worker might make hundreds or thousands of such single-data-point transactions per month, yet transfer only a few megabytes of data. In contrast, an executive who consumes spreadsheets, database reports, and live documents may need to transfer hundreds of megabytes per month. Similarly, some mobile workers work within a single-coverage area, while others may require coverage across cities, states, or even internationally.
- Micromobile Workers: These people move from one location to another at the workplace, but don't need wide-area services—for example, health care workers, teachers, students, site security personnel, and warehouse workers can all benefit from wireless connectivity, and are excellent candidates for applications delivered over WLANs.
- Office-centric Workers: People who move between offices and telecommuters probably need wide-area coverage, but often stay continuously connected once they've reached a work location.
Employees who access workplace networks from home offer an additional security hazard—they may be running their ownWLANs, but theirs may not be as secure as the office LAN. Any data they access or store on their own machines is subject to the same eavesdropping and access security problems as data on the organization's network, but is rarely as well-protected.