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Because life's not just a bowl of BlackBerries

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Workshop roundup As mobility has entered the mainstream, most of the focus to date - at least in the media and among analysts - has been on connecting up mobile professionals via BlackBerries, Windows Mobile devices and laptop data cards.

The drivers for this kind of investment have mostly been concerned with improving collaboration and information access on the move. This is arguably about dealing with the ad hoc and relatively freeform activity that takes place when professionals, either individually or in teams, are going about their business in the field.

There is another important side to mobility that receives less of the limelight, however, and that is activity to do with more process-centric use of wireless technology. Examples here include field service automation, logistics and telemetry.

The motivations here are quite different, and typically concerned with reducing overheads, shortening process cycle times, and increasing visibility and control of the process from a time perspective – i.e. reducing the lag between events occurring and being recognised and acted upon.

But how much is going on in this whole area? After all, while mobile email is potentially relevant to the majority of organisations, these more process-oriented areas are often very industry-specific.

This is something we have been looking at through various research studies and workshops over the past few months, and what we have found is that wireless is already playing an important part in these areas.

Reaching the parts

Across the board, in fact, the importance of wireless solutions for access to the line of business applications such as ERP systems that enable much of the process-oriented field activity appears to be around half that of mobile email, calendaring and so on.

Not bad given the difference in the amount of marketing money spent promoting mobile email versus other applications. Furthermore, based on the feedback we have received, the importance of this kind of application looks set to grow by about 50 per cent over the coming two years.

The very specialist area of telemetry, or machine to machine (M2M) communication as some people call it, might appear very niche, but for those to whom it is relevant, there are clear indications of a strong trend towards wireless in this space. As we wrote recently, for remote monitoring and control in particular, wireless seems to leading to the Heineken effect, i.e. taking telemetry into parts that fixed comms cannot reach.

Standing back a little, for those organisations with needs across collaborative professional solutions and more process-oriented applications, does it make sense to work towards a single over-arching mobile strategy?

Well the answer to this is probably not. While it might make sense to discuss overall service contracts with mobile operators, from an IT perspective (applications, devices, integration, management, etc.) it makes more sense to think about things separately.

In fact, there is an argument that says wireless and mobility should be a component of other initiatives in general, rather than being thought of as something discrete. Following this logic, wireless messaging and collaboration solutions are a natural part of the overall unified communications jigsaw for professionals, and mobile field service, logistics and M2M initiatives are really just extensions of existing core business processes and applications.

Either way though, we can look forward to process-oriented wireless becoming increasingly important as time goes on. ®

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