Predictions for Mobile Productivity in 2015

459159459What a wild ride 2014 has been in the mobile productivity space!  We’ve seen sizeable mergers, watched the mobile OS roller coaster ride continue, and been thankful to see the economy continue to increase demand for business throughout the supply chain.  I’ve recently taken a look back at my predictions for 2014 and found not too much was far off, though surely occurring in a different manner than I expected.  Now, with 2014 about to come to a close, let’s have a little fun picking what’s to come in 2015:

  • There will be more mergers and acquisitions among mobility vendors. In 2014, hardware vendors changed logos and several industry solution providers merged.  2015 will bring more consolidation as companies combine expertise to better serve specific markets and industries.
  • Mobile productivity meets the millennials.  As more Millennials start joining the workforce, enterprises are going to focus on equipping them with technology that is familiar to them – reducing the learning curve so they can be more productive, more quickly.
  • As Android multiplies, Microsoft’s mobile strategy will be determined.  The number of Android devices designed for mission-critical mobility has accelerated in 2014.  While that trend is expected to continue in 2015, the market will influence Microsoft’s direction for mobility.  We will find out if the market accepts 8.1 for mobile, waits for a Windows 10-based operating system, or shifts its confidence further toward Android.

Whether these or the numerous surprises 2015 will have in store for rugged mobility market, Wavelink will be here with you speaking the language of Mobile Productivity.  Got predictions of your own?  Email me at robert.destefano@wavelink.com with your expectations for mobile productivity.

Finally, on behalf of all of us at Wavelink, thank you for choosing us as your partner for mobile productivity.  We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, and productive 2015!

Hey Voice Vendor: Hands off my host system!

467920505It amazes me how complex some traditional voice applications are to implement.  Looking at some of the workflow diagrams publically available from these vendors, I’m left scratching my head.  Voice is an additional mode of data capture.  It is the vocal equivalent of pressing a few keys on a device’s keypad or scanning a barcode.  It takes place at the point of activity – where the worker is picking product in the warehouse, for example.  It offers huge productivity gains for the business by making that mobile worker be able to complete tasks faster.  So, why do some voice vendors make it so complex? It baffles me that a voice vendor would require access to make changes to your host system (your warehouse management or ERP system) in order to implement their voice application.  Think about it: at some point, you made a significant investment in selecting the host system that best fit the needs of your business, and now, your voice vendor wants to make changes to it in order to make their system work.  Once they’ve made these changes, they’re locked in.  Every time you want to make a change to your host system software, you now need to include your voice vendor in those discussions (and expect to be billed for their services), to make sure any changes you make anywhere in your host system don’t break their voice application.  That’s frustrating.  To draw an analogy, if I want to have my electrician put a new light fixture in my house, I don’t want to have to pay my air conditioning contractor to be involved – just because the air conditioning system also happens to use electricity. Voice can be implement easily, and much more quickly, when voice is enabled at the point of activity.  With Wavelink Speakeasy, all the voice processing is done on the mobile device.  What does this mean?  From the perspective of your host system, the fact that the data was entered via voice is irrelevant.  As I mentioned earlier, voice is one method of data entry – part of a multi-modal approach to capturing data.  All the voice-enabling technology can take place at the point of activity, just as it does for the other means of data entry.  There is no need for your voice vendor to be touching your host system, nor charging you recurring fees every time you want to make any host system changes.

The Case for Writing your own Enterprise Mobile Applications

WritingMobileAppsIn a previous blog post, I wrote about the challenges that must be considered before diving into writing your own enterprise mobile applications. However, there are a good number of reasons to write a custom application. This route need not be riddled with challenges or regrets – provided you consider the options and keep your objective in focus. You’re choosing to develop your own enterprise application with an objective of increasing the productivity of workers. In the face of a volatile market for mobility hardware and operating systems, you can deliver a solution that yields huge gains for your operating margin. There are four considerations I recommend keeping in mind as you scope your own application: security, standards, compatibility, and performance.

Security: consider how data is going to be secured on the device. Here, browser-based apps can have advantage over native applications because your browser is essentially providing a window to a host-based application. Need to lock it down? Shut the window. However, also be sure to avoid compromising the user experience to meet security requirements, and make considerations for the ease of offloading local data.

Standardization: there is a concurrent shift in mobility clients with the shift in mobile devices, so writing an app once and making it deployable on many device can be a challenge. “That’s why I’d use HTML5” you might think. Sure, but remember that HTML5 does not offer a standard in itself. And here again, the continuous churn of updates to mobile operating systems can be a cause for application failures.

Compatibility: What happens when the next OS or new device platform is introduced? How flexible is your application across devices, operating systems, and don’t forget host systems. Native apps often result in vendor exclusions – where the application is compatible with, say, one supply chain management system, but not another. This can lock you into systems you didn’t intend.

Performance: your investment in your supply chain management system is significant. Don’t ruin it with a sub-par mobile experience. This is especially a challenge when developing a browser-based app using the default browser on the mobile device. Often these browsers were written for desktops and then squeezed into mobile devices. Rendering issues can be a huge time waste for users (picture the warehouse worker standing around for 5-10 seconds between screens, just waiting for the browser to present the next screen in their workflow). Make considerations for locked-down network environments.

If you’re going to write your own mobile application, take advantage of Wavelink Velocity – our secure enterprise browser. Velocity’s super-fast rendering lets your mobile app work faster, and session-persistence lets workers resume tasks right where they left the workflow. It’s secure, since application data is streamed from the host system (not stored on the mobile device). Velocity interfaces to all leading supply chain management systems, so compatibility concerns are eased. Finally, Velocity delivers on the promise of a single development platform across mobile operating systems, so you can equip users with the device type that best fits their task.

The Case Against Writing Your Own Mobile Apps

WritingMobileAppsEnterprise mobility is so fast-moving that many companies find themselves seeking any means they can to introduce some stability into their deployments. Changing hardware, operating systems, evolving security and mobility management requirements and more can make anyone feel like they’re in a whirlwind when trying to create a mobility strategy. One of the few areas where you might feel more control is the mobile application, and there’s that moment where the thought creeps in: “Why don’t we just develop our own mobile apps? Then we’re in control.” There are times when an internally developed or custom mobile application can make sense, and I’ll discuss that in another post. However, there are many times where this ambition to Write-Your-Own can lead to disaster for your worker productivity – especially for consumer device operating systems like iOS and Android.

First, consider how you’ll write your own mobile app. What OS platform will you target? If you begin writing for iOS, are you certain you’ll never want to go to any version of Windows? Are you that certain of the demise of market-leading Android?

Next, there is the OS version you’ll choose. If you begin developing for Android Kit-Kat, are you sure your app will be compatible with Android “L” when it is released? How about “M”, “N”, and “O” – all of which will undoubtedly be released during the life of your enterprise mobile deployment. Even minor OS updates need to be considered: sometimes OS updates break stuff. Will you be ready for that continuous support?

Are you using any peripherals in your mobile deployment? If you’re deploying for mission-critical tasks, you might be deploying barcode scanning attachments, or mobile payment accessories. The providers of these accessories make changes to their own SDK’s, and managing these revisions warrant the same level of attention as OS updates.

Then, there is the overarching issue of resource investment. Writing an application for a specific task may not be the best way to optimize the productivity of workers performing that task. It may also not be the best use of internal developers’ time – time that may be better served on projects that optimize the very business processes you’re looking to standardize on with a custom application.

Among the great advantages of Wavelink Terminal Emulation (TE) is that it can offer the stability you’re looking for in your mobile application.  Wavelink TE clients are available for all the leading mobile operating systems: from Windows CE/Mobile to iOS and Android.  You don’t need to worry about managing the OS updates – Wavelink offers day 1 support for most new OS versions, and works with device and peripheral manufacturers to ensure compatibility with their SDK releases.  Finally, TE already works with your supply chain management systems, so you don’t need to invest in integration.  If you’re looking to bring a level of security and stability to your mobile strategy, Wavelink TE is the way to go.

Wavelink TE Day 1 Support for iOS 8

Day1SupportI’ll cover the why’s and how’s in more detail in a future post but what’s becoming clear is that the face of retail is changing. Mobile devices are becoming ever more prolific in our shopping experiences and consumerization of mobility has been a big driver. Retailers have looked at the experiences that consumer devices provide and are trying to leverage that to change the way we physically interact with their stores, or the way that their retail associates get their jobs done. One factor has been cost – the acquisition cost of a consumer device is much less than a comparable rugged device (note that I said ‘acquisition’ and not TCO). Up to this point, iOS devices have been the major winner in this space but, as many early adopters are finding out, there are many aspects of the experience that are out of their control.

Late last year, Apple released iOS 7 as we were reaching the end of our TE iOS 1.3 development cycle. Our engineering team had been validating each beta drop to ensure that everything worked as expected. Very late in the cycle it was discovered that Apple had changed their power management methods with regards to how backgrounded apps were treated. This change meant that any background app had a hard-coded 3 minutes until the OS closed the network sockets – this was detrimental to the TE experience, though we were able to solve the issue with ConnectPro. ConnectPro maintains TE sessions and allows clients to reconnect back to the point they were at prior to the failure.

The takeaway for us is that, even though it is expensive, it is worth our while to perform these proactive validation efforts so we can be prepared for Day 1 support of a new OS.  These often pass with few issues, though sometimes, like with iOS 7, we have some major work to do to deliver an enterprise solution. Look at is as a kind of insurance that we are providing on behalf of our customers.

Next week Apple is holding one of their events, where they are expected to announce the iPhone 6 and the release date for iOS 8. The Wavelink team has been validating each beta release to ensure that our clients still work as expected. We did find a couple of issues that needed to be resolved, and these fixes were included in the latest iOS TE v2 client release, however, nothing major has been found.

iOS TE customers have Day 1 support for iOS 8. Download the latest client from the Wavelink website https://www.wavelink.com/Apple-device-downloads.

The takeaway for you, our customer, is that, no matter which device OS you chose, Wavelink has you covered. We are doing the due diligence to ensure that our clients work on the latest platforms and that we continue to provide seamless support on a very wide variety of mobile platforms and devices.

Watch this space for future news of Day 1 Android L support.

 

 

Terminal Emulation 2.0 Translating Productivity – 5 ways to enable mobility around the world

Terminal Emulation working on a global scale

Terminal Emulation working on a global scale

No matter how you say it, productivity gains are the objective of mission-critical mobility deployments all around the globe. From New York to Beijing, and Frankfurt to Seoul, enterprises all over are looking for ways to help workers be more productive. These gains can’t be realized only in pockets of the world economy, but must be accessible everywhere. How can companies accelerate the realization of the benefits of enterprise mobility?

  1. Speak the worker’s language: provide mobility solutions that are easy for workers to understand. This starts with presenting mobility software clients in their local language. Continue reading

For best results, don’t look down

Last month I had the opportunity to tour a facility where  Speakeasy has been in use for quite some time.  It’s always an awesome experience to see and hear why people are happy with our products, and the reasons always vary.  I’ve written before about how ROI is defined differently by different organizations, but this time I got the visual demonstration of how productivity is defined.

I listened to a general manager at the company give a history of the company’s search for enterprise mobility – dating to rugged mobile computers chosen ten years ago, and how they continued to seek ways to extract more productivity from mobility deployments in the years that followed.  One of the really compelling things he said was how he studied the behaviors of his warehouse workers and noticed one very simple productivity inhibitor: while barcode scanning was delivering productivity gains and was easy and intuitive, workers would still look down at the mobile device screen to read instructions in their workflows, and every time they looked down the worker’s feet would stop moving. 

How much time could a worker lose by stopping and looking down at a device screen?  It may be a second or two…or three or four.  The bottom line was – if there was a way to address that delay, it could significantly improve productivity. How could a second or two really make such a difference?  We were watching the activity in a regional warehouse, where pickers scan roughly 400 items per hour, each (the general manager suggested this was actually a low estimate).  Lose a second on each scan because the user has to stop to read the location/quantity information for the product and that’s 400 seconds (nearly 7 minutes) every hour.  Over an 8-hour shift, that worker spends nearly a full hour (53:20, to be exact) looking at the device screen.  Now, multiply that by the number of workers on the floor, and you have the number of man-hours spent looking at the device screen in a day.  Multiply that by how many shifts in a year, and you have a significant productivity gain by adding voice.

Sure, one of the promises of voice-enablement is the ability to have hands-free and eyes-forward safety for workers and productivity gains for their business.  However, consider that Speakeasy can be implemented in 30-days.  Traditional voice application vendors require 12 weeks or more, and some actually require 12 months or more.  Your ROI with Speakeasy could be realized before a traditional voice application might even be deployed!

Watching the speed with which workers in this warehouse were completing their tasks, and how they were able to navigate their carts and forklifts was impressive.  Knowing that Wavelink was helping them get their job done more safely and more quickly was awesome.  Understanding, as I watched the activity that was happening all around, how important this solution was to the success of this warehouse operation, was an amazing experience.

What’s New: Wavelink Avalanche

We are pleased to announce that the latest version of Wavelink Avalanche is now available and is packed with new features to increase your IT Customer Servicefunctionality and decrease complexity, saving you time and money. The entire Wavelink team has worked hard to ensure that the latest version of Avalanche is full of helpful updates that safeguard the security of your enterprise and secure your data and devices from the latest security attacks.
Between the enhancements now available in our cloud-based versions of Wavelink Avalanche, and the announcements made last month at Interchange 2014 (including Mobile Email Management coming soon!), we’re serious about enterprise mobility. Continue reading

Three easy ways to tell if Speakeasy can help you optimize worker productivity in your warehouse

In this brief, I am going to tell you three signs that you can easily spot that will tell you if you can optimize your warehouse or distribution center operations. I am going to make an assumption here that you are already using a terminal emulation or browser based materials management system. I don’t care which one, just that it is based on Telnet (TE) or a browser. Wavelink can easily and quickly enable voice for almost any of those in the market today. It can be a WMS, ERP, CRM, or any other system that drives your workers and allows them to feed work information into as they do their job.

  1. First, watch your workers. If they are frequently stopping to read their paper or the display on their mobile computer/scanning device, then you can likely reduce the amount of time it takes for them to do their job. The more they stop, the more you can easily improve it. The device display is still critical because it can contain so much information vital to competing the task or be used in configuring and troubleshooting, but if workers are often stopping to read we can help. Tasks assignment and reminders can be spoken to the worker allowing them to continue moving toward their goal as they listen.
  2. Next, does it take a long time to bring people on board in your operation? Is most of the time spent trying to explain what all the parts and exceptions are, and Speakeasy in Actionare those already in your IT systems you use to collect data as they work? If the answer is yes to either of those, then Speakeasy can likely help you improve productivity. It has the ability to break the task down to small explainable parts. Workers can ask the system to repeat commands, locations, and data sent to them by the host that is required to do their job. Workers who formerly went through three-day training sessions now are frequently productive workers in less than a half day of job training. The end time depends on your processes and automation but we almost always can reduce this time.
  3. Finally, are your workers more productive when they have both hands free to work? Headsets and ring scanners attached to mobile computers allow workers to dive in with both hands and optimizes worker productivity. As a benefit this reduces lost and broken devices as workers are not setting them down to do the work before recording and updating systems with their work in process or completed tasks.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the customer Goya Foods and Coleman Cable testimonial videos on www.wavelink.com/voice.

Voice in the Warehouse: Safety Risk or Benefit?

We’re all familiar with distracted driving (or distracted walking, which can be just as dangerous. If you don’t believe me, see here and here for examples). We’ve all seen that teenager texting away while simultaneously blowing through a stop sign or the businessman anxiously typing out an email while his car drifts into the next lane. Maybe some of you have even been that person. We all know it’s dangerous to use our mobile devices while driving, and yet many of us continue to do it.

When Siri was released, it was hailed as a possible solution to the texting and driving problem. Now, smartphone users could dictate emails, text messages, tweets, and Facebook posts without looking away from the road! How wonderful!

And yet, it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. I went back to an article in the New York Times about how Siri and other voice technology could actually be a safety risk for drivers. The article described a study by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety that concluded speech-to-text systems created significant distraction that severely impairs reaction time and the ability to monitor and process what is happening on the road.

The more I read about the study, the more convinced I became that mobile phone use should really carry the stigma of drunk driving. But I also wondered if the same conclusion applied to the use of voice technology in the warehouse.

A worker uses Wavelink Speakeasy in the warehouse

A worker uses Wavelink Speakeasy in the warehouse

There are several key differences between using voice technology in your car and using it in the warehouse. For one thing, in your car, you’re asking Siri (or your voice technology of choice) to dictate longer messages, which the voice technology is attempting to transcribe word-for-word –which you then have to double check against what you actually wanted it to say. Compare that with the way voice is used in the warehouse, which tends be less complex spoken requests and commands. There is typically minimal screen interaction when voice is used in the warehouse and most screen interaction, such as scanning items, is done while the vehicle is not moving.

For another thing, you don’t actually have to use your mobile device in the car. If you just can’t wait until you get home to post that tweet, you should maybe consider your priorities. On the other hand, voice in the warehouse provides measureable productivity and efficiency benefits through hands-free device use. Customers have also reported that they’ve seen workplace accidents reduced following the implementation of voice technology. For me, it’s that which decides the issue of whether voice technology is really safe or not. After all, a reduction of accidents is really the best measure of safety.