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.

Wavelink Protection in Light of OpenSSL Heartbleed Vulnerability

In light of the recent Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability news, Wavelink has analyzed our portfolio of products and websites that use OpenSSL and is providing the following update:

Products potentially affected by the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability:

  • ConnectPro: Versions 4.5.003 and 4.5.004
  • Terminal Emulation for Android – According to Google, Android version 4.1.1 is affected as it uses built-in Android OpenSSL libraries.
  • Velocity for Android – According to Google, Android version 4.1.1 is affected as it uses built-in Android OpenSSL libraries.

The following have been assessed and are not believed to be impacted by the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability:

  • Avalanche
  • Terminal Emulation for Windows
  • Enabler, Windows
  • License Server
  • Terminal Emulation for iOS
  • Velocity for Windows
  • Studio Client
  • Studio Client iOS
  • Studio COM and Java Servers
  • SecurePlus Client and Server

For additional and continually updated information on this issue, please visit our community site and knowledge base located at: http://community.landesk.com/support/docs/DOC-31375.

Please contact Customer Support if you have additional questions.

Tips for Deploying Enterprise Mobility Management – SaaS or On-Premise

Enterprises of all sizes and across industries require different levels of onsite control of their enterprise mobility deployments. Couple this with the unique restrictions that corporations place on mobile internet access and there’s a compelling need for choice among the deployment options when considering an enterprise mobility management solution.

The benefits of a cloud-based deployment are Retail Associate Consumer Devicecentered on simplicity. Selecting a cloud-based (or SaaS) deployment method frees up internal IT staff to focus on other initiatives.  Server components are managed externally by product experts, making a cloud deployment simple and fast. This is in addition to the most obvious benefit of a SaaS deployment – immediate access to software updates.

However, there are enterprises around the world that require, or simply prefer, to have the greatest amount of control over their enterprise mobility management system. An On-Premise deployment method provides this, in a more traditional, shrink-wrapped installation. Companies choose this model often because they like the security of having the entire deployment completely within their corporate intranet. It also provides IT teams with complete control of scheduling updates and patches.

Which option is best? Start by determining the security compliance and control requirements your organization has in place. Next, determine the level of IT staff that will be working with the enterprise mobility management console, and the time they have to handle maintenance to it. Follow that with some considerations related to control. Does the company prefer the accelerated access to software updates and enhancements? Or, does it benefit the business to have IT control the timing of updates to fit in between peaks in the operations cycle?

With both SaaS-based and On-Premise options, Avalanche 6.0 provides businesses with the ability to select the method of deployment that fits each business best. Whether mixed device deployments or BYOD, operational task workers, customer-facing workers, there is no need to compromise. When you’re deploying enterprise mobility, manage those deployments with the enterprise mobility management solution that has been trusted by corporations for decades, ready to be deployed in the method that fits your business.

Wavelink on the Road – What Have We Learned About Voice?

A warm welcome to the first day of April! While this post will contain no April Fool’s Day jokes, it will wrap up some of the key findings and observations that we, the Wavelink team, have found during our busy first quarter of 2014.

As you should know, we have been out and about spreading the word about Wavelink, at our numerous 2014 activities. Being at so many different places over the past few months, I’ve noticed a few key trends, and I think they are indicative of industry demand, rather than us advocating them. But, more so than any other trend, the “voice” trend is going s-t-r-o-n-g.

Two years ago, when we explained what it meant to “voice-enable” applications versus buying a voice “system”, few could articulate the difference. After speaking with hundreds upon hundreds of folks – whether it be at NRF in NYC, to one of our Speakeasy Roadshows, or MODEX a couple weeks ago in Atlanta – people understand the difference between what it means to voice enable, versus buying a legacy solution. Primarily, they’ve researched legacy voice solutions, and understand the dozens of barriers inherent with them: costly, lengthy implementations, etc., etc.

Now, when we explain the concept of taking their existing telnet or web applications, and simply voice-enabling them, you can see the lightbulb go off. After all these years of knowing what they don’t want, people have a firm grip on what their organization needs. It’s a great time to be in the industry and part of the “voice movement”. As a conclusion, here are some photo’s we took along the way from various shows. Enjoy!

MODEX 2014

As I write this it’s the end of the week and we have another MODEX under our belts. This year’s show was enormous and well attended by customers, integrators, consulting companies, and students of the industry.

It proved to be a worthwhile show, attendees showing up in droves with active projects, ideas and concepts, and a fire to keep pushing forward. Vendors were there in large numbers covering every aspect of supply chain and distribution from low tech fans and pallet managers to high tech warehouse and distribution data management systems – all with bringing their users improvements in productivity and high return on investment.

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Technology advancements continue at a stunning rate from every aspect of materials movement and management. Of course, the cloud had a huge presence at the show as the industry begins to open up and trust moving their business information and transactions over the internet, this is a big step for this industry.

It was a fantastic show for Wavelink. Speech Enablement was the hit of the show, and the high functionality, quick payback, low disruption messages are finally sinking in. We received more requests for on-site productivity audits, proofs of concept, and speech pilots than I can remember from any single event.

Velocity was also a smoking hot topic. It appears manufacturing and distribution companies are moving toward web platforms and are discovering that app performance and disconnections are slowing down their workers. Velocity specifically fixes those problems, AND offers the ability so speech enable web apps making the perfect combo.

MODEX is an every other year show, swapping years with ProMat, its sister show. Wavelink will follow up with all the activity MODEX generated, but we are already looking forward ProMat in Chicago next year!

The Enterprise Mobility Mix – Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices

The Mix of Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices in the Enterprise

Has your experience at retail stores been different lately?  Or perhaps you’ve had a different experience at a medical facility?  Maybe your own work has changed recently.  A significant change across industries has been in the number and types of mobile devices being used by all sorts of workers.  Whether you’ve completed a sales transaction by signing on a smartphone, or checked in at your doctor’s office using a tablet, there is no denying that mobile devices are proliferating in enterprise use cases.

In most mission-critical mobility deployments, enterprises have deployed rugged mobile computers.  Consider the devices carried by parcel couriers, stockroom workers and others.  There’s an obvious need for durability, so that these mobile computers can withstand frequent drops, extreme temperatures, and in some situations, hazardous environments (think oil rigs).  Technologies that help these workers accomplish their tasks include advanced data capture capabilities, such as barcode scanning, RFID, and perhaps payment transaction capabilities.

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

As consumers, we don’t often interact with these workers as they complete their tasks.  The use cases are not typically consumer-facing.  However, there is an increasing contingent of enterprises that are placing more mobility into the hands of workers who are visible, and directly interacting with consumers.  These workers are still performing mission-critical activities – particularly in revenue generating roles, for the enterprise.

Over the past few years, companies have explored the evolving smartphone and tablet options for these workers.  In some cases, the benefits of these consumer-grade devices have proven not to be the best fit for the business, due to fragility, theft, or other limitations.  These enterprises have generally opted to revert to the familiar – the rugged mobile computers that are likely being used in traditional task-based use cases.  By contrast, there are enterprises across industries that have chosen and successfully deployed consumer smartphones and tablets into consumer-facing use cases.

There is no denying the selection of enterprise mobility hardware has expanded significantly over the last five years.  Whether going with traditional, rugged mobile computers, or consumer-grade devices, it is exciting to see the accelerated adoption of mobility across enterprises – especially as it gets into the hands of the workers with whom we, as consumers, interact.  However, this also creates a new IT challenge: Some workers are carrying rugged mobile computers, others have consumer devices.  There is overlap in applications and content access as well.  For all these users, there is a bottom line benefit to their mobile productivity.  Fortunately, Wavelink Avalanche is there to be able to ensure all these users – task-oriented and customer-facing, are optimally productive.

Chances are Good you Already have a Voice-ready App in Production but Didn’t know it! – Part 2

This is the second blog in a two part series on the benefits, and the quick and easy install, of Wavelink Speakeasy.

After all of the updates have been made to your system, it is time to demonstrate Speakeasy in your environment.

We recommend bringing up two workers initially; first someone who is a capable worker at the enabled function should be introduced to the system. Since we are using your software, they won’t need a lot of training, and will be familiar with the terminology, methodologies, and work steps used in the system. These first workers typically show a 25-35% improvement after the first couple days of using the system.

The second worker should be someone who is a marginal worker, someone who can barely make work standards. Once enabled and onto the production floor, we have found these workers to gain a 60-75% increase in productivity while reducing errors to <1%, and improving safety. Since their eyes are off the display of their device and are on where they are going or the items they are working with, their incidents of crashes and accidents drop off dramatically.

Wavelink has discovered that reduced training time of new workers is a huge side benefit, often reducing training times for new employees from days or weeks down to hours or even a single day.

Most customers that install Speakeasy roll out quickly, and add in other voice functions soon after their initial installation. Since changes and updates can be made in minutes moving to other facilities can follow the same 30 day or less process as the original facility and be receiving their return on investment before competitive systems can even get a test client out for basic validation.

The differentiators our customers and partners see in Speakeasy systems from traditional solutions include:

  1. All of the voice function is on the mobile computer device, and the speech function is speaker independent. That means no new servers or WLAN infrastructure is required to support Speakeasy voice.
  2. Customers can use their choice of mobile computer devices, not proprietary hardware required by the speech vendor, reducing their acquisition cost and ongoing maintenance costs and fees.
  3. Speakeasy allows for multimodal data entry, which means workers can input using voice, scanning, key presses, or even screen taps, however you choose. Any single method or combination you specify can be supported by Speakeasy. Adding or deleting a method is easier than you can imagine.
  4. There is no corporate system integration or middleware required. Speakeasy eliminates the complexity of system implementation. In fact if you monitor the traffic between your mobile computer and host systems, there will be NO CHANGE when you add Speakeasy to your corporate data systems.
  5. You more than likely already have productivity measurement systems in place to monitor and manage your mobile workers. NO CHANGES are required to continue to use those systems. Why would you pay someone for ANOTHER new monitoring system when either you have one in place, or your WMS or ERP provider offer one specifically for their system.
  6. Since Speakeasy is confined to the mobile device, it won’t run up huge data bills on public networks. Your web app can easily adapt to Speakeasy and allow your field mobility workers speech applications using the same application you have employed today.

In closing, one of the biggest problems Wavelink has to overcome is that Speakeasy voice systems sound too good to be true. I challenge anyone who wants to make their workforce more productive, more accurate, and safer to contact their Wavelink rep today!

Chances are Good you Already have a Voice-ready App in Production but Didn’t know it! – Part 1

This is the first in a two part series on the benefits, and the quick and easy install, of Wavelink Speakeasy. 

Everyone involved in warehousing or distribution center operations knows there is a clear, sharp focus on increasing productivity and accuracy. The market is full of companies that offer optimizing solutions, but most want you to throw away most of what you have and start over. The Wavelink solution, Speakeasy, is a lot of fun to bring to the market because it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, allowing you to capitalize on the system you have spent so much time optimizing and training your employees to use.

It may come as a surprise to you, but chances are good that if you are in warehousing, distribution, or even manufacturing that your system is already a voice solution. If your systems offer a terminal emulation (telnet) or web interface Wavelink can show you that you already own a voice solution. It will lead to increased productivity, improved accuracy, and a safer work environment to save you in many ways.

Wavelink’s promotion of Speakeasy says that you can have a speech solution in place in 30-days or less. For most in the industry that sounds too good to be true because traditional systems require a lot of analysis, coding, integration with host based systems, testing and validation, and then training for users and systems support staffers.

With traditional voice systems, IT typically has to be deeply involved to install the required servers, verify the WLAN can carry the extra new traffic the voice systems create, and then resolve all of the extra new issues with feeds to corporate IT systems. Things like the productivity measurement systems you use today will likely go out the door to be replaced by something new from your voice provider.

If a spec is slightly off mark or a process changes between the time of spec and implementation the process grows longer and most of these steps need to be repeated. Some traditional voice implementations can drag on for years before customers can either add more functions or move to additional facilities even though they run the same corporate IT systems.

The Wavelink Speakeasy voice implementation method starts the same way, but the end is very different and in a very good way.

Speakeasy in ActionThe initial engagement is a study of your current programs and methods used in your operations. An analyst will perform an interview over a day or two to learn about the methods you use, and how your workers work in your systems. They will seek to learn the standard methods, and identify the exceptions of what happens when things go wrong or off the standard track.

Your application screens, workflow, and error messages will be captured with Wavelink tools. Each step of your process is captured to help integrate voice into your application to optimize the voice enablement.

Depending on the complexity of your systems, this interview and the analysis can take a week to 2 weeks. The result is a WebEx type meeting where the captured processes are walked through. The processes are verified, solutions are proposed and demonstrated, and the voice enablement of your current system is displayed before your eyes and ears. You have freedom to modify anything being discussed with a goal of locking down your application flow.

The changes you discuss are reviewed and a follow up meeting is set with a goal for one more WebEx discussion, and then the initial validation in your facilities on your systems in 2-3 weeks.

Once the updates are made to your satisfaction and the dates are set, it is time to demonstrate the system in your environment. Since we use your system, there is no huge cutover to a new system, we can test and validate with one worker in your current production environment. All of the work is done on the device, so your systems won’t even know a worker is using voice.

Visit us on Friday, February 28th for the second part in this series – How employees are brought on board and all the additional benefits, including reduced training, Speakeasy brings in 30-days or less. 

How to Score a Winning Touchdown for your BYOD Policy

It’s a final nod to American football references from me (at least until the draft in May), but consider the requirements of an enterprise mobility policy: there are a lot of parts that need to be considered to make a deployment successful, similar to a championship winning team. When the strategy is thorough and the numerous “what-if” scenarios are played out, success is far more likely than for a team that doesn’t plan.

BYOD, like any other component of an enterprise IT strategy, needs to be strategically implemented for the best results. Just as no individual player on a team is greater than the team, BYOD should not be viewed individually; so as not to exclude other mobility initiatives across the enterprise.

To continue the “BYOD as an athlete” analogy, BYOD needs to be a versatile, balanced policy. This means that it needs to support all the leading mobile operating systems equally (or at least as equally as Google, Apple, and Microsoft allow). It needs to enable the mobile worker to be optimally productive – regardless of their hardware selection.

However, as a component of a larger enterprise mobility strategy, BYOD needs to be deployed in a manner that unifies it with the requirements of complementary mobility components – like teammates. For example, managing BYOD should be unified with the solution for managing other mobility hardware deployed within the company – such as rugged mobile devices used at the loading dock, in the warehouse, etc. Why would an enterprise want a different console for managing BYOD? A separate management system specific to BYOD creates the kind of friction synonymous with a self-interested player on touchdown refthe football team – disruption, confusion, and complexity, as IT administrators need to toggle screens and systems just for BYOD users.

The big play that scores points with IT administrators and mobile users is to deploy BYOD policies in a common enterprise mobility management solution like Wavelink Avalanche.  Doing so enables enterprises to unify the management of all their mobile deployments. It enables BYOD support without compromising the support that mission critical mobility users need. Want to throw the winning touchdown? Using Wavelink Avalanche also allows for management of the entire enterprise deployment – all enterprise mobile devices (BYOD, rugged mobile computers, etc.), mobile applications and content access, network infrastructure, and printers. That’s a game plan that will enable maximum worker productivity, and maybe earn you a ride on the shoulders of your fellow IT administrators and mobility users.

ROI of the Mobile Worker

Over the past several months, I’ve been listening to the way customers describe their return on mobility investments.  The answers are impressive.  Answers range from increases in worker speed of task completion, to task accuracy, to month to recognize complete return on dollar investments, reductions in man-hours for cyclical process completions, reductions in seasonal headcounts, reductions in worker training time, and more.  The measurements of return on mobility investment are impressive percentages and yield significant dollar-value savings to each of the companies I’ve heard from.LXE Mobile Devices

What is really interesting is how companies can measure their return on investment in such vast and different ways. In some cases, the measure is dollars saved by reducing errors.  In others, it is increased shipments that yield additional dollars per package shipped.  In still others, the savings is recognized by a reduction in seasonal labor, or less worker hours dedicated to completing a specific task.  Whatever the measurement, there are two things that remain true: Every measurement ties to a dollar-value savings that can prove a mathematical return on investment for the dollars spent enabling mobility.  Even more importantly, the measurement each company used to describe their ROI told far more about the problem each was attempting to solve.

Enterprises deploy mobility to achieve a higher level of productivity, but it is not done just for the sake of using mobile technology. There is an underlying pain that the company is trying to address – some way of improving a process to gain efficiency, or to recognize a cost savings.  There is a problem to be solved by deploying mobility – and one recommended approach to begin defining the best mobility solution is to start with an operations audit that can help find the weaknesses and inefficiencies in current processes.  By adding automation and voice-enablement, Wavelink Speakeasy has consistently shown productivity gains for mobile supply chain workers of over 35%. That’s like getting an extra day of productivity from every worker – for every three days worked. Now that’s a fast ROI!

What problems are you aiming to solve with mobility in your enterprise? What measurements are you tracking to determine ROI?  Email me with your objectives at: robert.destefano@wavelink.com