36 posts categorized "User Requirements"


FirstNet RFP Marks Move to Modern Public Safety System

On Wednesday, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) released a much anticipated request for proposals (RFP) for the nationwide public safety LTE network. The Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract with a limit of $100 billion for a performance period of 25 years marks what FirstNet’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth describes as a “first of its kind public-private partnership”.  Proposals for the project are due by April 29th and many telecommunications carriers will likely enter the competition, which could prove profitable as any of the unused 20 MHz of 700MHz broadband spectrum will be left under the operator’s control. Moreover, the RFP highlights 16 key objectives requiring additional investments in a number of other auxiliary technologies to ensure network functionality.

Following the lead of other nations (United Kingdom and South Korea), the RFP is a crucial first step in the process of shepherding the American public safety system to modernity in an age of mobility and information. Over time, by increasing interoperable communications among first-responders and providing improved situational awareness with multimedia data, the network will inevitably revolutionize the way first-responders complete business processes and interact with one another and their communities. Moreover, FirstNet enables public safety workers to employ some of the very same technologies in the workplace that they are so comfortable with in their personal lives. In this way, the project is more than the development of infrastructure to support first-responder LTE use; with the RFP outlining the need to ensure user adoption, create a device and application ecosystem, and guarantee security among other objectives. For only with these tangential developments will the system work both technically and fundamentally to improve the effectiveness of first-responders and the lives of those they serve.

The success of the network ultimately depends on user-adoption, for a network without users, will be as effective as the current system albeit at a greater cost. To this end, devices operating on the network should meet industry work standards as well as ease-of-use expectations.  In particular, the RFP states that mobile devices should be “capable of gloved, one-handed, or hands-free operation as well as…multimedia and high-definition data transmission both from humans and machine-based sensors”. Fortunately, several mobile device and public safety equipment manufacturers—Sonim, Kyocera, Motorola, etc.—have developed Band-14 devices that live up to these requirements. Capable of dealing with rough work-conditions characteristic of the public safety industry, these devices also boast many of the features prevalent on consumer devices, thus reducing the learning curve often associated with custom-built rugged devices. In essence, FirstNet looks to improve the functionality and integrate further, a piece of equipment already deemed critical by many first-responders. Often used unofficially for acquiring contextual information, communicating with co-workers, or accessing organizational email, smartphones on a dedicated first-responder network are more likely to be integrated with back-end information systems and other personal safety equipment; thus increasing the productivity and effectiveness of a largely mobile workforce. 

As important, if not more important than a device ecosystem, a vibrant application ecosystem supplies the tools for modernizing workflows and providing first-responders with information fundamental to quick and appropriate decision-making. In particular, the RFP calls for the development of a “vibrant third-party applications developer community” and application store that will generate an “evolving portfolio of mobile and enterprise applications, as well as cloud services”. APCO International, the world’s largest public safety professional organization, understanding the importance of public safety mobile applications, created Appcomm.org in 2013. Initially listing 60 mobile applications dedicated to public safety, the site now provides access to over 200. First-responders can use these applications to improve their situational awareness, engage with the community, document evidence, and gain access to business-specific information in seconds. In this way, applications will undoubtedly change the way first-responders complete business processes by brokering access to important contextual information and enabling greater autonomy. Large and small software vendors alike have devoted resources to creating applications that address the unique needs of first-responders and encourage end-user adoption.

FirstNet’s RFP is intimidating with over 500 pages and 13 sections. This is indicative of the enormous scope of the LTE network project. With many individual moving parts vital to the success of the overall network, a strong and open relationship between U.S. agencies and the private sector is crucial. A number of early adopters—New Jersey, New Mexico, LA-RICS, Harris County—have provided test-cases for the large scale deployment that remains several years away. These experimental deployments should help develop guidelines and use-cases for how to best take advantage of the capabilities engendered in a dedicated first-responder LTE network. Moreover, the experiences of these communities should help mitigate obstacles such as balancing mobile security with usability. The network and the mobile devices on it will need strong security to protect the sensitive information housed on public safety networks. However, these security measures should be designed in a way that does not deter user-adoption or effectiveness. FirstNet will not be a panacea for all of the industry’s technical woes but rather is a stepping stone on the path to modernization; a path that will necessitate all communities buy into the benefits of mobility.

Written by Matthew Hopkins.  For more information, be sure to review our forthcoming Public Safety View discussing FirstNet developments, set to be released next month (February), or contact us at info@vdcresearch.com.  The author can be contacted directly at mhopkins@vdcresearch.com.


Warfare in the Age of Information and Mobility

In an upcoming military and defense report, VDC will examine the unique security, application, and hardware requirements for mobile devices employed among military users.

The phrase “fog of war” describes the general state of uncertainty surrounding military operations, and has been referenced frequently in military literature for over a century. Equipped with less than perfect information, military leaders use their best judgment and the little information they have to make decisions in the theatre of war. Generally, these gaps in knowledge, or situational awareness, occur on both sides of the battlefield, essentially offsetting one another. However, if one side does possess superior information, even in the slightest, then it could tip the scales of war. This logic largely supports the network-centric warfare doctrine, which argues that communication, computer, and IoT systems provide an operational and strategic advantage in war. More generally, a military receives a competitive advantage when they have the ability to collect, analyze, communicate, and act on information in a synchronized manner.   Millitary Blog Graphic 1

Abiding by the principles of network-centric warfare, militaries have researched, developed, and implemented a growing arsenal of information and communications technologies. The United States, the largest military spender, maintains a diminishing global lead in technological superiority. This lead is largely owed to astronomical spending and access to some of the most cutting-edge technology coming out of Silicon Valley and other high-tech geographical clusters located within the nation. Private sector companies have played, and will continue to play, an important role in developing products for command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) solutions. Procurement of commercial off-the-shelf-technology (COTS) has increased over the past decade owing largely to the private sector’s improved technical competency and the decrease of Western military budgets. Notably, this reduction in the West contrasts increased military expenditures in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions.

The investments in C4I technology include hardware, software, and networks; the three components interact with one another to produce insights and an operating picture necessary for informed decision-making. Crucial to ensuring this integration and interaction are mobile devices and applications, which provide soldiers and support-employees with the tools to distribute and act on information. In the most basic sense, these devices act as receptacles for mobile applications that serve as the gateway to data often stored behind organization firewalls. Tablets and smartphones now possess powerful computing capabilities in a mobile format, thus ensuring access to information anywhere and at anytime (assuming an available network is present). This value proposition has encouraged defense organizations to implement mobile devices in the field as well as in-and-outside the office. Imposed requirements such as general-use guidelines and enhanced security features including device management software and encryption help to reduce risks associated with mobility and are representative of a “secure enough” approach taken by many military organizations. This is the most feasible approach since completely impenetrable mobile devices are the stuff of science-fiction. The measures employed as part of this  approach increase security while maintaining functionality, and most agree that the gains of greater information distribution offset minimized security risks.

The Department of Defense’s mobile policy abides by these guidelines and includes an application store, which grants employees access to productivity enhancing, commercially available applications as well as line of business applications that enable business processes and access to organization data. Security measures differ based on whether an employee resides on the classified or unclassified network, but in general, the DoD acknowledges the trade-off between security and usability and has increased the footprint of devices under management to include popular consumer devices such as iPhones and Samsung Galaxy smartphones. While this type of enterprise-use is fairly common throughout the private-sector albeit with greater security measures, the field use-cases for mobile devices are certainly unique.

Millitary Blog Graphic 2The U.S. Army’s Nett Warrior system uses consumer-grade Android smartphones to arm individual soldiers with enhanced situational awareness and communication capabilities on the battlefield. This use-case falls directly in line with the network-centric warfare doctrine since it facilitates informed decision-making in an arena in which judgments must be made quickly and frequently involve life and death decisions. Operating on radio networks, these devices provide details on friendly as well as enemy troop locations, and allow soldiers to send text communications to one another. Perhaps most importantly, this system serves as a platform on which more applications can be built; increasing the capabilities of soldiers and improving their effectiveness in the field while reducing risks associated with uninformed decision-making. As tactical radio networks evolve and mobile device technology becomes more powerful, soldiers will essentially have access mini computers in the field. Therefore, this device will not only improve communications with command and control and among soldiers, but will also serve as an interface for data garnered from numerous sensors on the battlefield and satellites in the sky.

Militaries face a number of obstacles—budgets, fragmentation, and legacy technologies—that inhibit their use of modern technologies. Nonetheless, these organizations have made great strides in incorporating mobility within the past few years alone. The idea of equipping individual soldiers with consumer-grade mobile devices in the field for communications and situational awareness would have seemed ludicrous to many only a few years ago; yet Nett Warrior now embodies these ideas. VDC expects “lowest price technologically acceptable” acquisitions to increase the competitiveness of commercial vendors and even consumer-grade products in some instances. Only time will tell whether these devices are suitable for military use-cases as insights into failure rates in mission-critical environments are currently unavailable. While policies and requirements for mobile devices will undoubtedly change to reflect evolving technologies and use-cases, the increasing role of mobile devices in this space is inevitable. Military leaders view information as a transformative tool on and off the battlefield, and mobility is a crucial component for transmitting and accessing this resource.

Written by Matthew Hopkins and David Krebs.  For more information, be sure to review our forthcoming full military/defense report, set to be released next month (January), or contact us at info@vdcresearch.com.  The author can be contacted directly at mhopkins@vdcresearch.com.


The Postal-Courier Industry’s Looming Technological Challenge

The postal-courier industry, in the midst of market changes, will need to grapple with a significant technological challenge looming on the horizon. The delivery of goods is an expensive proposition that requires significant capital investments and a large supply of labor. Technology, in the form of handheld devices and delivery software, works to create an efficient process that enables companies to minimize costs and maximize revenues. The handhelds used by delivery personnel include a number of important capabilities—bar code scanning, messaging, GPS—that help facilitate workflows. From enabling track and trace to obtaining proof of delivery, the current use-cases for these devices are plentiful. As the expectations of consumers grow and their desire for greater personalization increases; postal-courier organizations will need to heavily rely on these devices to transfer real-time data between all parties involved in a transaction. Moreover, postal-courier organizations attempting to expand their service offerings to offset declining mail volumes and differentiate themselves from the competition will employ handheld devices and new applications to complete additional business processes. To this end, upgrading to a new, more modern operating system helps organizations expand into auxiliary, customer-facing services.

Today’s Operating System

While several postal-courier organizations have chosen smartphones as their delivery device, the vast majority have opted for ruggedized enterprise mobile computers. Over 80% of these devices run on legacy Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile 6.x platforms. These legacy systems are particularly well-suited for enterprise devices and applications due to their customizable nature and strong ecosystems of solution providers developing applications. Moreover, comprehensive lifecycle support from Microsoft and OEM partners provides further value-add for these platforms. However, Microsoft ended meaningful support for Windows Mobile 6.x in January 2015, and support for Embedded CE will end shortly; with Microsoft only providing security patches for the platforms through 2020. As a result, over the course of the next few years, postal courier organizations will need to transition to a new operating system. 

Postal Courier Blog Image


In theory, the logical next step would be to transition to the most recent iteration of Windows without needing to implement any serious changes. However, the situation is far more complicated than that; leaving many organizations debating their next steps.

The Path Forward

With the deadline of 2020 fast approaching, companies must begin evaluating their options regarding hardware, operating system, and software. In choosing an OS for next generation enterprise handheld devices, the decision comes down largely to the consumer heavyweight, Android, or the enterprise incumbent, Microsoft. However, with Microsoft having failed to deliver a desirable operating since the release of Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in 2011; some in the industry have moved to the Android operating system with its modern features and capabilities.

Android does not represent a perfect solution. Designed for the consumer space, the operating system lacks many of the security and management features of Windows as well as the substantial base of enterprise developers and OEMs supporting it. Nonetheless, Android’s enterprise user-base has grown steadily over the past few years, coinciding with improvements in the OS’s enterprise functionality. All leading rugged OEMs now offer an Android option, and several view this operating system as the way forward for the industry. Moreover, many ISVs that previously supported legacy Windows systems have shifted their R&D focus to Android (and iOS). This growing portfolio of Android devices and enterprise applications serves as justification for many to switch to this OS in light of Microsoft offering no suitable alternative.

Microsoft’s hopes to regain its market share, or at the very least stop the flow of users away from Windows, lie with its new OS for enterprise handheld devices—Windows 10 IoT Core. Postal-courier organizations, specifically those in the United States, have a pent up demand for a Windows solution, albeit having been burned by Microsoft in the past. Failing to deliver a Windows 7 solution and releasing an unsuitable solution in Windows 8; confidence among those in the space is waning. Windows 10, with its cross-device functionality and enterprise features could meet this demand. However, the release continues to be delayed, incentivizing those in need of a more immediate upgrade to switch to Android. Continued delays, or the release of an incomplete product, would further spur Android adoption, essentially sealing Microsoft’s fate in the rugged enterprise space.

What about the Apps?

Devices and operating systems play an important role in the completion of business processes, but applications/software are the last piece of the puzzle. Most organizations either develop their applications internally or outsource the process, but either way, the finished applications provide the key to performing tasks in the field. Unfortunately, postal-courier organizations planning an OS transition will also need an application-transition plan. For regardless of OS choice, organizations will need to recode old applications or develop new ones.

Windows 8 and 10 are not backwards compatible with legacy Windows systems, and a move to Android or iOS will similarly require recoding. This process, in most cases, will be expensive and cumbersome. If the company has the technological resources, they may complete the project in-house; however, most organizations will likely need to outsource at least some of the project. There are a number of tools on the market, such as Xamarin or iFactr, which enable cross platform development, and essentially provide organizations with a bridge to their next OS. Microsoft is also providing hooks from Visual Studio (VS) to the Xamarin platform making it easier to leverage existing .NET and C# skillsets to support development on Android or iOS. Moreover, we expect many in the industry to use this period as an opportunity to modernize applications that have been in service for decades.

The Bottom Line

Handheld devices play an instrumental role in the postal courier market now and moving forward. The next few years mark a period of mass transition of the likes never seen in the postal courier industry, and the lack of leadership by Microsoft creates an environment of uncertainty. However, this period also marks a moment of opportunity for organizations to modernize their systems and applications. The path taken today will largely dictate the quality of enterprise mobility capabilities tomorrow.

Written by Matthew Hopkins and David Krebs.  For more information, be sure to review our forthcoming full postal-courier report, set to be released this month (November), or contact us at info@vdcresearch.com.  The author can be contacted directly at mhopkins@vdcresearch.com.


The Mobile Managed Service Market - Catering to the SMB vs. Large Enterprise

MMS Adoption Drivers

While mobile technology’s influx has pervaded small and large organizations alike, fundamental mobility challenges, program requirements and internal resource capacities vary substantially based on organization size. Successful mobile MSPs will be those able to recognize and identify the key differentiations between adoption of mobile managed services in the SMB versus the large enterprise.

Each passing day, the capacity to forego mobility support in its entirety is disappearing as an option for large enterprises. At the very least, an evolving mobile threat landscape is driving demand for systems assessment and security technologies. And yet, while VDC’s survey revealed security as the most prominent driver of mobile managed services procurement among large enterprise organizations, employee satisfaction was not far behind, with over 60% of these IT decision makers indicating enhanced employee satisfaction as a chief objective. Large enterprises are increasingly hard-pressed to exploit mobile technologies as a means to drive employee satisfaction, productivity and competitive advantage. The complexity inherent to integrating mobile technologies and strategy with back-end enterprise architecture and legacy systems means we can expect mobile managed services procurement to grow as large enterprises’ develop more long-term mobile strategies. Penetration of this market will require vendor flexibility, and the ability to offer hybrid service solutions to meet organizations’ support requirements and budget limitations.

With fewer resources and less sophisticated mobile initiatives, the SMB market for mobile managed services is comparatively untapped in comparison with the Fortune 500 market. Yet as more advanced mobile applications enter the market, we see competitive strategies emerge as the leading driver behind mobile managed services adoption. At minimum, support of flexible BYOD policies expands the technological resources available to employees while demanding little in the way of capital expenses. SMB companies are looking for managed services vendors to serve as “trusted advisors,” partnering with the internal IT managers to ensure delivery of fundamental mobile management solutions capable of securing company data, while enabling employees and customers a degree of flexibility in their employment of mobile technologies.


Mobile Payments Market Getting More Crowded In Americas Market

Last week, Sweden’s iZettle announced that it is expanding out of Europe and bringing its mobile
payments system to Mexico. The news did not come as a total shock, given the announcement from earlier this month that announced the partnership between iZettle and the Spanish bank Banco Santander with Santander’s €5M ($6.6M USD)  investment in this Swedish start up. Along with this partnership, iZettle had gained access to Santander’s customers in the United Kingdom. Even though the investment looked relatively small in comparison to the funding that Square has received – the most recent one being $200M in Q3 2012 – it is very significant since Mexico marks iZettle’s first
non-European market and is also a market where Square is not participating in. With so many people knowing iZettle as Square’s “European cousin”, this bold move could very well be just a stepping stone to the Swedish company in their plan to further expand into Americas market.

Trying to conquer the Latin America market does come with a price though. iZettle had to develop a new device which is kind of like an all-in-one type of solution for all platforms to enable the company to process payment both through chip-based and mag-stripe based solutions. The cost of tweaking its solution was reflected through an increase in its transaction fees from its flat 2.75% fee in Europe to 3.75% for chip-based transactions and 4.75% for mag-stripe based transactions in Mexico. Likewise, the reader is also being sold for about $40 to the merchants except to the Banco Santander customers who will be getting a discount. The opportunity, on the other hand, is also massive given the majority of the business in Mexico being small and medium-sized enterprises that could likely prefer buying such readers over investing in more traditional payment solutions. According to iZettle’s CEO, 95% of the cards in Mexico are chip-enabled. Just like the fact that this is seen as a key reason for Square not yet moving to European market, this could very well be an important factor that is keeping the company away from expanding into Mexican market. iZettle already had presence in multiple country markets in Europe – including UK, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany – while Square’s operations are limited to US, Canada and Japan following a recent expansion.

While Square continues to take its time before moving into the Latin America market, the competitive landscape is definitely getting more crowded in this sub-region. Some strong players include Zoop in Brazil and Mobiliz in Mexico. Though it is not certain which country markets these companies will expand into next, there is also start ups like Clip, which raised $1.5M funding with its Square-like solution that will be primarily focused on the needs and requirements of the Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico. Albeit it is still too early to tell which companies will be “winning” at the end, forming strategic partnerships with “local” leaders does seem to make entering new country markets a little less challenging for these start ups.


Can Apple Devices Rough the Rugged DSD Market?

According to a recent article from Mobile Enterprise Magazine, PepsiCo’s North American Beverages division has adopted Apple products into its Direct Store Delivery system. Not only are roughly 4,000 field merchandisers equipped with iPhones and 2,000 field managers with iPads, but PepsiCo has gone a step further and developed two iOS apps entirely in-house through its technology group:


  • Enables merchandisers to view schedules, store and display details
  • Notifies merchandisers of driver arrival
  • Displays store details and account information

Manager’s Briefcase

  • Enables managers to coordinate and monitor deliveries, schedules and contracts
  • Displays pricing and planograms
  • Provides electronic versions of paperwork and automated notifications to merchandisers
Picture2This unprecedented move is sure to shake the DSD market, which is characterized by mature processes, long upgrade cycles and heavy reliance on legacy rugged devices. While consumer grade technologies have slowly but surely trickled into markets ranging from retail and healthcare to education and insurance, DSD organizations’ risk aversion and reliance on mature processes has thus far stunted adoption of smartphones and tablets in the DSD space.  PepsiCo’s move to implement iOS devices is even more risky given the considerable capital investment required to purchase solutions, integrate with existing (Windows-based) systems and train mobile workers. However, according to Brian Spearman (SVP of Go-To-Market and Service, PepsiCo North America Beverages), PepsiCo is seeing early success with this program, estimating that the new iOS apps save each employee an impressive 6 hours a week.

Use of Power4Merch and Manager’s Briefcase has actually increased the operational efficiency of the DSD system by facilitating real time communication, leveraging data, and eliminating the need for printed information such as schedules and order quantities.

Beyond facilitating advances in operational efficiency, DSD organizations are increasingly looking at consumer grade technologies as a means to enhance their brand and image in customer-facing merchandising activities. Devices such as the iPad are generally more visually appealing as well as easier to operate than traditional rugged devices. They boast high resolution and larger screens, making sales presentations and customer/end-user surveying activities more intuitive and effective. Further, many DSD drivers are already familiar with operating consumer grade technology, and companies may find it more cost-effective to leverage personal devices instead of those purchased by the company. These are clear advantages that could drive a shift towards consumer grade devices in the DSD market.


A recent VDC survey of DSD IT decision-makers revealed that those in this price sensitive market feel that ruggedized devices may be overpriced relative to the value they provide. And yet, rugged vendors emphasize the total cost of device ownership, citing additional costs to manage and support consumer grade devices throughout their lifecycle (e.g. repairs, OS updates, and replacement cycle).  To address growing interest in the tablet form factor in the DSD market, vendors such as Panasonic and Motorola have been working to develop rugged tablets capable of utilizing apps and increasing operational efficiency as well. In the end, consumer grade devices are sure to make an entrance into the DSD market, albeit slow and cautious. Whether they will prosper will be determined when the first iPhone falls two inches to the ground and shatters. 

Stay tuned for more insights into the DSD Market.  VDC's Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Practice will be publishing its annual Direct Store Delivery Report by end of Q2.


Exploiting Enterprise Mobility to Address Pain Points in Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturing organizations are using mobile solutions to give their increasingly mobile workforce access to real-time data on the go. Demand for increased visibility of assets, execution of business remotely, and goals to improve sales and customer service are some of the factors behind increasing adoption of enterprise mobility solutions among manufacturers.

Whether they are involved in process or discrete manufacturing, majority of the manufacturing organizations are highly receptive towards mobilizing traditional manufacturing applications such as asset management, shop floor management, field service and field sales management.

Here are some enterprise mobility investment drivers in manufacturing industry:

Give anytime anywhere access to employees. Besides gains in productivity and efficiency, the employees are looking to better communicate and collaborate, as well as making decisions on the go based on the real-time information available to them.

Enterprise applications remain to be the heart and soul of manufacturing. While manufacturing industry has been slow in making the transition to mobility (in comparison to the other vertical market segments), the process is expected to be much more smooth from now on since the traditional enterprise application vendors (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Infor, Epicor, etc) are on board. VDC anticipates more modules/ suites from these applications (e.g. ERP, CRM, MES, WMS, etc) to be mobilized in addition to the modules like Expense Management that lead the way in making the shift to mobile.

Jump on the mobility bandwagon now, if you haven’t already done so. Organizations have started to view mobility as an extension of their core processes and functions within the manufacturing environment. Inventory management, for example has been an application that many manufacturing organizations are using in their warehouses and DCs.


Sprint Bets on "Everything is Connected" with Velocity

On November 29 at the L.A. Auto Show, Sprint announced a new product dubbed Velocity that is an in-vehicle communications platform for automotive manufacturers. The in-dashboard product will have capabilities to deliver music, news, weather, sports and other infotainment features, security, navigation, remote connections for mobile devices, emergency services and engine diagnostics. Sprint will support global deployment via its many partnerships with multiple network providers, and let a customer connect an embedded head unit or mobile phones to applications like voice-activated texting and e-mail. Automotive OEMS will have the option of taking either a modular approach to meet custom needs, or use the product as a turnkey solution.

By partnering with technology providers such as Airbiquity and Wireless Car, Sprint is significantly reducing the development, integration, and selection requirements faced by an automotive OEM for this type of technology. It also opens up the range of products that Sprint offers in the machine-to-machine segment and positions itself at the high end of the value chain among the technology providers supporting the Velocity product.

For automotive manfacturers, it really provides three key opportunities:  the potential for higher margins for vehicle dealers; product differentiation; reducing the complexity of supply chain; and utilizing a business model that delivers effective cost and quality for the product.

As a network provider, Sprint expands its product line-up with a higher value machine, and positions itself well in the market and supply chain as well as providing another revenue stream via a billing service to the machine. In addition, the product aids automotive OEMs by reducing complexity in the supply chain. However, this does bring to the forefront a question of how many subscription services is the "connected" customer willing to pay? As consumers or enterprises continue to acquire and support multiple devices, the burden of paying for service on these devices is going to increase. In most scenarios, these different subscriptions are using data for various services. Network providers need to evaluate their business model, and think about billing based on access versus billing by each individual device. Future service plans need to be built around network access and data consumption versus device connections.

Similar to the product Sprint is bringing to the market, in 2007, Ford Motor Company launched a factory-installed, integrated in-vehicle communications and entertainment system called SYNC. The SYNC system runs on the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system designed by Microsoft and consists of applications and user interfaces developed by Ford and third-party developers. SYNC is only available in Ford products, and some features of the product are limited in markets outside the United States due to compatibility issues, in particular, voice command services such as turn-by-turn directions in Canada.

Sprint's new product certainly reflects the future of "everything is connected", and is a glimpse of what the world of machine-to-machine may deliver. To be competitive the product needs to ensure  seamless integration:  the ease of upgrading operating system software for vehicle radio, and navigation systems as well as applications; a high level of functionality; and supporting features and functions of mobile field workers in different industries. If Sprint can deliver the highest level of functionality in areas such as navigation and web browsing, it has an opportunity to edge out current technologies such as Bluetooth that many drivers employ to access some of the same functionality provided by in-vehicle communication platforms, and users that have been accessing similar capabilities via mobile phone or tablets in their vehicle.


When and Where for HTML5?

Even before Facebook declared, "The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native.", there had been much debate about the viability of developing mobile applications on HTML5. When an e-mail came to a colleague with the message:  Don't Miss Out:  Try our new NYTimes Web App for iPad free; my thoughts were, hey, here's a web app being boldly promoted by a content leader formerly known for a native app.

VDC has never seen HTML5 as a panacea for developing applications that can deploy on any device. For the enterprise, the challenge is understanding the needs of the user to determine if a native or web application (see our full report, Mobile Development Platforms http://bit.ly/i3C8x1) is the most suitable path to get the job done. What essential requirements should be evaluated to determine the path for mobile application development?

Nearly as important as cost considerations, are the technical and functional requirements of the application, which we consider the most significant drivers for selecting a native, web app, or a hybrid development approach. The enterprise needs to align the end-user requirements with the business need to drive the decision-making process.


Whether your mobile strategy is looking to increase revenues, expand markets, compete directly, play catch-up in the market; or some other goal; be sure to balance the needs of the user with the priority of the mobile opportunity for the end-user. One of the most frequent comments about HTML is that it's not robust enough to create "stickiness" with customers. (Limited capabilities in supporting advanced device features available by a native OS such as integrating data from the app into the phone, push notifications, update calendars, etc.) For a content provider, like the NYTimes, is it essential to provide these features, or is it enough to start with a mostly digital version of their paper with some other features? Whether it is or not, it meets a user requirement for a web app.

To determine technical and functional requirements, again, the user profile should lead the evaluation, but within mobile parameters. Given the nature of mobile (a small screen, gaps in connectivity), the enterprise does not necessarily need to replicate a desktop application on mobile. If the browser (as a "container") cannot connect with core device-side features, what will be the impact in a mobile environment for the user? Is a camera, or microphone paramount to the user experience?

Other companies such as LinkedIn and Walmart have taken a hybrid approach, which allows access to some hardware device features, and does not limit application development to only one platform. As a content providers, one guiding parameter for mobile strategy is reaching all users.

Is The New York Times using this app to evaluate HTML5? Probably. Does it accelerate customer penetration on mobile devices? Yes. Does it give them the user experience to launch other web apps in the future? Definitely, and the "middleman" (and their revenue share) are taken out of the equation.

What parameters are you seeing for native versus web approach? What features if made available on HTML could displace a native approach?


Requirements are Changing in Field Mobility

VDC Research recently published Strategic Insights 2012: Field Mobility Solutions Report as part of its Enterprise Mobility Vertical & Applications Markets Research Service. Some key findings from this research include:

Hardware requirements are changing in field mobility organizations - Both field service and field sales organizations are looking to deploy tablets as a result of the real estate that they can get from the large display size. While the notebooks used to dominate these markets (in terms of rugged large from factor devices), the portability element is making tablets a much viable choice. The trend with equipping mobile workers with multiple devices continue to receive traction. The demand for having a mobile device at the point of interaction with the customer in addition to an in-vehicle solution is on the rise.

Rugged value proposition is being re-evaluated - With the increaseing availability of user friendly devices that have touchscreen and broad app ecosystems, the value proposition of ruggedized solutions need to be redefined. While rugged form factor will continue to be used for some mission-critical workflows, BYOD trend has made its way into this market. End user requirements are changing the applications and mobile platforms are becoming more important than ever. Many rugged mobile device vendors as well as field mobility organizations are adopting multiple OS strategies where they are introducing or deploying Android-based devices.

Customer engagement is becoming a key differentiator - As they evaluate/ deploy enterprise mobility solutions, field mobility organizations are looking to gain improvements in customer service in addition to improvements in workforce productivity. Cross and up selling capabilities and improvements in first-time fix rates are critical for field sales and field service organizations respectively. Thus, client facing applications are receiving traction as these organizations are looking to gain higher customer retention rates.