Mobile Technologies Help Cut Costs and Make Users More Productive

We are probably all alike in dealing with the current economic crisis. We don't control the situation, but we have to live with it and, with any luck, find a way to continue to thrive. One way that many organizations will fight the effects of the economic downturn is by finding more efficient ways of doing what they have to do. And an area where this might clearly express itself is with the use of mobile technologies.

First of all, we know that mobile devices themselves are becoming more powerful and more prevalent all the time. This trend is driven in part by sexy devices such as the iPhone 3G and BlackBerry Storm as well as the consumerization of IT—that is, IT choices being driven by consumer (end user) demand. Can you watch an hour of evening TV without getting more commercials for these things than you can stomach?

While these devices in themselves can potentially have a positive effect on worker productivity, managing an organization's mobile devices has probably never been more complicated. John Smolucha, vice president of marketing and product management for Môvero Technology, said, "Based on the interactions we have with our clients, we are very confident when we say that history repeats itself, and the wave of pain that IT organizations experienced when laptop computers and personal computers were introduced following the mainframe era is going to be repeated all over again as mobile devices continue to populate the enterprise."

Môvero Technology provides mobile device management services. Rather than simply wireless expense management, Môvero's Maestro platform offers mobile device lifecycle management—everything from device testing and deployment to monitoring and management and, eventually, replacement and decommissioning. Yes, you can get help with billing, too.

Outsourcing IT functions naturally raises concerns about loss of inhouse IT jobs and things such as data security. If it's any comfort, Môvero points out that all their support technicians are trained, certified, and based in the United States. If your IT department doesn't already have mobility experts on staff, outsourcing these functions might prove to be a cost-effective move.

"Wireless is just the new frontier for these companies," Melanie Gray, president and CEO of Môvero, said. "Even in this economy there's an ROI around outsourcing that's always existed, right? We can help you standardize and manage and control \[your mobile devices\] and perhaps even reduce your expenses. Companies are jumping all over this."

So, better mobility management, perhaps through outsourcing, is one key to running smarter. Another company, Vangard Voice Systems, is finding a way to make workers more productive with their mobile devices. As the company's name suggests, its focus is on voice technology through its Mobile Voice Platform (MVP).

As Vangard CEO Bob Bova said, "Our whole goal was to allow developers to add speech to their applications in not what I would consider the traditional technical fashion, which is of course very large servers in the background." Instead, MVP is installed on the mobile device, requiring only a small footprint of 6 to 8 megabytes to enable voice-directed data capture. Virtually any application can be voice enabled with MVP. "It's nonintrusive. We make no changes. All you're doing is adding speech as an input method on a handheld device," Bova said.

The primary application for this technology at present seems to be in mobile applications, such as mobile inspection or inventory management systems, but the possibilities seem broad. Bova said that customers reported field calls that previously took 15 or 20 minutes could be accomplished in about 90 seconds using MVP. Instead of going onsite with paper forms or toting laptops, workers can instead use this voice technology with a mobile device to quickly input all necessary data.

Earlier this week, Vangard announced a partnership with IT solutions provider Agilysys to voice enable retail operations software. Bova said, "We're interested in business-to-business applications where people are doing work and they need to use their voice so they can keep their eyes and their hands free so they can do their job. They can talk to the application and it can talk to them, and they can input the data and hit Send." Bova also notes improved worker safety as a product of this sort of "eyes free, hands free" system.

Voice technologies have been around a long time, but have typically not lived up to our Star Trek–inspired expectations. "It's something I think the market's been waiting for for a long time. And the biggest barrier to entry we have is that people don't believe that it works," Bova said. To convince you, Bova presents several video demonstrations of MVP in action on Vangard's website.

Vangard also provides SDKs and training to get customers up to speed with how to voice-enable their systems. "People now are understanding that if we can make their users more productive and more accurate," Bova said, "they can do a better job for their customers, which sometimes is their own company. We've never been busier."

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