Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 3 of 10
“How does the solution work if there is no network connectivity”
If may be hard to believe but wireless Wi-Fi and WWAN networks are not always available or reliable. In many scenarios your enterprise mobility app will need to be designed to contain all the business logic data and process it needs but residing on the handheld device itself. This enables functionality both online and offline by returning the unit back to a dock. Historically this is a common approach with .NET based devices. Same logic applies where Android or iOS are being used. Some apps like Direct Store Delivery are often used in physical environments where network access is spotty and going off to find coverage to compete a transaction would take too much time.
Where wireless or wired access is available mobile workers can communicate with host business systems in real-time. Make sure your remote app can automatically or on command send and receive queued transactions content and messages via a secure connection like Netmotion Mobility XE. Features such as this optimise user productivity while minimizing transmission costs.
The benefits of using Wireless either across Wi-Fi or WWAN are clear but make sure you allow for both on and off line scenarios.
Why Barcode is Still a Great Idea For Mobile Inventory
There cannot be many inventions that are so simple yet so effective as the humble barcode. It’s beauty lies in its simplicity, its strength lies in its flexibility. They enable quick and precise identification in all types of businesses which is why barcode is still a great idea for mobile inventory.
Just about every company and especially SME’s have had to get used to smaller profit margins and more competitive markets. Whatever your field based application be it Pest Control, Route Accounting Field Service or Facilities Management the inventory control of stock in vehicles and with workers in the field is a key area.
Getting a handle of what is in the field can be the first step to being able to control the costs of what is issued to mobile workers what they use and keeping track of what they return. Having the right items on hand when they are needed is an excellent way to avoid the additional costs that come from not being able to do a first time fix or having to re-visit days later. Using barcodes can help promote proper mobile inventory management.
5 Great Reasons To Barcode Mobile Inventory
Leverage your existing systems – scan items straight into your legacy system via a mobile app.
Increase Productivity – save time do more no more re-keying.
Promote Accuracy – lots of evidence that barcode data far more accurate than handwritten notes or forms.
Easy to use and highly portable – point scan, information recorded what could be simpler. Make one here. Read more about mobile printing.
Can be applied (!) to just about any surface, parts locations even bees!
Keeping track of things on paper is time consuming and manually entering inventory numbers on paper and then re-keying them into a database or spreadsheet is prone to error. Scanning a barcode reduces the administrative time it takes to track an item which will probably be keyed into a database system anyway. Scanning an item into stock and then moving it through the process from inventory to shipping to invoicing as well as ordering replacement stock can be automated saving time and reducing errors.
Barcodes are accurate and enhanced by positive product identification. Items cannot be misidentified by workers or customers reducing the opportunity for mix-ups or theft. Whenever there is a need to accurately identify or track something use a barcode!
Using barcodes is not a new idea but one that still has huge upside for businesses with inventory deployed in remote locations or in vehicles. It is not uncommon for a service engineer to be carrying around thousands of pounds worth of spare parts on a van with little or no ability to immediately reconcile what is present or what parts are on hand to deal with a call out. Same can be true in merchandising and pest control appliactions
Key Point: The low cost of equipment and consumables generate great additional benefits and superb levels of return on investment for your enterprise mobility project.
MobileWorxs Named MobileDemand International Partner of the Year
MobileDemand has selected MobileWorxs as International Partner of the Year for 2012. Headquartered in the UK MobileWorxs provides enterprise mobile solutions, applications implementation and support services for the in-field enterprise worker. MobileWorxs is MobileDemand’s go to partner across Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA). With key wins in the UK and throughout Europe MobileWorxs is deserving of this year’s International Partner of the year award.
MobileDemand is a leading provider of rugged tablet PC products that have an excellent Return on Investment ROI proposition when compared to conventional PDA devices. MobileDemand T7200 and T1200 xTablets are used by mobile workers in many industries including Van Sales, Facilities Management, transport and Logisitcs, Surveying, Manufacturing, Retail, Field Service, Military and Public Sector to cut operational costs and improve customer service.
MobileDemand xTablet Rugged Tablet PCs and accessories are built military rugged to withstand harsh environments. They deliver the power, reliable performance and long-term savings companies need to achieve greater efficiency and productivity in the field.
In 2012 MobileDemand earned the position of 1,034 on the 2012 Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest growing private companies. The company has built its success on a commitment to innovation everywhere – in product design, customer relationships and in its channel. President Matt Miller also received recognition as a finalist for the prestigious 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. MobileDemand. Innovation everywhere. Productivity anywhere. Additional information is available at www.RuggedTabletPC.com.
We can help you navigate your way through an enterprise mobility project. Get in touch to evaluate a unit or arrange a meeting.
Application designers should always aim to provide field workers with drop down and multiple choice menus for data entry. However where a process requires that a narrative should be added to a record using a keyboard is often unavoidable. As these devices are intended to be used on the move plugging in a desktop keyboard is not always practical. So in cases like this it’s good to know that there are some mobile rugged tablet PC keyboard options.
Users of rugged tablets are often stuck with using the on screen keyboard when the most ergonomic route may well be a numeric keypad, especially in high volume scenarios like surveying van sales and merchandising.
Both our T7200 and T1200 products feature an integrated numeric backlit and tactile numeric keypad that include programmable keys as well as Enter, up / down / left / right navigation, tab, escape,Security, rotate display, function key barcode scan and suspend/power Full Stop!
Also included is a built in decimal point/full stop key. Very useful where surveying and measurements are being recorded.
Windows 7 on Screen
In some situations a process may require an amount of data entry beyond numbers. Where narrative text needs to be inputted into a standard Windows product like Excel or a custom made app it is possible to use the on screen pop up keyboard that is part of Windows 7. Pecking out letters to transcribe lots of text can be a chore, the handwriting recognition software works fine but does take some getting used to. Best approach is to have your app designer adopt drop down value menus.
Resistive Multi-Touch with on Screen Keyboard Windows 8
The “Metro” interface of Windows 8 works best with multi-touch, but the capacitive touch technology used in consumer media tablets does not work with gloves or in the rain. So for the T1200 resistive multi-touch is used which means the device can be used in any operating condition. An on screen soft keyboard is supported and legacy applications with small screen elements and user check boxes can be precisely operated with a stylus. A built in keypad allows for direct entry of numeric data.
Snap On QWERTY Keyboard
A snap on keyboard that attaches to the bottom of a tablet can be a solution where text entry on the move is a major part of a process but using the on screen keyboard is not ergonomic. The addition is backlit and includes a number of extra ports. The snap on can be used in conjunction with a vehicle dock.
In Vehicle Cradle with Full Size PC Keyboard
Where an employee works out of a vehicle and they return to it to enter data a full size keyboard can be attached to the vehicle cradle. The unit can be adjusted to maximise ease of use for the operator.
Key Point; which input method will suit the application and the circumstances of the user?
To discuss how a Rugged Tablet PC can help enhance your mobile business processes.
Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications
When developing a project for your remote workers one consideration is how to incorporate mobile printing in enterprise mobility applications in the first place. Is there a need to print a receipt or report for the customer contact on site? There is a big choice of rugged mobile printers all of which provide different features and most importantly can print the correct label receipt or report you require.
Most people new to the enterprise mobile apps tend to think of having to carry a huge heavy printer. In fact mobile printers can be very small like the Zebra P4T clipping onto a belt or on a shoulder strap. They can also be very large printer fixed to the inside door of a van. It all depends on the size of label receipt you want to print.
One big question to ask is does a receipt or report need to be printed on site? For this scenario think of a civil enforcement officers Fixed Penalty Notice application when the vehicle or person in question must be issued a ticket on the spot. Otherwise if you have the customers email details why not just email a .PDF. In some cases a print at the point of service is not a definite requirement such as for parcel delivery companies who handle all documentation via email or online.
Two main types of Wireless Mobile Printer Technology
1. Thermal transfer has two main components. It uses a carbon ribbon, using heat to “transfer” the carbon onto the media (the receipt or label). The results on the printout are much crisper than the Direct Thermal but it does mean costs a greater as you’ll need to buy new ribbons and new media.
2. Direct Thermal printer uses carbon coated receipts/labels, again using heat, but this time to score an image into the media. There is only one major cost for this – buying media. The heated print head does wear out eventually as you’d expect, but it can last the life of the printer is most uses.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If labels/receipts are required to be hard wearing, scratch resistant, print high quality images i.e. 2D bar codes, long shelf life or in direct sunlight then Thermal Transfer is the best option. If basic layouts need to be printed, stored in plastic wallets or out of sunlight, only required for short periods, then Direct Thermal is the way to go.
Mobile Printing Media
“It all starts with the label…. “There are numerous types of media available – ranging from the very glossy, very hard wearing to the basic till receipts you get at most stores. They are available in almost every size you can think of and can be provided with pre-printed text on one side. Very useful for store return policies or payment details for a parking fine.
Wireless Mobile Printers for Direct Store Delivery and Van Sales
Impact printing is not used a great deal in many enterprise mobility projects other than route accounting or direct store delivery as it is called in some markets. Here the requirement is to print a full page receipt in some cases with multi part paper. Most of the above considerations still ring true – but what to use? An office printer would not be rugged enough. As far as we know Intermec are still building the 6822 a behemoth of a printer but very well suited to this environment.
Communicating with mobile printers is done in one of three ways; Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Direct Cable.
Bluetooth. Ideal for ad-hoc connections in the field, does not rely on anything else, can limited by distance and not considered the most stable connection. But this is the most popular choice for mobile printers.
Wi-Fi. Fast, stable, but does require the device and printer both to be in Wi-Fi signal range.
Cable connection. A direct cable connection from device to printer. This is the most reliable option but also the must inconvenient if you need to disconnect from time to time, and means something else to carry.
But defining communication medium is only half of it. The next part of the challenge is to get the printer to print the label exactly how you want it with all images/bar codes etc. For a device to talk with a printer it has to do so via the printer interface. Each manufacture has their own printer language at this point. Zebra uses ZPL (Zebra Printer Language), Intermec Printers use IPL (Intermec Printer Language), and so on.
Print commands in each of these languages can be a bit of a challenge. Most printers also have a line print option, and depending on the software can essentially print a complete printer layout that resides on the PDA device. Whatever option the device must have the drivers locally installed to communicate with the printer.
New printers on the market can now accept .csv files and similar file via print management software tool, or can print directly from notepad. In some cases new printers can call and receive from a web service meaning a device may not even be required. Obviously this has very limited operations.
Finally if carrying an extra piece of kit is a big issue maybe a mobile printer is not required. Alternatives are IP printing back to a printer in to office, PDF generation and email, back office staff printing and posting documents, or online access only for customers.
Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications 4 Things to Think About
Start with the application. Does the customer need a printed “something” at the point of service?
Media. What sort of material does the receipt or label need to be made of to suit the enviroment?
Hardware. What sort of wireless mobile printer will suit the process?
Mobile Application Development. How can you make your rugged handheld or rugged tablet pc generate the right label at the right time containing the correct information? On our platform the built in print layout designer takes a lot of the hassle out of cutting code.
How can we help you add Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications ?
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