MobileWorxs will soon be announcing the UK release of MobileFrame version 6.0, the class leading write once deploy anywhere enterprise grade mobility app development environment.
This new version allows users to create, deploy, and manage sophisticated enterprise grade apps across iOS, Android and Windows devices as native, web or hybrid applications.
This platform includes all the tools for a successful fully-integrated mobile deployment such as, application development, device management, data management, robust synchronisation, a fully native client so your users can work even in areas with poor network coverage, GPS tracking, project admin tools, security, an integration wizard, scalable server options and on or off premise hosting.
Andrew Cahill, MobileWorxs MD, said “This new release of MobileFrame provides all the tools to allow robust enterprise grade solutions for a market steadily moving focus from the traditional Windows Mobile to iOS and Android”
Powered by the patented, code- free “write once deploy anywhere” mobile ERP platform approach, enterprises can design, build, configure test and manage custom apps across the enterprise from a single platform with no coding required.
The scope for apps to automate field based processes is vast both on and off premise and commonly includes field service, delivery, merchandising, inspections, van sales, vehicle inspection and inventory management. But remember! a great enterprise mobility deployment starts with a good management mind set and project plan.
We can help you come up with an approach to enterprise mobility apps that is well thought through simple to use and has a positive impact on your business.
Get in touch to book a meeting or webinar to learn more about “write once deploy anywhere” enterprise grade apps.
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.
Enterprise Mobile Project Gone Wrong Who You Gonna Call ?
We get to speak to a wide variety of organizations some of whom have already tried unsuccessfully to deploy an Enterprise Mobility project.
Reasons can be complex and certainly in some situations management buy in and adequate funding can be issues.
However on too many projects the Return on Investment ROI calculations go straight out of the window just as the initiative gets difficult. Enterprise mobile project gone wrong ? Here are 5 common problems that we have encountered that may help to explain why this happens.
5 Common Problems
Endless Development – It is very easy especially if you engage an “expert” coding house to end up with an endless cycle of software development. For instance lots of companies who think they are expert in HTML 5 know nothing about using mobile devices in mission critical projects security or host integration. Key question; have they done this before? if not it can get very costly, complex and time consuming. The resulting app can become technically outdated be difficult to change maintain and upgrade. As this process rolls on hardware is often still sitting in a corner collecting dust.
Difficult to use Development Environments – There are some well marketed “mobile application development environments” out there all claim to be easy to use. The problem is enterprise mobility can get messy. At the very least it needs to map your field based process as well as be reliable and sustainable once deployed. Making some of these environments actually come up with the app you need on the device you want can lead to lots of tinkering which means more budget burnt on professional services.
Lack of Product Documentation – This is something that most people don’t think about until its too late. All of the organizations with failed implementations that we have spoken to this year said that the lack of product documentation how to’s, frequently asked questions, installer guides, etc rendered the already difficult to use development environment or custom cut code useless. All leading to increased time spent and cost incurred when the app should be deployed addressing the business problem that prompted the project in the first place. Key question; look at the user guides a vendor has put together for other customers – can you understand the material?
Hidden Costs – one customer told me he thought that the provider he chose to custom develop his application was going to be the perfect fit affordable, solid, great product vision and support. However, when he needed to make a very simple change to his application he was charged with 40 hours of development time. Key question; ask up front and get the vendor to show you, how easy is it to amend an app and re-deploy it in the field and what is the cost.
“We bought an off the shelf app” – Key question; Great! but does it match your business process or does it offer a transformational way of doing what you might already be doing with pen and paper at the moment? If not be ready to experience the traditional square peg round hole approach where the app can be expensive and inflexible or where the customisation needed to map your processes is eye wateringly expensive.
If any of the above describes your enterprise mobile project gone wrong I have good news….. MobileWorxs can help! Think of our mobile enterprise application platform environment as a means to an end. It has a bunch of great features that allow us or our customers to build great enterprise grade apps that will run on .NET Android or iOS and are solid and sustainable. We have experience in a wide variety of application areas such as field service management and facilities management so can help automate and enhance the process workflow of your mobile workers.
Challenge us, we will build your application and demo it to you live on our very first phone call.
Andrew Cahill MobileWorxs MD has 20 years of experience in the use of enterprise mobility solutions and applications to improve the performance of real life business processes.
Andrew has worked on some of the largest Enterprise Mobility projects in the UK Eastern Europe the Middle East and Africa. He has user and project experience in helping companies think through and develop mobile strategies to get the most out of a deployment.
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 ?
So really how long to build an enterprise mobile app ? The short answer is hours or days depending on the complexity of the process. Find out how long…
The longer answer is that this question usually follows a realisation that a mobile worker based process in your business is not as it should be. Part of how to address this is how long will it take to build an app. The question is always sure to generate lots of discussion and opinions about approaches to development and mobile device platforms and OS’s. Often you end up with all the ingredients for enterprise mobility but no recipe!
Mobile Application Development
Mobile application development can take many forms including cutting code from scratch or using an off the shelf canned module that came with your ERP or decision management system. In the smart phone era this Time-Money-Quality equation is becoming more significant as Andrew Till discusses in a recent Forbes article.
In our world mobile application development needs to be tailored to the process of the business and must directly address the issues that have been identified. Our approach uses a methodology that involves techniques like iterative development and software prototyping. Using the MobileFrame v5.1 mobile development platform it is a style that favors incremental development with constant feedback and involvement from the end user. This process can be repeated until the application has been perfected and meets the needs of the user.
All of this can happen very quickly allowing you to get an app deployed far quicker than through traditional methods. And the quicker the app gets deployed the faster your process deficiency can be corrected and your return on investment can begin.
10 Mobile Development Platform Features
Drag and Drop Screen Design – Design your mobile application logic once and deploy to multiple different operating systems including .NET Android or iOS.
Drag and Drop Print Designer – Create mobile label and reciept print layouts in minutes and not weeks.
Printer Driver Bundling – Printer Drivers are bundled in no need to pick a specific printer.
Device Driver Auto Recognition – We are plug and play across a wide variety of different devices, and can support mixed device deployments.
User Administration – Users can authenticate against their current usernames / passwords and IT can lock down the device to keep the network safe.
Peripheral Integration – We Support RFID, GPS, 1D and 2D Barcode Magnetic Stripe Scanning, Photo Capture, Photo Annotation, Drawing, Speech to Text, Digital Signature Capture, Printing Barcode Printing and RFID.
Backend System Integration – Out of the box integration into any ODBC or OLEDB compliant data source including.
Synchronization Management – Fail proof sync engine prioritize which networks you would like to sync over first.
Mobile Device Management – Remote Device Management out in the field with the ability to take administrative control.
Enterprise Application Management – Update Applications Client Software and third party applications over the air no need to collect the device from the field.
From our experience with these MobileFrame features we can create an app often in hours and in many cases go from Design/Scope to deployment is 3-4 weeks. This includes integration with different back-end systems. With this kind of turnaround many of our customers end up adding further applications to address other requirements far quicker than they had originally envisaged.
Key point; when looking at a mobile worker project and the inevitable question of how long to build an enterprise mobile app consider your options carefully. Think about how your approach should enable you to really involve your own staff in the design process and be able to add functionality in the future.
Learn more about mobile application development phase of your enterprise mobility project contact us today.
Andrew Cahill MobileWorxs MD has 20 years of experience in the use of enterprise mobility solutions and applications to improve the performance of real life business processes.
Andrew has worked on some of the largest Enterprise Mobility projects in the UK Eastern Europe the Middle East and Africa. He has user and project experience in helping companies think through and develop mobile strategies to get the most out of a deployment. He also likes old cars preferably with lots of chrome!
Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform – Support
When comparing Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform .NET platform solutions, cost is usually the first starting point for businesses as a cloud solution means the applications can run on less expensive devices such as Android handhelds, which can be the starting point for thoughts about BOYD. But, how do you support a roll-out with mixed operating systems?
Devices have been covered in a previous blog so here I will focus on the software issues, both local and server. Yes Android, Blackberry, iPhone iPad devices can be considerably cheaper then Microsoft .NET devices but this also means you’ll need to support several platforms rather than one. What will that do to your total cost of ownership?
Updates for the multiple Smartphone platforms are never scheduled at the same time. This means on day one all the Android devices may update to the latest OS version, the next day all the Blackberry devices may update. There is no guarantee devices will still continue to work with the application after an update and finding a fix for each platform can be very different and therefore difficult.
When HTML 5 applications are being developed, they are developed for specific OS API’s, i.e. Android 3.0. When the Smartphone is updated to the latest version 4.1, a or a new device is purchased, the application will need to use the 4.1 API. In the best case scenario the application will have to be re-built, tested, and re-deployed. This is a major task in itself as cloud based solutions do not incorporate development and application & data synchronisation as standard. In the worst case scenario the application code will have to be edited. This is a very lengthy process in which the mobile application is out of action.
Using a thick client based mobile application development platform with Windows Mobile devices the applications are fully backwards compatible and any platform updates are issued by the administrator not the network provider. This provides a hassle free deployment with simple support as all devices are using the Microsoft .NET framework. It also means access to a wide variety of devices such as
The thick client has the ability to lockdown the unit so the user cannot access important system files, or spend hours playing games. The device is there for a purpose and can only perform the tasks the application allows. How do you lock down a personal Smartphone belonging to your employees? In short you can’t. You can provide the facility to access a web based application (if they have an internet connection) but you can’t guarantee they are not texting, playing games or surfing the internet.
The last point to touch on here is how the application can be updated. The application for the HTML 5 platform requires coding, a lot of testing for each OS, compiling, and then deployed to a central server location. The coding could take days or weeks depending on the update. In the thick client platform the update can be made in minutes to hours and deployed instantly. Yes the HTML 5 application has a slight advantage here as once deployed to the server location it is live. The thick client device must synchronise to download the latest application. This in itself is negligible since the application is downloaded in the background while the current application is in use, or when the device is back in the cradle charging for the night.
The key question is: As time and costs increase supporting Smartphone devices each time the business applications change, is the initial saving worthwhile as future development wipe-out any short term benefits?
Learn more about the options you have with Cloud solutions Vs Thick Client Platform as part of the mobile application development phase of your enterprise mobility project contact us today.
MobileDemand Introduces World’s First Windows 8 Rugged Tablet PC
MobileDemand have announced the launch of the high-performance, all-light readable xTablet T1200 Windows 8 Rugged Tablet PC. This best-in-class military grade rugged tablet was developed to bolster productivity for mobile users who work in demanding environments such as utilities, mining, oil and gas exploration, construction, facilities management, field service, mobile supply chain management and public safety.
Windows 8 Rugged Tablet PC get more done, faster !
The xTablet T1200 bolsters productivity for mobile users who work in demanding environments. This fully rugged tablet provides great total cost of ownership and long-term savings over non-rugged devices with near 100% up time in mission critical line of business applications.
xTablet T1200 Features
10.4″ multi-touch resistive 10.4” LCD display.
Powered by the latest Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3427U processor and either the Windows 8 or Windows 7 Professional operating system.
Multi-touch, full drive encryption of Windows Bitlocker, the Windows Defender anti-virus application and VPN with Windows 8.
Mobile workers stay connected with the optional 4G LTE or 3G Gobi WWAN radios and wireless networks.
IP65, MIL-STD 810G/F certified. That means your information is safe even if dropped shocked or exposed to water and dust.
Two 6-cell 116 watt-hour hot swappable batteries last a full shift or longer – up to 10 hours.
Supports a 64 GB to 256 GB and beyond mSATA solid state drive with an option to add a second high capacity hard disk drive.
Two USB 3.0 ports and an integrated RS-232 serial port, plus 3G, 4G LTE and Bluetooth 4.0 communications.
Integrated bar code scanner and RFID reader, built-in numeric keypad.
High resolution font facing and 5 MP rear facing camera, integrated GPS, PCMCIA, SDHC and smart card reader.