The Only Complete Enterprise Mobility Solution
Given all of the hype that they’re experiencing, it’s a safe time to start thinking about chatbots as disruptors to the field service industry, specifically their place in mobile app development.
First, the Hype
For the uninitiated, a chatbot is a program that mimics conversations with people using artificial intelligence techniques such as natural language processing (NLP), image and video processing, and audio analysis. Continue reading
A recent article, “New York City cops will replace their 36,000 Windows phones with iPhones” highlighted an important point that must be considered any time an organization, public or private, government or commercial, decides to upgrade their mobile infrastructure – it’s no longer just about the hardware when it comes to planning for the future.
The NYPD has decided to use the end of life of Windows Phone 8.1 as their compelling event to transition their 36,000 phones to iPhones. It requires a look back to understand why the NYPD is in the situation it is.
The NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for IT stated “Three years ago we made the decision to bring mobility to the NYPD. At that time, neither iOS nor Android phones allowed us to cost-effectively utilize prior investment in custom Windows applications.”
That quote itself highlights a major consideration for every organization looking to make a significant investment in their field force – how can you effectively plan for future application needs, independent of hardware? You can’t really, unless your application strategy itself is cross-platform from the outset.
Few people recognize how important selecting the right mobile architecture and platform can be to their overall success. Deploying a mobility project is no easy task, and can be a distraction from your core business if not managed properly. For those businesses looking to do it for the first time, going mobile is seen as even more of a high-risk, high-reward situation internally.
Mobility projects, if done well, can help business operations run more efficiently throughout the organization wherever employees need to work, especially those with large field teams who engage regularly with customers. Yet there are projects that fail and some that don’t even launch before they fail. Why? Continue reading
As technology continues to evolve, the prospect of smarter machines is creating a paradigm of preventative, even predictive maintenance, making it so that something no longer has to break before a technician is deployed to fix it. Innovations such at the emergence of the internet-of-things, self-servicing machines, and stronger remote diagnostic and support tools in the hand of technicians will continue to sculpt their role. While there can be a wide variance in terms of responsibilities for the technician depending on their industries, some trends enabled by emerging technology are bound to become near ubiquitous going into the future. Continue reading
Running a dynamic DSD field force is complex. Today’s DSD applications must allow companies to quickly react to marketplace changes, customer demands and new regulatory policies. With this fast pace of change, customers simply have to be nimble and they need the power to make changes to their DSD apps as soon as the market dictates it. The ability to make changes to apps with no custom coding and to deploy those changes to the field is how a well run DSD business should operate. Legacy apps require customers to go to the vendor to request changes, but this strategy does not allow for speed to market.
Another huge factor in a successful DSD operation is to give management instant access to data as soon as its collected in the field. Most companies have not yet implemented the technology to make data readily available to their management; these enterprises are operating with large blind spots, making it harder for management to take advantage of new opportunities in a fast-paced business climate. The solution to the problem is real-time web portals. Continue reading
Regulatory Compliance…..it’s a big issue that can’t be ignored. No matter what kind of utility company you are, from nuclear power to gas distribution, electric or water you all share some common challenges. The nature of the business calls for large teams of mobile employees who conduct inspections, maintenance and repairs in the field. Most companies are still collecting that data on clipboards and paper, which means the office staff has to manually enter the data into your business systems. This manual process is error prone, requires excessive labor costs and even worse, it causes delays in getting access to the data needed to stay in compliance.
The key to solving this problem is to go paperless with a mobile app solution. When evaluating solutions, look for a platform approach that can be used for all apps across all departments instead of trying to manage a variety of different vendors. Another high priority should be to select a vendor that offers apps that are integrated tightly together. For example, consider this:
Increasing fuel costs, increased competitive pressure and smaller profit margins are forcing companies that deliver goods directly to customers to find innovative ways to gain efficiencies and accuracy. Direct Store Delivery systems have increased efficiencies for direct delivery models everywhere by enabling a paperless system to assist with load processing and inventory tracking. From retail sales reps, warehouse and management to pack-and-peddle operations, DSD applications have helped to reduce errors, decrease days’ sales outstanding and increase customer satisfaction.
Most companies in the industry have deployed a standalone DSD solution that has no way to talk to any other apps in the field, so companies today are looking for more. A complete DSD Solution Suite allows for more than simply tracking your deliveries; it combines the power of various apps to manage the complexities of various and sometimes unexpected processes. MobileFrame’s DSD Solution includes apps for Merchandising, Pre-Sales, Asset Tracking, Accident Reports and Field Service. The best news is that they are all tightly integrated together. Combining these processes into one suite of applications gives you the power to automate workflow from one app to another through the use of action based, real-time alerts.
Inventory and asset tracking are both important, but what separates them? Why are there different applications for these seemingly similar processes? The answer lies in the purpose for each but first let’s examine the difference between inventory and assets.
Assets are defined as an economic resource that represents an ownership of value. This could be a truck, a piece of software or, yes, even an inventory of widgets. Inventory is a list of compiled assets for sale or use in another process. When it comes to the differences in tracking we need to look at assets as being here for long term use and inventory being here for consumption of some sorts. Think of it as the difference between a library and a book store.
You see them all over the place, from cereal boxes to prescription labels, from envelopes to electronics – barcodes are everywhere. But what do those little black lines and dots mean? Barcodes themselves do not contain descriptive information, rather they provide a reference which is scanned and looked up in a database that does contain the descriptive information such as item name, price and quantity. Alternatively a URL does not contain the descriptive information in the website it references.
There are two major types of barcodes – one and two dimensional. One dimensional (1D) are probably more commonly seen, they are on every item you see in the store. 1D barcodes are made of a series of vertical lines (bars) and spaces of varying widths. These bar and space combinations are strung together to represent different characters. Two dimensional codes use a series of dots, blocks and other geometric shapes into a square or rectangular pattern. 2D barcodes are generally able to contain much more information than 1D. Where a 1D barcode such as a UPC code contains 12 digits, a 2D barcode such as a QR code may contain thousands of alpha-numeric characters.
In either case the codes need to be read by something – a reader. Barcode readers act as a translator between the code itself and the data it contains (those 12 digits in the UPC for example). Today you can download literally dozens of apps for your smartphone that will read both 1D and 2D barcodes, but here’s the trick; there are literally dozens of different “languages” of barcodes to translate. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly used codes.
Accidents happen. Mobile devices get lost, stolen and broken; it’s just a fact of life. With as much as we rely on these devices, these accidents can grind production to a halt. Not only is there a security risk, but now there is also the matter of installing the software on a new device and all the configuration needed to set it up.
MobileFrame‘s built-in Mobile Device Management (MDM) is designed to help in these instances. Since the MobileFrame application is not hard-coded on the device you can quickly and easily change from one device to another. Just install the client on a new device and you are back up and running, with barely skipping a beat. And as far as security, you can force logoff, requiring password authentication to log back in.