Wavelink Blog

Category: Mobile Enterprise Application Platform

What’s this Android Browser all about?

At Wavelink, we’re all excited about our most recent release of our Velocity platform.  In case you missed it, with version 1.2, we have extended our Android modernization experience beyond telnet to also include web applications.  But, you may ask, what does this really mean?

Are Android mobile computers on your short-list?

Are Android mobile computers on your short-list?

Think of it this way: If you have been running a web-based application on your Windows Mobile/Windows CE mobile devices, and are considering refreshing your devices, you might be considering new mobile devices that run Android. Then, you have to think about the compatibility of those web applications with a different operating system, browser, and the change from stylus/pen entry to touchscreen navigation.  There’s a huge leap from Windows CE/Mobile 6 to Android, and you only take advantage of the intuitive user experience if your apps are designed for that touchscreen experience.

Just as Velocity helps terminal emulation users avoid the costs, risks and effort of application migration, the platform now offers similar advantages for companies that use web-based apps.  A couple of cool things that make Velocity a great next-generation solution for your mobile web apps:

  • Modernize without changing your host application: Velocity does its magic to bring your mobile web apps to the Android platform, without messing with your host application.
  • Keep workers on task: Just as Wavelink’s Industrial Browser and VelocityCE products have done for the Windows Mobile platform, the Velocity Android Browser gives you the ability to lock down the browser so workers aren’t tempted to exit the app/task their supposed to be using.
  • A path forward for Windows browsers: Whether you’re existing web apps are running through Wavelink’s industrial browsers or Naurtech CETerm, the Velocity platform is designed as the path forward – bringing these web apps to the latest mobile operating systems. This is especially important for users of SAP’s ITSMobile application, where Naurtech CETerm had been the SAP-recommended browser.

We’ve got a lot of cool things going on with Velocity, with even more exciting features on the way. Are you ready to help your workers do more?

NRF 2016: Modernization and More!

NRF2016The 2016 edition of the National Retail Federation show was my 17th consecutive, and like the previous experiences, this year’s exhibits showcased a number of exciting trends in the retail market! We were really excited about the response to the mobility modernization theme, as evidenced by the string of new mobile devices introduced by our device manufacturing partners. Zebra’s TC8000 was especially close to home here, as modernization was echoed in the device’s software – All-Touch TE, powered by Wavelink.

There seemed to be a significant number of attendees who were entering the mobile technology refresh cycle. Interestingly, some admitted they were waiting for the market to settle on which operating systems would be safe bets. It seems more evident this year that Android is gaining trust, and similarly, new Windows-based devices were proving there is a credible future for Microsoft’s platform in the enterprise mobility arena.

Among the many great show recaps I’ve read, a couple of great recaps came from industry journal Consumer Goods Technology, and research firm VDC Research. These, along with many others, offer great perspectives on the trends noted across the show. For Wavelink, we’re looking forward to further conversations with the great folks we had the opportunity to meet in New York, and will be watching how this year’s trends play out over the course of the year.

What were your thoughts on NRF 2016? Email me or tweet @rob_destefano

What will Mobile Productivity Deliver in 2016?

Drone(own)Drones, M&A activity, a crash in oil prices – these topics and more helped shape 2015 for all of us who work throughout the supply chain. There are always unexpected events that force change in our markets, and certainly the past year hasn’t disappointed. So, as we bid adieu to 2015, it’s time to set our sights on what we might expect in 2016.

  • Device manufacturers set the stage for an Android/Windows decision: Several manufacturers of rugged mobile computers are introducing devices with some skus that run Windows and others that run Android. Android’s share has been growing in our space. The question is: whether a Windows 10 release will slow the momentum, and make some who have been waiting to upgrade, feel confident doing so.
  • Wider deployment of mobility in consumer-facing use cases: It’s been discussed for years, but the choice of larger-screen mobile devices available for store associates to carry on the showroom floor has reached critical mass. Now is the time when retailers will be looking at apps like guided selling and mobile POS to provide an enhanced customer experience.
  • The Internet of Things will get more vertical: Both literally and figuratively. We’ve seen a few examples of IoT in our world – things like robotic warehouse shelving, but as the hype continues, we’ll see some interesting concepts introduced in the coming year. Drones will be part of this. Whether or not you agree, they are part of the IoT. The concepts and use cases for these devices are getting attention.

There are also the numerous surprises that will come during 2016, and we’re looking forward to evaluating these alongside you! What predictions do you have for the mobile productivity space in 2016? Email me with your thoughts and/or wish list for the upcoming year.

Finally, all of us at Wavelink that you for trusting us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a healthy, happy, and productive 2016!

How to save millions and get years of project cycles back with Velocity

VelocityScreenshot(1)I thought that title might get your attention, but we’ve literally had conversations with companies over the past few months that have done just that!

As businesses look to refresh some of their mobile technology, they’re faced with the challenge of putting far more advanced mobile devices (rugged or consumer) in the hands of workers, but then taking some of the benefit of these devices away by placing previous generation mobile clients on these devices. Though proven technology, these text-heavy mobile clients are not designed for these new mobile computers.

We’ve been speaking to a number of businesses about this over the last few years, and a common situation seems to repeat itself. I’ll summarize one example below:

A 3rd-party logistics provider was acquiring a new generation of mobile devices, replacing legacy Windows CE-based mobile computers (typical for many). They had been running Telnet, but were looking at an app re-write that would update the experience and bring some consistency to their WMS and other supply chain management systems’ mobile interface. However, as they got through scoping their application re-writes, they came to the realization that it would be five years before all the systems would be updated, and well north of $15 million.

App migration is a serious challenge. It’s loaded with risk – you’re modifying or replacing systems that are essentially the backbone of your business. Migration also takes huge amounts of effort, and significant investments (as summarized in the situation above). In many cases, your existing host applications work quite well and it’s only an improved mobile interface you’ll need to get the most out of today’s powerful mobile devices.

That’s exactly the challenge Velocity was designed to solve. Your goal is to maximize the user productivity on the latest mobile hardware. You’re aiming for faster app navigation, an intuitive user interface – a modernized experience through which workers can accomplish tasks. You’re providing workers with a mobile application that improves data accuracy. Best of all, you can deliver this modernized experience without modifying the host applications you’ve made significant investments to optimize.

If you’re heading to NRF2016 in January, stop by our booth #1310 for a Velocity demonstration. I’ll be there, and will be happy to discuss enterprise mobility with you! You’ll also find Velocity in the Zebra Technologies booth #1603 under their All-Touch TE brand.

Add Voice to What You Already Have!

Picking2

Picking2When warehouse managers start to explore voice enabling tasks, they often start with an inflated project scope. Often times, it’s past research or experiences in previous careers that set this notion. Other times, it’s because they have heard the horror stories from their peers – stories of voice application vendors who have entrenched themselves deep in the Warehouse Management System (WMS) in an attempt to make the two inseparable.  And the project expands from there.  Let’s take a look at the three components you may already have in place and how you can add voice to these existing systems to improve productivity.

Your Host System: The truth is, you can add voice to your warehouse operations without touching your WMS! Here’s the thing: traditional voice apps are designed with a requirement for some host interface software. It’s a relic from an earlier time, when mobile devices couldn’t handle all the voice processing.  However, today’s devices can convert voice-entered data into the same data stream as data captured via barcode scan or keyed entry. Your WMS doesn’t know (nor care) which data was entered via voice. For more on this, check out my previous blog: Four Implementation Costs Traditional Voice App Providers Don’t Want You to Think About

Your Mobile App: So, it’s established that you can add voice and maintain your existing WMS.  Now, for the mobile application: if you’ve already had rugged mobile devices deployed in your warehouse, you’ve probably been using a thin-client app such as Terminal Emulation, or a browser interface to your host system. If you’ve got that in place, there is no need to disrupt what’s been working! You can add voice to that existing application and save significant time and money by voice-enabling that existing application.

Your mobile computers: You might be looking to add voice as part of a refresh of your mobile computers, and if so, that’s going to ensure the added productivity benefits that today’s rugged mobile devices can offer. However, even if you’re aiming to get a few more years out of an existing mobile deployment, you’re in good share. I mentioned above how today’s devices can turn voice-entered data into the same data streams that feed your host system with barcoded or keyed entries. That’s possible because mobile devices released to the market over the past 7-8 years have the processing power to perform all the voice processing right on the device. So, if your current mobile computers are at least as recent as this, you can add voice today, without having to make an investment in new devices.

If you haven’t had a demo of Speakeasy, you haven’t seen how simple it can be to add voice to your existing systems. Request a trial here, and we’ll help you assess your current system readiness and get you started toward greater productivity with voice.

Before wearables were “cool”

Wearable tech is all the fashion these days. Apple Watches, Google Glass, as well as Fitbits and other health trackers, – are all new interpretations of technology that’s been with us for the last few decades. Like so many technologies that came before – internet, email, cellular communication systems—they all started in vertical use cases before broadening into the consumer market.

What’s great about this process is that it forces technologies to mature in environments that are even more demanding than consumer use cases. If a concept fails in intense markets like military, aerospace or logistics, they aren’t ready for “prime time” consumer use.  Likewise, once a technology is proven in these markets, it’s more than ready for you and me.

Take for example the wearable scanning system. If you’re in the logistics field, you might recognize this term and the mobile computers bearing this name (if not, this image of the Symbol WSS1040 might trigger memories).WSS-1040

Consider the parallels: this is basically a computer strapped to your wrist that can capture and present data, and can wirelessly synchronize to software located elsewhere. Sound familiar? This product (ca. 1997) looks hokey by today’s consumer wearables standards and rightfully so. It was purpose-built for hands-free barcode scanning and data entry, not as a fashion statement. However, the extensive research done for devices like this – to determine ergonomic balance (how comfortable can it be?), user fatigue (how heavy can it be?), display readability, operating system and host software interactions, and more, all contributed to the knowledge base that helped design today’s wearable consumer tech (not to mention several generations of product evolution on the wearable scanner you see here).

Another fun fact: as you think about the role today’s wearables will play in tomorrow’s supply chain, only Wavelink has been managing these wearables since way before wearables were “cool.”  Yes, we offered enterprise mobility management for this device with Avalanche.

There are a lot of ideas out there for how wearable computing will enter the enterprise. The good news is, if it drives workforce productivity, you can bet we’ll be ready for it! Where do you hope to see more wearable computing in your business? Comment below or email me your use case ideas: robert.destefano@wavelink.com

Touch the Future of Mobile Productivity With Velocity

VelocityScreenshot(1)

Last week, we announced a brand new product designed to help your workforce accomplish more tasks during their shifts. Velocity modernizes the mobile interface of your existing host application (such as your WMS or ERP system) so that it is easy to navigate on today’s touchscreen mobile computers. So, when we say Velocity helps your workforce get more done, what do we mean?

What we’re talking about is the speed that your workers can navigate through a task: entering data, progressing through screens, even selecting the next task assignment. Recently, I wrote about what’s making touchscreen devices more relevant in more rugged use cases. Taking advantage of the multi-touch displays on these devices (and the supporting operating systems, of course), Velocity gives the worker a mobile interface that lets them tap and swipe across menus in their host application, rather than have to enter multiple keys to accomplish the same task on previous generation devices. Accelerating them through their tasks means enabling them to accomplish more tasks during each shift.

For example: if I’ve been using Terminal Emulation for my existing mobile interface to my WMS, I might need to press [Function], [F5], [Enter] to choose my task. That key entry works fine on my existing mobile computers that have physical keyboards. However, moving to a touchscreen mobile computer, this can be improved upon with a simple tap on the field on a menu screen – allowing me what used to take even 2-3 seconds into a sub-second selection.

VelocityScreenshot

Text based interface

VelocityScreenshot(1)

Same app screen modernized with Velocity

Now, consider the ability to simplify data entry throughout a task – shaving 2-3 seconds off every selection in the workflow, and multiplying that by the number of tasks a worker can accomplish during his/her shift. Finally, multiply that by the number of workers you have. See how a modernized user interface with Velocity can squeeze additional productivity out of your existing applications?

Finally, consider your changing workforce. Are you seeing younger workers joining your team? The next generation of workers require the next generation of productivity tools to let them get things done. They’re used to the mobile experience they get on their personal mobile devices, running Android or iOS. These workers aren’t familiar with text-based applications, but are fluent in tap and swipe navigation – reducing training times, and errors, while accelerating productivity.

Five Reasons Touch is Growing in Enterprise Mobility

There are some great technologies heading into mobile these days, and it’s always exciting to see what emerging trends will flourish into mainstream. Some will have long adoption curves, while others may see only limited adoption.

One trend that has become mainstream, and provided tremendous opportunity along the way, has been the proliferation of touch-enabled mobile devices. For those who remember the late 1990s in mobile computing, you’ll recall the early days of stylus-based, or “pen computing” – when Palm OS and then PocketPC reset the user experience in mobility. Touch-enabled devices, such as those running Android or iOS, have done the same thing and are following some of the same themes for market adoption.

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Figure 1: Mobile shelf audit being conducted on a touch-enabled tablet computer

If you’re thinking about deploying new devices, or upgrading your mobile computers to the latest generation, here are some reasons to consider a touch-enabled device:

  • Speed: The operating systems on today’s touch-enabled mobile devices have made navigation incredibly fast.  With the swipe of a single finger, I can navigate through pages of information. Consider the possibilities when your workforce can navigate through a task this way!
  • Size: Think about the variety of display sizes you can choose from. By removing physical keys, even the smallest touch-enabled mobile devices saw screen size grow from 3.5-inches to 4-inches or more. And tablets offer an amazing experience starting at 7-inches, while remaining manageably mobile at as much as 11-inches. This size range has opened the door for new use cases for mobility (planograms, reading schematics, etc.)
  • Familiarity: Choosing a touch-enabled mobile computer provides your workers with a device that works like their personal smartphones and tablets do – likely with the same operating system and navigation experience (tap, swipe, pinch, pan, etc.). This increases users’ comfort with the device – reducing the learning curve, and improving accuracy.
  • Data entry: While physical keys may be minimal, the on-screen keyboards work well for data entry in many use cases. Like the operating system itself, the keyboard is something familiar to your workers. Productivity-oriented mobile apps – such as Wavelink Terminal Emulation, also allow you to create custom keyboards for your workers. This means that when your worker gets to a specific data entry field within the workflow, they’re presented with a keyboard that only offers the keys appropriate for entering in that field (who needs letters when the field is “Quantity”?).
  • Image: Over the past five years, I’ve spoken with many companies that were considering touch-enabled mobile devices, and a number of them included among their reasons: Their brand image.  These businesses saw a strong value in having touch-enabled mobile devices in the hands of workers who were in customer-facing roles. Consider retail store associates who are on the sales floor. They’re asked to help consumers find product, check stock, compare online prices, look up registry items, and more. In these roles, having a device that looks similar and works like the mobile device that the consumer is carrying makes the store associate more approachable, relatable, and gives the consumer a feeling that the store is trendy, modern, sophisticated, tech savvy, etc.

Touch-enabled devices are expanding in enterprise mobility because of these reasons, and surely others.  While there are numerous use cases where key-based data entry (and devices that deliver that experience) remains an absolute, the growth of touch-enabled devices has been impressive. When deciding what mobile device will best deliver productivity gains in your business, consider all your options. I’m happy to report you have a great number of choices!

The Case for Writing your own Enterprise Mobile Applications

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the challenges that must be considered before diving into writing your own enterprise mobile applications. However, there are a good number of reasons to write a custom application. This route need not be riddled with challenges or regrets – provided you consider the options and keep your objective in focus. You’re choosing to develop your own enterprise application with an objective of increasing the productivity of workers. In the face of a volatile market for mobility hardware and operating systems, you can deliver a solution that yields huge gains for your operating margin. There are four considerations I recommend keeping in mind as you scope your own application: security, standards, compatibility, and performance.

Security: consider how data is going to be secured on the device. Here, browser-based apps can have advantage over native applications because your browser is essentially providing a window to a host-based application. Need to lock it down? Shut the window. However, also be sure to avoid compromising the user experience to meet security requirements, and make considerations for the ease of offloading local data.

Standardization: there is a concurrent shift in mobility clients with the shift in mobile devices, so writing an app once and making it deployable on many device can be a challenge. “That’s why I’d use HTML5” you might think. Sure, but remember that HTML5 does not offer a standard in itself. And here again, the continuous churn of updates to mobile operating systems can be a cause for application failures.

Compatibility: What happens when the next OS or new device platform is introduced? How flexible is your application across devices, operating systems, and don’t forget host systems. Native apps often result in vendor exclusions – where the application is compatible with, say, one supply chain management system, but not another. This can lock you into systems you didn’t intend.

Performance: your investment in your supply chain management system is significant. Don’t ruin it with a sub-par mobile experience. This is especially a challenge when developing a browser-based app using the default browser on the mobile device. Often these browsers were written for desktops and then squeezed into mobile devices. Rendering issues can be a huge time waste for users (picture the warehouse worker standing around for 5-10 seconds between screens, just waiting for the browser to present the next screen in their workflow). Make considerations for locked-down network environments.

If you’re going to write your own mobile application, take advantage of Wavelink Velocity – our secure enterprise browser. Velocity’s super-fast rendering lets your mobile app work faster, and session-persistence lets workers resume tasks right where they left the workflow. It’s secure, since application data is streamed from the host system (not stored on the mobile device). Velocity interfaces to all leading supply chain management systems, so compatibility concerns are eased. Finally, Velocity delivers on the promise of a single development platform across mobile operating systems, so you can equip users with the device type that best fits their task.

The Case Against Writing Your Own Mobile Apps

Enterprise mobility is so fast-moving that many companies find themselves seeking any means they can to introduce some stability into their deployments. Changing hardware, operating systems, evolving security and mobility management requirements and more can make anyone feel like they’re in a whirlwind when trying to create a mobility strategy. One of the few areas where you might feel more control is the mobile application, and there’s that moment where the thought creeps in: “Why don’t we just develop our own mobile apps? Then we’re in control.” There are times when an internally developed or custom mobile application can make sense, and I’ll discuss that in another post. However, there are many times where this ambition to Write-Your-Own can lead to disaster for your worker productivity – especially for consumer device operating systems like iOS and Android.

First, consider how you’ll write your own mobile app. What OS platform will you target? If you begin writing for iOS, are you certain you’ll never want to go to any version of Windows? Are you that certain of the demise of market-leading Android?

Next, there is the OS version you’ll choose. If you begin developing for Android Kit-Kat, are you sure your app will be compatible with Android “L” when it is released? How about “M”, “N”, and “O” – all of which will undoubtedly be released during the life of your enterprise mobile deployment. Even minor OS updates need to be considered: sometimes OS updates break stuff. Will you be ready for that continuous support?

Are you using any peripherals in your mobile deployment? If you’re deploying for mission-critical tasks, you might be deploying barcode scanning attachments, or mobile payment accessories. The providers of these accessories make changes to their own SDK’s, and managing these revisions warrant the same level of attention as OS updates.

Then, there is the overarching issue of resource investment. Writing an application for a specific task may not be the best way to optimize the productivity of workers performing that task. It may also not be the best use of internal developers’ time – time that may be better served on projects that optimize the very business processes you’re looking to standardize on with a custom application.

Among the great advantages of Wavelink Terminal Emulation (TE) is that it can offer the stability you’re looking for in your mobile application.  Wavelink TE clients are available for all the leading mobile operating systems: from Windows CE/Mobile to iOS and Android.  You don’t need to worry about managing the OS updates – Wavelink offers day 1 support for most new OS versions, and works with device and peripheral manufacturers to ensure compatibility with their SDK releases.  Finally, TE already works with your supply chain management systems, so you don’t need to invest in integration.  If you’re looking to bring a level of security and stability to your mobile strategy, Wavelink TE is the way to go.