Wavelink Blog

Category: Terminal Emulation

The New Android World: Dealing With BIG Migration Expenses

illustration black and android phone on white background

Your business has most likely been running Windows Mobile or Windows CE for a device generation or two. From the introduction of PocketPC in the rugged device market in 2001, Microsoft delivered a stable platform that brought mobile productivity to manufacturers, retailers, and the entire supply chain in between.

However, the last five years have really forced a reevaluation of where to look next.

What’s next?

At first, there was the discussion of consumer devices moving into the hands of workers who traditionally carried rugged mobile computers. While the lines determining where consumer-grade fits and where it fails became clearer, the operating system landscape was significantly altered.

Since its first introduction to the rugged mobile computing market in late 2011, Android has grown in both the number of rugged devices shipped and the number of device form factors for which it’s available.

Since 2015, analyst firms such as VDC Research have pointed to statistics that prove Android is reaching “critical mass” in the market.

With industry experts recognizing Android as a viable candidate for your next mobility hardware refresh, your focus may be shifting to the remaining barriers to choosing this OS. That’s good.

A major area of concern: the expense of a migration.

App migration is expensive

When the first Android-based rugged devices entered the market, the most common objection concerned the mobile apps, with questions like, What am I supposed to do with my applications? Are there equivalent apps already available for Android? Will my application vendor build me an Android version? How much will all of this cost me?

It’s a huge jump—probably not seen since the days of moving your applications away from DOS around the turn of the century. And just like then, a big benefit of making the leap is an application experience that’s significantly more user-friendly.

That’s all nice, but at what cost?

Since the first rugged Android devices, many application providers, including Wavelink, have brought their apps to Android. Vendors have faced two choices:

1. Bring the existing application, in its current form, over to Android

2. Rewrite the whole application for this new operating system

The first option was a relatively quick solution, but wouldn’t fully take advantage of all that the Android OS offered. The second option—while it could allow developers to optimize the app for Android—was a much larger development effort (read: more expensive to create).

Terminal Emulation

Wavelink brought Terminal Emulation (TE) to the Android operating system in late 2011, just in time for the first rugged Android devices.

With TE, early adopters of Android devices could stay with their trusted mobility client and begin to roll out new devices. TE has been a proven platform for decades, and the ability to adopt new hardware without the risk of new software at the same time has been a relief for many customers. However, with its “green screen interface,” TE left something to be desired by those looking for a more Android experience.

Android—and fellow consumer operating system, iOS from Apple—really changed the mobile experience. Finger-tapping, swiping, pinching and panning are all new ways to navigate on a smartphone.

Aside from the way we interface with apps, the devices offer bright, beautiful screens. Display technology advanced with incredible clarity. How does one take advantage of all of this—the full Android experience?

In the same way that application vendors were reluctant to fully rewrite their apps for Android, companies around the globe discovered the same pains of cost, risk, and effort to migrate from their existing applications to new alternatives on Android.

To solve this, Wavelink created the Velocity platform.

Velocity

Velocity takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience. What does that mean? Your existing, trusted “green screen” client becomes an Android app—complete with screen-tapping navigation; a clean, intuitive user experience; and the ability to offer full color and graphics so workers can easily read and interpret task workflows.

You don’t need to migrate to a new application when you can modernize with Velocity. Underneath that elegant interface is the tried-and-trusted telnet client performance you’ve relied on for years. You can continue to depend on your Android application with confidence.

Only now, the user experience for your workers is much more intuitive and familiar, and it replaces multiple keypresses with single screen-taps.

Learn more by downloading our free white paper below!

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Terminal Emulation — the ‘Zip Code’ for Task Workers

I’m old enough to remember when the U.S. Postal Service introduced the “Zoning Improvement Plan” or ZIP codes in 1963. And a memorable slogan from an early ad campaign introducing this new process-efficiency plan has stuck with me ever since: “Mail moves the country. ZIP codes move the mail.”

In the areas of warehouse and distribution center modernization, there’s an ever-increasing need for process efficiencies to boost both productivity and accuracy. The margin for error is being scrutinized and warehouse operations present opportunities for competitive differentiation.

Achieving the “perfect order” (encompassing picking accuracy, on-time delivery rate, shipping without damage, and order entry accuracy) is increasingly the goal.

Terminal Emulation—an enterprise mobility staple since the 1990s

Though not nearly as old as the first ZIP codes, Terminal Emulation (TE) has been a staple for enterprise mobility solutions since the 1990s when wireless mobility gained traction. TE made it easy to see and capture the data from the server-based supply chain management systems.

Wavelink TE has a proven 20-year track record of meeting business needs. Without question, it’s a task worker “productivity catalyst” for enterprises across industries.

And as product marketing manager Rob DeStefano explains in “The Android Expectation” white paper that you can download below, Wavelink brought TE to the Android operating system in late 2011—in time for the first rugged Android devices.

“With TE, early adopters of Android devices could stay with their trusted mobility client and begin to roll out new devices,” DeStefano says. “The ability to adopt new hardware without the risk of new software at the same time has been a relief for many customers. However, with its ‘green screen’ interface, TE left something to be desired by those looking for a more ‘Android experience’”.

DeStefano explains that Android—and fellow consumer operating system, iOS from Apple—really changed the mobile experience. Finger-tapping, swiping, pinching and panning are all new ways to navigate on a smartphone. “Aside from the way we interface with apps, the devices offer bright, beautiful screens. Display technology advanced with incredible clarity. How does one take advantage of all of this—the full Android experience?”

According to DeStefano, in the same way that application vendors were reluctant to fully rewrite their apps for Android, companies around the globe discovered the same pains of cost, risk, and effort to migrate from their existing applications to new alternatives on Android. To solve this, Wavelink created the Velocity platform.

“Velocity takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience,” DeStefano says. “What does that mean? Your existing, trusted ‘green screen’ client becomes an Android app—complete with screen-tapping navigation; a clean, intuitive user experience; and the ability to offer full color and graphics so workers can easily read and interpret task workflows.”

DeStefano says you don’t need to migrate to a new application when you can modernize with Velocity. “Underneath that elegant interface is the tried-and-trusted telnet client performance you’ve relied on for years. You can continue to depend on your Android application with confidence. Only now, the user experience for your workers is much more intuitive and familiar, and it replaces multiple keypresses with single screen-taps.”

Here are some additional key points about Wavelink TE:

Modernize the host application automatically

Velocity handles the conversion of your host application’s text interface automatically, so you can devote your software-development resources to other projects. Your workers gain a mobile application that is contemporary and familiar, while your business avoids the costs of having to develop one.

Skip the middleware

The Velocity platform consists of the mobile app/browser and administrative console. Complexity doesn’t get between your mobile devices and your host application.

Customize keyboards

Many of today’s touchscreen devices have few, if any, physical keys for data entry. Velocity lets you create customized onscreen keypads, so you can present workers with the data entry keys appropriate for the task at hand.

Raise productivity with an optimized mobile experience

Powerful scripting and reformatting capabilities let you automate data parsing and customize your workers’ mobile experience like never before.

Get the white paper now!

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“We can only tell you that your part is on a truck”

The title statement is a customer satisfaction nightmare. An order visibility nightmare I just lived during a recent home renovation project. If you ever had to convey this message to a customer, or want to be sure you never have to do so, read on…

Picture the scene: a completely gutted master bathroom – right down to the subfloor and wall studs. The new plumbing had just been roughed in and it was determined that before the mud base could be poured into my soon-to-be beautiful tile shower, a drain extender needed to be installed. Details aren’t important, but here’s the bottom line: I needed a $30 piece of cast iron to be installed before the bathroom could proceed.

Order visibility is critical to customer satisfaction.

Order visibility is critical to customer satisfaction.

This project began on January 31st of this year.  The exposed studs and plywood floor remained exposed until late April. Several weeks in between went by without progress, simply because this stock part, which was supposedly located in a distribution facility within 200 miles of my house, couldn’t be delivered.  The supplier couldn’t tell me an ETA. No tracking information could be offered.  Right up to the night before it arrived, all I could get from the supplier was the statement “We can only tell you that your part is on a truck”.

Supply chain visibility is more important than ever, and my experience is one every one of us can appreciate – both from our work in the industry, and as consumers. We never want to be without this visibility. Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, you never want to deliver the message I received in this experience. You want as close to real-time information as you can get – and that’s when mobility pays a big role. When your workers can instantly share order-picking info to your supply chain management systems, you know exactly where each order stands.

Wavelink offers a number of mobile applications that can deliver that instant visibility from data captured by your workers, and work with your existing supply chain management system.  With that kind of operational visibility, you’ll be able to ensure your customers get appropriate delivery information, improve worker productivity, and ensure your customer service team members never have to speak the vague, frustrating words “We can only tell you that your part is on a truck”.

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.

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.

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.

Wavelink TE Day 1 Support for iOS 8

I’ll cover the why’s and how’s in more detail in a future post but what’s becoming clear is that the face of retail is changing. Mobile devices are becoming ever more prolific in our shopping experiences and consumerization of mobility has been a big driver. Retailers have looked at the experiences that consumer devices provide and are trying to leverage that to change the way we physically interact with their stores, or the way that their retail associates get their jobs done. One factor has been cost – the acquisition cost of a consumer device is much less than a comparable rugged device (note that I said ‘acquisition’ and not TCO). Up to this point, iOS devices have been the major winner in this space but, as many early adopters are finding out, there are many aspects of the experience that are out of their control.

Late last year, Apple released iOS 7 as we were reaching the end of our TE iOS 1.3 development cycle. Our engineering team had been validating each beta drop to ensure that everything worked as expected. Very late in the cycle it was discovered that Apple had changed their power management methods with regards to how backgrounded apps were treated. This change meant that any background app had a hard-coded 3 minutes until the OS closed the network sockets – this was detrimental to the TE experience, though we were able to solve the issue with ConnectPro. ConnectPro maintains TE sessions and allows clients to reconnect back to the point they were at prior to the failure.

The takeaway for us is that, even though it is expensive, it is worth our while to perform these proactive validation efforts so we can be prepared for Day 1 support of a new OS.  These often pass with few issues, though sometimes, like with iOS 7, we have some major work to do to deliver an enterprise solution. Look at is as a kind of insurance that we are providing on behalf of our customers.

Next week Apple is holding one of their events, where they are expected to announce the iPhone 6 and the release date for iOS 8. The Wavelink team has been validating each beta release to ensure that our clients still work as expected. We did find a couple of issues that needed to be resolved, and these fixes were included in the latest iOS TE v2 client release, however, nothing major has been found.

iOS TE customers have Day 1 support for iOS 8. Download the latest client from the Wavelink website https://www.wavelink.com/Apple-device-downloads.

The takeaway for you, our customer, is that, no matter which device OS you chose, Wavelink has you covered. We are doing the due diligence to ensure that our clients work on the latest platforms and that we continue to provide seamless support on a very wide variety of mobile platforms and devices.

Watch this space for future news of Day 1 Android L support.

 

 

Terminal Emulation 2.0 Translating Productivity – 5 ways to enable mobility around the world

No matter how you say it, productivity gains are the objective of mission-critical mobility deployments all around the globe. From New York to Beijing, and Frankfurt to Seoul, enterprises all over are looking for ways to help workers be more productive. These gains can’t be realized only in pockets of the world economy, but must be accessible everywhere. How can companies accelerate the realization of the benefits of enterprise mobility?

  1. Speak the worker’s language: provide mobility solutions that are easy for workers to understand. This starts with presenting mobility software clients in their local language. (more…)