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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…)

What’s New: Wavelink Avalanche

We are pleased to announce that the latest version of Wavelink Avalanche is now available and is packed with new features to increase your IT functionality and decrease complexity, saving you time and money. The entire Wavelink team has worked hard to ensure that the latest version of Avalanche is full of helpful updates that safeguard the security of your enterprise and secure your data and devices from the latest security attacks.
Between the enhancements now available in our cloud-based versions of Wavelink Avalanche, and the announcements made last month at Interchange 2014 (including Mobile Email Management coming soon!), we’re serious about enterprise mobility. (more…)

Three easy ways to tell if Speakeasy can help you optimize worker productivity in your warehouse

In this brief, I am going to tell you three signs that you can easily spot that will tell you if you can optimize your warehouse or distribution center operations. I am going to make an assumption here that you are already using a terminal emulation or browser based materials management system. I don’t care which one, just that it is based on Telnet (TE) or a browser. Wavelink can easily and quickly enable voice for almost any of those in the market today. It can be a WMS, ERP, CRM, or any other system that drives your workers and allows them to feed work information into as they do their job.

  1. First, watch your workers. If they are frequently stopping to read their paper or the display on their mobile computer/scanning device, then you can likely reduce the amount of time it takes for them to do their job. The more they stop, the more you can easily improve it. The device display is still critical because it can contain so much information vital to competing the task or be used in configuring and troubleshooting, but if workers are often stopping to read we can help. Tasks assignment and reminders can be spoken to the worker allowing them to continue moving toward their goal as they listen.
  2. Next, does it take a long time to bring people on board in your operation? Is most of the time spent trying to explain what all the parts and exceptions are, and Speakeasy in Actionare those already in your IT systems you use to collect data as they work? If the answer is yes to either of those, then Speakeasy can likely help you improve productivity. It has the ability to break the task down to small explainable parts. Workers can ask the system to repeat commands, locations, and data sent to them by the host that is required to do their job. Workers who formerly went through three-day training sessions now are frequently productive workers in less than a half day of job training. The end time depends on your processes and automation but we almost always can reduce this time.
  3. Finally, are your workers more productive when they have both hands free to work? Headsets and ring scanners attached to mobile computers allow workers to dive in with both hands and optimizes worker productivity. As a benefit this reduces lost and broken devices as workers are not setting them down to do the work before recording and updating systems with their work in process or completed tasks.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the customer Goya Foods and Coleman Cable testimonial videos on www.wavelink.com/voice.

Wavelink Protection in Light of OpenSSL Heartbleed Vulnerability

In light of the recent Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability news, Wavelink has analyzed our portfolio of products and websites that use OpenSSL and is providing the following update:

Products potentially affected by the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability:

  • ConnectPro: Versions 4.5.003 and 4.5.004
  • Terminal Emulation for Android – According to Google, Android version 4.1.1 is affected as it uses built-in Android OpenSSL libraries.
  • Velocity for Android – According to Google, Android version 4.1.1 is affected as it uses built-in Android OpenSSL libraries.

The following have been assessed and are not believed to be impacted by the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability:

  • Avalanche
  • Terminal Emulation for Windows
  • Enabler, Windows
  • License Server
  • Terminal Emulation for iOS
  • Velocity for Windows
  • Studio Client
  • Studio Client iOS
  • Studio COM and Java Servers
  • SecurePlus Client and Server

For additional and continually updated information on this issue, please visit our community site and knowledge base located at: http://community.landesk.com/support/docs/DOC-31375.

Please contact Customer Support if you have additional questions.

Tips for Deploying Enterprise Mobility Management – SaaS or On-Premise

Enterprises of all sizes and across industries require different levels of onsite control of their enterprise mobility deployments. Couple this with the unique restrictions that corporations place on mobile internet access and there’s a compelling need for choice among the deployment options when considering an enterprise mobility management solution.

The benefits of a cloud-based deployment are Retail Associate Consumer Devicecentered on simplicity. Selecting a cloud-based (or SaaS) deployment method frees up internal IT staff to focus on other initiatives.  Server components are managed externally by product experts, making a cloud deployment simple and fast. This is in addition to the most obvious benefit of a SaaS deployment – immediate access to software updates.

However, there are enterprises around the world that require, or simply prefer, to have the greatest amount of control over their enterprise mobility management system. An On-Premise deployment method provides this, in a more traditional, shrink-wrapped installation. Companies choose this model often because they like the security of having the entire deployment completely within their corporate intranet. It also provides IT teams with complete control of scheduling updates and patches.

Which option is best? Start by determining the security compliance and control requirements your organization has in place. Next, determine the level of IT staff that will be working with the enterprise mobility management console, and the time they have to handle maintenance to it. Follow that with some considerations related to control. Does the company prefer the accelerated access to software updates and enhancements? Or, does it benefit the business to have IT control the timing of updates to fit in between peaks in the operations cycle?

With both SaaS-based and On-Premise options, Avalanche 6.0 provides businesses with the ability to select the method of deployment that fits each business best. Whether mixed device deployments or BYOD, operational task workers, customer-facing workers, there is no need to compromise. When you’re deploying enterprise mobility, manage those deployments with the enterprise mobility management solution that has been trusted by corporations for decades, ready to be deployed in the method that fits your business.

MODEX 2014

As I write this it’s the end of the week and we have another MODEX under our belts. This year’s show was enormous and well attended by customers, integrators, consulting companies, and students of the industry.

It proved to be a worthwhile show, attendees showing up in droves with active projects, ideas and concepts, and a fire to keep pushing forward. Vendors were there in large numbers covering every aspect of supply chain and distribution from low tech fans and pallet managers to high tech warehouse and distribution data management systems – all with bringing their users improvements in productivity and high return on investment.

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Technology advancements continue at a stunning rate from every aspect of materials movement and management. Of course, the cloud had a huge presence at the show as the industry begins to open up and trust moving their business information and transactions over the internet, this is a big step for this industry.

It was a fantastic show for Wavelink. Speech Enablement was the hit of the show, and the high functionality, quick payback, low disruption messages are finally sinking in. We received more requests for on-site productivity audits, proofs of concept, and speech pilots than I can remember from any single event.

Velocity was also a smoking hot topic. It appears manufacturing and distribution companies are moving toward web platforms and are discovering that app performance and disconnections are slowing down their workers. Velocity specifically fixes those problems, AND offers the ability so speech enable web apps making the perfect combo.

MODEX is an every other year show, swapping years with ProMat, its sister show. Wavelink will follow up with all the activity MODEX generated, but we are already looking forward ProMat in Chicago next year!

The Enterprise Mobility Mix – Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices

The Mix of Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices in the Enterprise

Has your experience at retail stores been different lately?  Or perhaps you’ve had a different experience at a medical facility?  Maybe your own work has changed recently.  A significant change across industries has been in the number and types of mobile devices being used by all sorts of workers.  Whether you’ve completed a sales transaction by signing on a smartphone, or checked in at your doctor’s office using a tablet, there is no denying that mobile devices are proliferating in enterprise use cases.

In most mission-critical mobility deployments, enterprises have deployed rugged mobile computers.  Consider the devices carried by parcel couriers, stockroom workers and others.  There’s an obvious need for durability, so that these mobile computers can withstand frequent drops, extreme temperatures, and in some situations, hazardous environments (think oil rigs).  Technologies that help these workers accomplish their tasks include advanced data capture capabilities, such as barcode scanning, RFID, and perhaps payment transaction capabilities.

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

As consumers, we don’t often interact with these workers as they complete their tasks.  The use cases are not typically consumer-facing.  However, there is an increasing contingent of enterprises that are placing more mobility into the hands of workers who are visible, and directly interacting with consumers.  These workers are still performing mission-critical activities – particularly in revenue generating roles, for the enterprise.

Over the past few years, companies have explored the evolving smartphone and tablet options for these workers.  In some cases, the benefits of these consumer-grade devices have proven not to be the best fit for the business, due to fragility, theft, or other limitations.  These enterprises have generally opted to revert to the familiar – the rugged mobile computers that are likely being used in traditional task-based use cases.  By contrast, there are enterprises across industries that have chosen and successfully deployed consumer smartphones and tablets into consumer-facing use cases.

There is no denying the selection of enterprise mobility hardware has expanded significantly over the last five years.  Whether going with traditional, rugged mobile computers, or consumer-grade devices, it is exciting to see the accelerated adoption of mobility across enterprises – especially as it gets into the hands of the workers with whom we, as consumers, interact.  However, this also creates a new IT challenge: Some workers are carrying rugged mobile computers, others have consumer devices.  There is overlap in applications and content access as well.  For all these users, there is a bottom line benefit to their mobile productivity.  Fortunately, Wavelink Avalanche is there to be able to ensure all these users – task-oriented and customer-facing, are optimally productive.