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What is Mobile Data?

 

Mobile Data is the term used by many to describe the use of wireless data communications using radio waves to send and receive information. This is part of the much broader mobile technology arena.  Some premium Vehicle Telematics systems incorporate vehicle tracking and mobile data as a combined solution.

 

Business Applications of Mobile Wireless Data Communications

[Source WirelessDev.net] Wireless data is highly successful in many business applications today. Using wireless has significantly improved worker productivity, increased customer satisfaction and, in many cases, provided a competitive advantage. Most of the success of wireless data to this point has been in the operational side of business in markets such as field service, transportation and public safety. However, an exciting change is that wireless data is starting to be more widely adopted by enterprises to provide real-time access to information for field salespeople and mobile business professionals.

Enterprises which desire to automate field activities, like order entry and status, pricing and customer problem alerts, have been motivated to go wireless. Many organisations in markets such as insurance, healthcare, finance and others are looking to extend their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems into the field to provide a complete solution for all aspects of the customer relationship.

The pieces are in place for widespread adoption of wireless data. The three major components of a wireless solution are now available: wireless networks, software and mobile devices. Wireless data networks now offer nation wide coverage and have lowered their usage pricing to become more cost-effective for a wider audience. They have proven themselves for mission critical use in the multitude of business applications in use today.  An increasing number of software applications for mobile devices (e.g., laptops, handheld computers, belt worn e-mail terminals) are available. In addition,
middleware that facilitates wireless communication is available for all-popular platforms and networks. This middleware can be used to run standard internet applications or develop custom applications for enterprise use or resale. The development and adoption of smaller mobile computing devices (e.g., Palm Pilot, Windows CE devices, two-way pagers) has made it practical and desirable for business professionals to be wirelessly connected.]

Telematics Service Providers are taking advantage of these opportunities, to use their vehicle tracking technology and harness Mobile Data technology to increase the effectiveness of not only filed based personnel, but also to communicate information back from static objects such as burglar alarm systems, vending machines and plant machinery.

Telemetry

This market is Two-way Messaging for fixed devices. It is unique in that it provides messaging services to devices (e.g., pumps, vending machines, pipelines, electrical substations, traffic signals, etc.) not humans. Today, private networks carry most telemetry activity. However, as public networks offer these services, new devices are also using public networks. 

Two-Way Messaging

Two-Way Messaging is the wireless transmission of short messages (usually under 2,000 characters) between belt-worn

 

or palm-size devices rather than full email. While Two-Way Messaging is being used today in devices such as Research in Motion’s Inter@ctive Pager, it still faces the challenge to integrate seamlessly important message delivery with existing email services. With wireless voice systems such as GSM, CDMA, and iDEN “cellular phones” currently adding data capabilities, many mobile professionals may find these services adequate for checking email up to two or three times a day.  The growth of email and the need for real-time response may drive professionals to small Two-Way Messaging devices so that they can handle the growing information flow at anytime (e.g., waiting for others, walking between buildings, meetings) to make them more productive.

Interactive Data Exchange

Interactive Data Exchange includes the set of applications that is usually referred to as “query-response.” These messages are based on forms. A form is filled out and the information (query) is sent to a specific database server. The reply (response) is received back into the same or a different form depending upon the application. Interactive Data Exchange also includes “push” messaging. Push messaging occurs when the server initiates a connection and “pushes” messages to a user in the field. Examples of interactive data exchange are police access to criminal information databases, package delivery and tracking, dispatch applications and consumers purchasing movie tickets. Some sales force automation applications such as order entry and order status also fall into this application area.  [Source WirelessDev.net]

Benefits of using mobile data communications?

Mobile Data technology lets your key staff operate more efficiently when they are out of the office. It can help you:

  • Carry out tasks remotely, which would normally be done on a computer in the office,
  • Communicate with people at remote locations,
  • Work with data that is held in the office, even when you are in a different location,
  • Communicate a message
  • Create an electronic audit trail of messages sent/received
  • Keep in touch with the office anytime and from anywhere.

For most organisations, the objective that wireless computing helps to achieve is better access to information and applications, so workers can be more productive and the company can be more competitive.

Choosing the appropriate mobile data technology

The technology choices are many and varied and can be divided into two main categories

  • The choice of wireless data network
  • The type of device

Wireless data networks exist in such number and variety as to be difficult to categorise and compare.

Some wireless data networks run over wireless voice networks, such as mobile telephone networks.  HSCSD, GPRS and 3G are examples. In the UK only Orange offer HSCSD. GPRS is offered by all four cellular network provides: Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and 02.  3G is currently offered by Three (or as it likes to be known “3”), Orange and Vodafone

Other wireless networks run on their own physical layer networks, utilising anything from antennas built into handheld devices to large antennas mounted on towers. In the UK, mobile data network licences were granted to Transcomm, Cognito, Tracker and Siemens Datatrak.  A few wireless networks are intended only to connect small devices over short distances e.g. Bluetooth

There are cost implications on the type of data network you use for you mobile data solution. The variables involved in calculating the data transmission costs include;

  • The amount of data to be transmitted
  • The frequency of the data transmissions
  • The type of connection, e.g. permanent always on or occasional - as and when needed.

Questions you need to ask, when considering mobile data technology, include;

  • Do I need  the solution to be able to continuously monitor/transmit/receive messages?
  • Do I need to be able to monitor/transmit/receive messages on a frequent but less than continuous basis?
  • Do I only send occasional messages?
  • Are the messages I send/receive quite small?
  • Can the messages I want to send/receive be quite lengthy?
  • Do I want to send / receive graphics, large amounts of numerical data or attachments?

It is important to understand the capabilities and cost implications of using the different type of networks before committing long term investment  to a device that is only enabled for one type of network, that tomorrow could be redundant  The Telematics Technology Guide contains information on mobile data networks.


 

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