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Wireless not ready for mission-critical apps

Wireless networks and technologies will have to become more standardised and reliable before the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) will consider porting mission-critical or time-sensitive applications to mobile platforms.

The problem has been exacerbated by the economic difficulties encountered by the telecoms industry, leading to under investment in research and development for next-generation wireless technologies, said Martin Colburn, chief technology officer and executive vice-president at NASD, which regulates the Nasdaq stock market.

Colburn was one of three panelists who discussed challenges of business adoption of wireless systems at the CeBIT America 2003 conference.

It will be at least two or three years before additional R&D investment by wireless players produces industrial-strength systems capable of carrying vital transactions, Colburn said.

"When we look at total cost of ownership, we haven't seen the economies of scale or the infrastructure there to [justify] the investment," he said.

Schneider National has pioneered wireless technologies for its trucking and logistics businesses. In 1988 it implemented a two-way, geostationary satellite communications system to track its fleet of tractors, which now number 15,000.

But although it proved helpful for Schneider to be bale to provide customers with visibility on freight and goods in transit, the company has had a much harder time finding the right wireless system to help it track and manage its trailers. The lack of standards and viability of suppliers "has been a constraint," said Paul Mueller, vice-president of technology services at Schneider.

Chris McMahan, the other panelist at the CeBIT session, is chief information officer at Wireless Retail. Within its own operations, Wireless Retail has used mobile technologies to track daily, monthly and annual sales figures.

"At 9pm, when our last store closes, we send out a small text-formatted report to our managers with a snapshot of our daily sales," said McMahan. But most wireless devices "are at the mercy of the operating system" such as Windows CE, he added.

Thomas Hoffman writes for Computerworld


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