How can wireless models help my business?

What new business models and applications are being developed as wireless technologies become adopted in the workplace?

What new business models and applications are being developed as wireless technologies become adopted in the workplace?

Advances in mobile shopping and banking facilities.

Duncan Ledwith, Head of Microsoft Mobile Devices Division, UK

Advances in wireless technology are providing opportunities for companies to think more broadly about how they sell to their customers by extending their sales channels.

Tesco and Nationwide are already leading the way by extending their web-based applications to the mobile world, and offering their customers shopping and banking facilities with mobile-based technologies.

Mobile technology enables companies to offer customers new methods of access that help streamline processes such as billing, access to product and services information and purchasing. This makes it simpler to make a sale and, critically, simpler to make a purchase anytime, anywhere.

One of the most recent initiatives that will accelerate this advancement is the collaboration between Vodafone and Microsoft to create mobile web services standards. They aim to bring together mobile and PC technologies to offer companies new opportunities to reach existing and potential customers.

This could be done through services that enable organisations to target potential customers based on their current location, or micro-payment systems that allow organisations to offer customers the ability to make purchases simply and quickly from PCs.

Extract value from adding visitors to the network

George Bartley, Senior consultant at Cordless Consultants

Organisations have begun to recognise that visitors are as important as employees to the viability of the business. Many companies are now considering the installation of visitor-based networks which provide high-speed wireless connectivity in public areas of buildings including foyers, theatres, restaurants and meeting rooms.

When visitors arrive at the site they will receive a username and password as part of the reception sign-in process. To access the outside world, they would simply key these details into a wireless personal digital assistant or laptop browser and then be able to accesses e-mail and internet/intranet information in a secure manner. Importantly, this is operated separately from the building's IT infrastructure and requires little or no involvement from the IT team.

With the launch of Intel's Centrino chip, which incorporates Wi-Fi on the processor, all devices - laptops, tablet PCs, PDAs and more - will be wireless.

The new "corridor warrior" has emerged, with access to information wherever and whenever, from any number of devices. This trend will continue as connectivity becomes more pervasive and disappears into the fabric of our lives.

Improving performance of the mobile workforce

Martina Malina, Chief executive, Madge UK

As standards-based wireless networking in firms is increasing, opportunities for new business models and applications arise. For example, staff performance can be improved by employing a more mobile workforce. Staff can work from home or hot-desk and use wireless hot-spots at airports and hotels.

Another advantage is the opportunity to deliver innovative service solutions. Top investment banks are implementing wireless applications for institutional trading through mobile e-mail, market information and alerts, and by trade order entry.

The use of wireless is set to increase as platforms mature. Wireless PCs are now also becoming more widely used in warehouse and industrial environments for monitoring and data-entry applications.

One Madge UK customer is planning to mount PCs on fork-lift trucks to improve efficiency in the warehouse and improve delivery times.

Mobile e-mail will cut time spent on mail management

Charmaine Eggberry, Marketing director, RIM

Wireless technologies are driving the evolution of the mobile business. Faced with increasing pressures on productivity, multinational relationships and flexible working practices, companies of all sizes are beginning to recognise the need to keep their employees connected wherever they are.

Whether you have a local area wireless network that enables staff to access information from anywhere in a building, or a global solution that provides "always on", secure mobile access to corporate communications and information, wireless technologies support the adoption of flexible project-based and team-based working, and improved customer service.

This in turn enables shorter decision-making cycles, streamlines business processes and enhances the work-life balance.

The value proposition of wireless technologies to business is underpinned by the fact that e-mail is becoming the primary medium for communications.

Analysys Research has predicted that by 2008, 40% of people with a business mobile phone, 21 million Europeans, will use mobile e-mail, compared to less than 1% today (Mobile Data Solutions for Business, July 2003).

The benefits of mobile access are clear. Research undertaken among Blackberry users by Research In Motion and Ipsos Reid found that the average user regained about 53 minutes a day by being able to manage their e-mail inbox while on the move.

New technologies are also driving demand for mobile access to calendars and contacts, corporate documentation, the company intranet and the internet among others - all delivered using the latest new media technologies.

Solutions offering centralised management and control, ease of use, relevance, immediacy and portability are likely to do well.

Wi-Fi, 3G and PDAs will allow seamless roaming

Roger Jones, Convergence director for Avaya in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

The freedom to work wirelessly has been the dream of many for a long time. Over the past three years, two key technologies have allowed home and office users to realise this goal.

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephony for voice and Wi-Fi wireless Lans for data and IP connectivity are enabling the use of both communications mediums wirelessly. However, these systems do not connect to each other. Both must be implemented to allow users full communication flexibility, raising issues of cost and complexity. Users also have to manage and carry two devices.

Current developments include voice over IP-Wi-Fi handsets. These allow voice and data traffic to converge onto a single Wi-Fi infrastructure, allowing organisations to deploy a single wireless network. IP Softphone software, when loaded onto a Wi-Fi PC or PDA, provides a single interface for voice and data communications, which allows you to access your telephone extension wherever you are connected.

IP telephony, whether in the office or connected remotely, will allow firms to make savings in call costs and capital expenditure. It also allows users to have a single communications device.

The future will be to converge mobile (GSM/3G) phones with a Wi-Fi, IP softphone PDA. Avaya is working with partners Motorola and Proxim to develop this technology, which will provide users with access to their business extensions and applications such as calendar, e-mail and instant messaging.

Wireless devices allow you to roam seamlessly between Wi-Fi networks in your building, hot-spots and public mobile networks. This will enable firms to maximise cost efficiencies, improve productivity and minimise interruptions caused by network transference.

THE EXPERTS

Computer Weekly has put together a panel of experts. You can draw on their specialist knowledge to solve a problem. E-mail your questions (or your own solutions to this or the next question) to computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk

Microsoft: www.microsoft.com/uk

Cordless Consultants: www.gqo72.dial.pipex.com

Madge: www.madge.com

RIM: www.blackberry.com/uk

Avaya: www.avaya.co.uk

This was last published in November 2003

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