Have Internet will travel

Is the mobile Internet a reality and, if so, where in the ether can companies find it?

Is the mobile Internet a reality and, if so, where in the ether can companies find it?

No wires, no plugs, no network cables; anytime, anywhere, access to the Internet over absolutely any device. Sure, there's plenty of hype surrounding the mobile Internet market - but there's plenty of fact too. Once the dust has settled, this is one phenomenon that's bound to influence corporate effectiveness.

The vision of the mobile Internet - a gigantic operating environment that enables users to pluck data and functions from wherever they reside on the Web and use them as though installed on a local device - is fast becoming reality. And the more it is used, the more we will see uniform standards and cross-industry models emerge to support it.

Unlimited limits?
The advent of the mobile marketplace has been helped along by changes to the telecoms infrastructure - not least the move from analogue to digital, and from GSM (the current mobile telecoms network) towards the intermediate stage general packet radio services network and the European third-generation wireless phone network UMTS.

On the hardware front, the desire for unified messaging and e-mail have bred very small, but highly powerful, mobile devices. And, before too long, a mobile phone's keypad will be replaced by a touch-sensitive screen that gives users maximum room for navigation.

There's already a range of technologies capable of delivering real-time, critical business information over wireless-enabled devices. Take the Microsoft .net framework, for example, which delivers Web services over any device using the XML standard, and which operates independently of network and communication layers.

But the truth is that it doesn't really matter what hardware you use, or which corporate architecture you employ - so long as they create an open, secure, environment, capable of operating within the mobile Internet.

Technology-tasting
We've already had a taste of what is possible at the Tech-Ed 2001 Europe conference - the number one technical event for Microsoft solutions.

An electronic Conference Assistant was created for the event - running over a wireless local area network and linking 7,400 delegate devices. Combining real-time conference data and highly-interactive Web services, conference information was continually updated as delegates roamed in and out of wireless-enabled areas.

Users e-mailed each other, accessed conference presentations and gave feedback offline or in real time, participated in a wireless auction, and connected to the Web - all completely wire-free.

Of course, commercial applications are about much more than simply connecting devices. They're about connecting people to each other, and to their data - securely - so they can make informed decisions and be accessible at any time, no matter what the method of communication.

Forward-thinking companies are already beginning to consider the possibilities - receiving sales and product information, transmitting customer orders, monitoring business-critical activities in real time, sharing data with colleagues - all independent of location.

The bottom-line benefit is that the mobile Internet will short-circuit time-consuming or repetitive processes, increase operational efficiency, and allow workforces to become more effective and productive than ever before.

The extension of the enterprise network to an omnipresent mobile environment offers enormous benefits, and will be the IT challenge for this decade.

So, whether you're on a train, on the factory floor, or visiting a customer, the mobile Internet is going to bring a whole new meaning to the term "hot desking". Wherever you log on becomes, in effect, your hot desk. And the network becomes your computer.

Andrew Wishart is a director at KPMG Consulting

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