Welcome to my blog

Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog....

This is where I will pen my thoughts on Enterprise Mobility and other wireless technologies based on my learning’s/ experience over the course of my IT career.

The wireless world has been a very exciting place to be over the last few years. We have seen the introduction of ground breaking products and technologies have reached a never-before-seen level of maturity. The rate of enterprise adaptation to wireless technology is only accelerating day by day.

This is a personal blog and will focus on my thoughts and perspectives on wireless technology. Please feel free to share your opinions and viewpoints so that it can be discussed and debated. Though I would like to, I won't be able to post to this blog each day. Will try my best to write whenever I get time.

I hope that you will return often to this blog. Thanks again.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Enterprise Mobility Market Outlook: 2009

Enterprise mobility predictions: 2009

by Purushottam Darshankar

Amidst the gloomy economic scenario, year 2008 saw companies of all sizes, in many vertical markets, and across various geographic regions identifying enterprise mobility initiatives as key priorities, and that is unlikely to change dramatically in 2009. Organizations still face the challenge of tracking and managing decentralized workforces and reducing operational costs. Concerns around mobile security continue to inhibit the uptake of mobile solutions, especially among financial services organizations, however, the mobilization of enterprises is growing, from simple applications, such as email, to more complex one such as mobile SCM.

In 2008, Forrester’s survey results show that between 40% and 60% of enterprises in North America and Europe identified more mobility support to employees, implementation of fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) solutions, and formalization of a mobile strategy as critical priorities.

The iPhone launch in 2008 caused a mobile operating systems war which will continue in year 2009. The mobile device market will still continue to remain fragmented across BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone and Android smartphones. The launch of iPhone has increased user interface expectation of end users as touch screen interface based phone will continue to dominate in 2009. As a result, iPhone will make a more significant dent in the enterprise mobility market, primarily among SMBs. However the BlackBerry will continue to lead the enterprise mobility market, knowing the security that BalckBerry offers. In 2009, vendors will develop devices that will address the dual needs of personal and professional use of mobile devices as well as implications on device size, battery life, keyboard requirements, and form factors.

In recent months, a number of major industry players that includes handset makers, and operators, have announced their concerns about handset volumes in 2009. According to IDC, total mobile phone volumes will be 1.9 percent lower in 2009 than 2008, the first downturn in annual shipment volumes since 2001. Lower prices will make converged mobile devices an attractive choice for consumers despite the fact consumers may choose to hold on to their current devices rather than replace or upgrade them.

In 2009, there will be rise in mobile application deployments in Asia Pacific region, particularly for mobile information applications such as email, calendar, and personal information. 2008 saw very interesting Location-based services applications for employee productivity improvements or worker efficiency. LBS will continue to remain a key component in variety of other applications including business, social networking and advertising domain. With 3G services to be rolled out in India, 2009 will see more advanced and data-heavy mobile applications and services on employee’s mobile device. These would require more sophisticated mobile middleware platforms to monitor and mange the applications.

Currently the enterprise mobility ecosystem is fragmented – companies offering mobile applications, mobile device management, mobile security solutions, mobile content etc. Many of these vendors have focused on developing specific type of application or services – such as SYBASE for mobile middleware, Pyxis mobile for financial market solution etc. In 2009, we will see mobility vendor consolidation as system integrator and mobile middleware vendors snatch up small players in the ecosystem, in order to expand their breadth in overall enterprise mobility service and solution capabilities.

As we look ahead to the challenging economic environment of 2009, the service providers, device makers, software vendors and mobile application developers will focus on their strategy to fulfill the demand for enterprise mobility solutions and the competition for products and services.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Event 2 : 3G: The Next Wave - Kochin

ASSOCHAM in association with Ericsson had organized the "3G: THE NEXT WAVE" on 4th - 5th December, 2008 at Le Meridian, Kochi, India. Siddhartha Behura Secretary, Department of Telecommunication and Chairman, Telecom Commission was the chief guest on the occasion.
The event was attended by all the leading telcos in India, content providers , content aggregators, entertainment channel providers and device vendors. The event had a lot of significance at the backdrop of government decision to auction 3G spectrum. The auction that is slotted for January’09 created lot of debate during the event.
This conference had coincided with the well known “Formula One Sport of Ocean Racing – the Volvo Ocean Race” at Kochi- Kochi hosting this 1st time.
After the welcome address by Balaji VP, Ericsson India , Gowton shared his views on Global 3G trends and its relevance to India, Sanjeev Aga, MD of Idea Cellular during his keynote address requested the DOT to conduct the auction in healthy manner and to think beyond the objective of revenue generation.
Jithu Niruthambath, Director of Wireless business at Texas Instrument emphasized on the importance of User experience and soon to launch devices such as MID (mobile internet devices) that would cost ~ 150 USD will bring revolution into a consumer applications such as MobileTV etc.
Jaikishan Rajaraman, Sr. Director at GSMA gave a brief of GSMA contribution to the telecom world and shared the global trends in Telecom market.
Before we head for a Gala night, the DOT gave on regulatory environment and overall auction process of 3G spectrum.
After having back-to-back session participants were in desperate need of some cocktail break. The evening couldn’t have been better and the site more electrified with good music, food and drinks around.
The second day all started with a “New revenue Doors” – a prospective from pioneers of entertainment providers in India viz. Sony and NDTV. In their view, Telcos due to lack of flexibility in business model have failed to provide the value for their content. Telcos have merely gone for acquiring the subscriber and have also retained a major share of revenue earned through content services. Sanjay Trehan, CEO NDTV emphasized on the need to synergies so as to tap the potential of mobile content.
The two day conference concluded with a memorable tour to VOR race village. The experience shared by the Ericsson crew who was on voyage kept us spellbound…!!!

Event - 1 : ESRI's GIS ENVISION Series Seminar

ESRI who are the market leader in the field of GIS and Geospatial solutions had organized the "GIS ENVISION SEMINAR" at Hotel Pride Pune on 25th November.
The day long event was attended by Indian Government bodies & offices, content and map providers and IT service providers.
The winter season that had just begun in Pune delayed the welcome address by an hour . Vatsal Dave took the audience through ESRI vision, its market share, product suite and service offerings.
Brd. Khanzode, Director Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics gave a keynote address. He highlighted on the importance of GIS in different sectors such as tourism, disaster management, utilities etc. As per his opinion, lot more can be done by different stake holders in GIS space in order to give a secure and better quality of life to common man.
Seema Joshi took the audience through the GIS overview and range of ESRI products viz. Desktop GIS, Server GIS and Mobile GIS.
Her session on "What's new in ARCGIS 9.3" was lively with some good demos which kept the audience on their toes.
The day long event was concluded by Nagarajan Murali who conducted a good session on ArcLogistics that provides routing and scheduling solution for fleet management. Pilots being run in Delhi with Tele Atlas Kalyani India Ltd. providing all the Map data for this solution.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Scaling Enterprise Mobility deployment against challenges

Enterprise mobility deployment drivers and inhibitors

by Purushottam Darshankar

To win in today’s competitive world, businesses are finding new ways to optimize the business process, shorten cycle times and empower the employees to better serve their customers by deploying mobile technologies. This enables greater supply chain efficiencies and accuracy thereby increasing the operating margins and greater customer satisfaction.

Although some enterprises are considering the widespread adoption of mobility solution, the evidence suggests that enterprise adopt a low risk strategy and focus on solutions which have proven ROI. The main inhibitors of enterprise mobility deployment are (source: Telsyte, 2008)

- Integration with existing IT systems & solutions

- Understanding the future of mobile technology

- Cost / ROI / business case justification

- Mobile network / carrier selection

- Ongoing management / maintenance

- Security concerns

- Business process reengineering & realignment

- Mobile device selection

- Lack of organizational capability

- Mobile application vendor selection

The benefits of mobility solution is immense, however realizing its full potential can introduce a significant IT challenge. Today’s enterprise mobility solutions are connected to backend system using ad –hoc system and management of this complex system is important. Management of these deployments is usually an afterthought, if not addressed properly, may result into increased deployment and support cost, under performing systems, increased organizational risks.

A standard enterprise mobility deployment may include several hundred mobile devices, access points and backend technologies – complexity of these environments make the device and network rollouts, updates / maintenance and support more difficult. Existing network management tools available in market lack in dealing with roaming devices, intermittent network connectivity and wireless security.

Ensuring the uniformity of software versions on mobile devices across hundreds of devices, provisioning and configuration of mobile devices and wireless network is of paramount importance. Proper version control of application, OS and firmware is necessary using OTA push to keep the mobile workers up-to-date with latest application and updates.

The trained technical staff to support the mobility solution is as important as the solution itself. However, hands-on technical staff required to support large-scale enterprise deployments is expensive, both in the number of and the cost per technician. The ability to support remote diagnostics and remote problem resolution is critical. Integrated management tool is required to respond to the problems encountered by field worker with their mobile devices.

A mobile device inherently has limited processing power, battery life and memory which makes collection and processing of field data difficult. The intermittent connectivity and bandwidth limitation compound this problem. This makes the data synchronization with enterprise database a complex procedure. The alternative ways of data synchronization either over USB cable or Bluetooth should be made available to avoid loss of data.

The enterprise mobility is still dogged by security concerns. Remotely locking of lost or stolen devices to restrict access to data and device functionality is must if data is sensitive. The recovered devices again need to be unlocked for continued usage quickly to avoid loss of productivity.

The enterprise mobility solution should not be developed considering specific operating system and device in mind. The solution should provide flexibility to add new devices with minimal changes in application and its provisioning. If multiple devices with a variety of operating system and screen size are being used by field force, the system should posses the inventory of such devices for better technical support.

The IT department should be capable of supporting different peripheral devices such as RFID, barcode, camera, GPS, printers and other data collection accessories used by field force. The IT department should keep the necessary spares coupled with well laid procedures of logging support/repair calls for replacements/repairs of devices and accessories. After all, it is the IT department that is likely to own the company’s mobility roadmap and is responsible for technical aspects of mobility deployment. As with other IT projects, it is important that organizations have a “buy in” from top executives to ensure the success of enterprise mobility deployment.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enterprise Mobility - a way to deal with economic downturn

A way to navigate your business through economic downturn

by Purushottam Darshankar

Economic downturn is a reality and there is no escape from reality of economic crisis, as we see businesses across the world facing a recession. It calls for an action and innovation to successfully navigate through economic downturn. While economic downturn creates formidable obstacles to businesses that are trying to survive and grow, an economic downturn can open up opportunities. The key is to focus on your core competencies, reduce operating expenses and manage more proactively, rather than reactively. In order to reduce operational expenses, one needs to improve the productivity through increased efficiency. How can businesses provide more services per person at lower administrative costs and reduce expenses while at the same time providing quality work and good customer services?

A broad economic downturn forces companies to seek new sources of improving productivity while leveraging existing investment in IT. Proper Enterprise mobility initiative that is consistent with the overall stated corporate objectives can bring in required transformation for businesses. They can use enterprise mobility to develop more productive business process while maintaining budget discipline. The significant impact of enterprise mobility could be felt in field service automation. Some of the following business initiatives would be of significant importance for businesses during economic downturn.

To be more productive and effective, make available all the required backend enterprise data (work order information, product information etc.), user manuals, trouble shooting manuals to remote service technician at jobsite to minimize on communication cost, wasting time and excess fuel driving back and forth to the office.

The poor scheduling and routing is another area that can be looked upon. Location intelligence of service people could enable businesses to improvise on their decision support, operation and planning. Planning and scheduling of work could be done based upon the location, parts and expertise needed. Sending service technicians to a distant location, when another service technician is closer and ready to take up a task leads to wastage of time and fuel. Can you use GPS tracking on the vans to better know the location of all service technicians so you can dispatch the closest and best service technician for the job? Use of Location aware field force automation solution would dispatch the right work orders to field technicians on their handhelds that can improvise your productivity, operational efficiency and better customer satisfaction.

Tight control over inventory is another important area. Improvise on visibility of parts needed, the location of inventory and parts used in each of the service ticket. GIS integration with inventory management system can help improvise the utilization of spares stored and managed from across the different locations.

Poor Cash collection and management at jobsite can be further improved using POS based handheld devices. You can collect money, swipe credit cards and print receipts from handheld device. You can reduce wastage of time, paper and avoid postage expenses and sending out invoices weeks after the work was completed.

The administrative costs can be brought down by automating work order scheduling and dispatching using enterprise mobility solution that reduces cost of data entry and administrative staff. The management visibility into the work done in the field is essential to ensure quality of services and customer satisfaction.

Slow economic time motives each of us to be smarter and more efficient. There is growing demand of enterprise mobility solution as a service ( SaaS model)- “on Demand” service. The entire functionality bundles could be delivered as services hosted by independent service provider. Business users of these plug-and-play offerings would pay a monthly fee and in turn be able to demand quality of service. For business, not only the TCO (Total cost of ownership) is low but the ROI (return on the investment) is also quickly realized and quantifiable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Device Selection for Enterprise Mobility solution

How to zero in on target device for your enterprise mobility solution ?

by Purushottam Darshankar

One of the most critical part of enterprise mobility solution is the selection of appropriate commercial or ruggedized mobile device. Inevitably the environment in which the devices would be used should drive this decision; however, there is trend of deploying commercial grade devices in traditional rugged markets. Leading factors driving the selection of commercial over ruggedized device include, among others, the lower upfront investment, access to more current technology and short replacement requirements.

Though the TCO (Total Cost of ownership) is low with commercial grade devices, the ruggedized devices provide superior cost profile to commercial grade solution in select environments. For example, in harsh field environments such as accident sites, property damage sites, supply chain/transportation and public safety, the annual TCO of a mobile rugged device is as much as 35 percent lower than for non-rugged devices.

On average, 4 percent of rugged mobile computers installed to support enterprise mobility applications in “harsh” environments fail per year. Conversely, the annual failure rate for commercial grade devices in similar harsh environments rockets to 36 percent. End users need to anticipate device failure rates into their deployment plan. The critical issue is effectively managing failure rate and downtime to minimize impact on the operation.

Handheld Mobile or Tablet PC?

The key to choose between the two is whether or not the user has to work while standing or walking around. A mobile has a significant advantage over a tablet PC by being able to be used while the user is truly mobile. When a pen tablet is used at a desk in a mini-dock, its capability is essentially identical to that of an ultra-portable notebook.

There are two types of Tablet PCs: slates and convertibles. A slate-style device is in essence an LCD with a built-in PC motherboard and hard drive. This type of Tablet PC is most frequently used by health-care workers and others in specialized fields. A convertible device can be used like a slate or, when the screen is swiveled and raised, like a traditional notebook with a keyboard. The display lays on top of the keyboard when it is used in slate mode.

Being able to write on the Tablet PC's screen with a stylus--which works like the Graffiti handwriting recognition on a Palm OS device--makes "all the difference”. While at a home site, user uses the Tablet PC's pen-based input to fill in forms and add drawings to digital photographs that he takes during inspections. At the office, he plugs the Tablet PC into its docking station, which connects it to an external monitor and keyboard that lets him use the computer as he would a desktop PC.

However, with mobile devices becoming more and more sophisticated, they certainly bring advantages when it comes to harsh field environment such as accident sites, property damage sites. They are much handier and are always connected. Few of the points where mobile can score over table PC are

- Cost of Mobile device based on its capability can be lower than tablet PC cost and may be important factor if it has to be rolled out on massive scale.
- Besides Data, use of Voice or SMS services used from mobile device may become user friendly & time saving.
- Inbuilt camera feature of Mobile which will enable field force person to capture various field details in seconds for select applications.
- SFA/FFA Mobile Applications supported by GPS & Navigation will increase the Field employee’s performance by assisting him for better route optimization.

Device Platform

The next important consideration is device platform. Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform and Research in Motion's (RIM) Blackberry have emerged to dominate the landscape of enterprise mobility. While Blackberry devices are generally used more prevalently for mobile messaging, Windows mobile devices are better positioned for an expanded suite of mobilized enterprise applications.

From a device selection perspective, it might be considered beneficial to have the bundled applications, such as web-browsing and email, Pocket word, excel etc. The Windows Mobile platform offers a more consistent experience between devices.

Wireless Connectivity options

Connectivity options play an important role in device selection. Some of the enterprise application provides offline functionalities and need to synchronies large data once the connectivity is made available. Choices range from very limited connectivity in the base models to highly connectable devices at the top end. Within each class of device already outlined, i.e. rugged, commercial, Pocket PC, RIM etc, the full range of connectivity options are available.

Connectivity options include Infra-red, Serial Connection, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPRS etc.

Practically all models will have an infra-red and serial connection available. The serial connection may be via cable or via cradle. Bluetooth may be useful for connecting with a mobile phone, headset, or some other personal devices. When used with a mobile phone, Bluetooth can be used for remote data synchronization.

WiFi connectivity is useful in a controlled environment, such as a warehouse, that can be fully covered by wireless access points. This method offers cheap, reliable, and fast synchronization.

A packet-switched network such as GPRS, that offers “always-on” functionality may connect to a static IP address at the synchronisation gateway, or again through a VPN, thus offering better security. It is important to note that it is possible for synchronisation to occur without the need for any wireless connectivity. Users may simply connect via a cable or a cradle hosted by a computer that has a connection to the synchronisation gateway.

Peripheral Device support

The selected device may require built in functionality to support the peripheral devices such as Barcode scanners, Printers, GPS receivers, Cameras, Magnetic stripe readers, RFID readers etc. The SDIO slot, Compact Flash slots, or other expansion slots may be used either for memory expansion or for connecting the peripheral device.

QWERTY Keyboard or Stylus input

Device may feature the keyboard and/or stylus for entering data. Keyboards may be numeric or complete QWERTY. Some devices offer handwriting recognition and transcription as an alternative.

The choice between an actual keyboard and stylus input depends a lot on the design of the user interface for the enterprise mobile application. Application user interfaces should tend towards using drop-down lists or numeric-only fields, in place for simple text-entry fields. If there are a great number of text-entry fields appearing in the application, then an actual keyboard might be preferable.

Battery life

Battery life depends on the battery technology and on the quality of the battery itself. How long device would function between battery recharges will depend on the typical usage patterns of the device. Heavy consumers of battery power are the device backlight, and radio circuitry. Any device running Bluetooth, WLAN, or a mobile phone will require a radio to be operating in the device. Of these, Bluetooth is the lightest consumer of power, due to its short range. It is important to consider what will happen to a device, should the battery become fully exhausted.

Some devices offer a back-up battery. In this case, when the main battery has been completely drained, a message is displayed to the user, telling them that the back-up battery is now being used. In this way, no data is lost, and the user is advised to recharge the main battery as soon as possible.

If all battery power for the device fails, then normally the data and even the applications in the device memory would be lost. However, some vendors offer non-volatile memory. This type of memory retains its data when power is lost, and remains intact during even a hard reset. Some devices will feature this type of memory internally.

Another way of keeping data beyond power loss is to save it on SD memory cards. Applications may access the card just like another folder.

The other considerations for device selection include size, weight, accessories, and even button placement on the device. This area is often underestimated in how important it can be in the overall success of a mobile solution.

By taking into consideration all of the factors discussed here, it should be possible to arrive at a shortlist of devices that are suited to a particular mobile solution. Lastly, Don’t forget to lab test the short listed device using a prototype of the enterprise mobile application.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Evolving security needs for Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise Mobility Solution– How secure are they?

by Purushottam Darshankar

In today’s marketplace, enterprise mobile solutions have become necessary for businesses as competitive advantage and as a productivity improvement tool. With traditional low end monochrome devices giving way to sleeker high resolution handset packed with high processing power and high memory, the enterprises have started using these devices beyond voice calls and SMS and focus on delivering the critical front-end application for mobile workers.

Safety and security are of paramount concern for any enterprise in an increasingly uncertain and unsafe world, and have both a financial return in terms of cost of avoidance towards lost time, litigation and compensation, regulatory compliance, repair cost etc. as safety improves and intangible benefits related to improved working conditions for the workforce.

The wireless medium through cellular network has certain limitation over the wired medium such as open access, limited bandwidth and system complexity. These limitations make it difficult although possible to provide security features such as authentication, encryption, integrity and confidentiality. Since the communication is on the wireless channel, there is no physical barrier that can separate the attacker from the network. The principal sources of attack could be either end terminals or operator’s own backbone network. Issues may arise in mobile device OS which might open security holes that can be exploited. If a device is stolen or lost, it needs to be protected from unauthorized access to confidential and sensitive information such as enterprise data, e-mails, contacts etc.

Due to open access to cellular network and in turn to enterprise IT system, there are variety of attacks the infrastructure is open to. Denial of Service (DOS) is most potent attack that can bring down the infrastructure network, caused by sending excessive data to network, more than the network can handle, resulting in users being unable to access the network resources. Unauthorized access, if proper method of authentication is not implemented, provides free access to attacker to enterprise IT system and can use it for services that he might not be authorized for.

If data communication between handheld device and backend server is not encrypted then the attacker can eavesdrop and intercept sensitive communication such as e-mails, documents, other critical enterprise data etc. The attacker can sit in between the handheld device and access station of cellular network to intercept the message in between and change them. Going further, the attacker can hijack an already established session, and can act as legitimate user to gain the access to enterprise IT system.

While there are several security mechanisms available in Wireless network, continued research is going on to provide new and even more secure mechanism for cellular security as we look forward to 4G next generation services.

Enterprise Security Strategies

Every enterprise should have a security strategy to protect the availability, integrity and confidentiality of data in an enterprise’s IT system. Organization needs to decide on how much time, money and efforts need to be spent in order to develop appropriate security policies and control. Listing the threats helps the security team to identify the various methods, tools, and techniques that are used in an attack and can then develop proactive as well as reactive strategy.

The proactive or pre-attack strategy is a set of steps taken to minimize existing security policy vulnerabilities and develop contingency plans. Determining the amount of damage that an attack will cause on an IT system and the weaknesses and vulnerabilities exploited during this attack helps in developing the proactive strategy.

The reactive strategy or post-attack strategy helps security team to assess the damage caused by the attack, repair the damage or implement the contingency plan developed in the proactive strategy, document and learn from the experience, and get business functions running as soon as possible.

Enterprise Security Goals

The enterprise mobile solutions that run on the handheld devices are developed by independent software vendors that distribute these as freeware or license ware. The IP address of the servers which hosts these applications, for user download, are advertised so that they can be accessed by the intended users. However, it can be downloaded by any consumer over-the-air on the device without any control by operator. This may become a launching pad for attack on operator network as well as enterprise’s IT system.

Every enterprise mobile solution must provide a bundle of security functions that assure the security of system and can be referred as the goals of security system.

  • Authentication - Before the data is being exchanged between the receiver and sender, their identity must be verified.
  • Secrecy or Confidentiality-Only authenticated users based on their privileges should be able to access and interpret the data.
  • Integrity - Data being communicated is assured to be free from any type of modification between the end points (sender and receiver).
  • Non-repudiation- will ensure that neither the sender nor the receiver can falsely deny that they have sent certain data.
  • Service Reliability- Since the systems usually get attacked by intruder, which may affect it availability. The IT system should be robust enough to provide a way to grant their users the quality of service they expect.

Most of the mobile middleware’s available in the market provides the secure connectivity between handheld and backend server that supports HTTPS connection. The OMA device management specification suggests the use of client credentials (ID, Password and nonce) and server credential to confirm the authenticity and integrity of data being exchanged. Additional encryption algorithms (DES, AES or RC4) could be used to secure the data between sender and receiver by using either symmetric or asymmetric encryption. However these techniques slow down the enterprise application performance and balance has to be struck between security and usability.

The enterprise should ensure the proper end user registration and enrollment procedure to allow access to enterprise services. The end-users need to initially authenticate through a self-service registration web portal using their username and password credentials. Once authenticated, users are provisioned for enterprise application and are provided with a pin code that is used during the download of the enterprise application from the device browser. In addition, the firewall and IDP (intrusion detection and prevention) system can be used to tackle the security threats.

Enterprises must develop a security strategy and build policy that reflects this strategy. Security must be the responsibility of the entire user community and appropriate communication needs to be put in place to emphasize its importance. The expansion of mobile devices such as PDA’s, phones, and converged devices into the enterprise present several challenges to IT managers regarding security and manageability. A balance of security and usability must be reached considering the limited processing power of handheld devices.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mobile Web Next Big Thing- Are you ready for it?

Making your web site ready for Mobile web
by Purushottam Darshankar

Market researchers have already speculated that mobile web will become next dominant internet platform and is referred to as next wave of fueling m-business.
The Google, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft have already realized potential and have come up with mobile portal featuring content designed specifically for mobile devices.

Peoples have started to regard their mobile phone as gateway to the web – a means of accessing the information they previously only got through desktop browser. With an estimated 250 million US mobile subscriber, Juniper Research reports at least 10 % of them browsing internet through their mobile phones. The web based social networks such as Facebook and Flickr offers pervasive use of mobile phones by young consumers.

Though the mobile web is going to be next big thing, it has its own challenges when it comes to user adaptability. The W3C, the leading consortium also has realized this, Tim Berner says while announcing the launch of MWI (Mobile Web Initiative), “The Mobile Web Initiative's goal is to make browsing the Web from mobile devices a reality,W3C and mobile industry leaders are working together to improve Web content production and access for mobile users and the greater Web.”

The carrier networks are very slow and when it comes to accessing improperly designed mobile website, the users are getting impatient waiting for sites to load. Most of the sites, that are technologically capable of sensing when they are being loaded by a mobile browser, claim to deliver web site content optimized for mobile use however are not formatted properly for small screen.

The users are well adapted to Windows environment and find it difficult accessing mobile web which allows only one page to be displayed at a time, and pages can only be viewed in the sequence they were originally accessed. Though the use of mobile device in future is promising, the limitation of human eye sight, hand size and device screen size will make user to prefer desktop over mobile phone for select category of operations.

Knowing the screen size may help to optimize the content, however it is best to keep the shape and style to minimal and linear as possible knowing the fact that mobile world contains craziest screen variations. The mobile sites flooded with advertisement slow down the page loading and also fill up screen unnecessarily making website sub-standard.

The lack of consistency across multiple browsers is another pain area and testing mobile web site on devices has become a nightmare, with more than 40 plus mobile browser available in the market.

High end phones Vs low end phones

Low end phones have several limitations, including screen resolution and limited XHTML rendering capability of browser. If the majority of your target audience lies in this category it is advised to develop the mobile web site using WML(Wireless Markup Language).

On the other hand the high end phones (including Smartphone and PDA’s) have ability to run the website that is comparable to one you might run on desktop IE browser.

This may inspire the business to come up with one web that means making, as far as is reasonable, the same information and services available to users irrespective of device they are using. This may fail to deliver in providing optimized experience to mobile user. While device may be capable of rendering full, traditional web page design, sending them the normal version is not a best practice as content has to go over carrier network, which is much slower.

Creating a separate domain for mobile users is advised even though the user agent detection would provide us to detect if the user is using a mobile device or a desktop browser. The advantage of this is that the user browsing with high end device would be provided with option of using the traditional web site or mobile web site.

Design Considerations for Mobile Web

In early days only way to access mobile web site was through WAP browser which used to support WML as primary markup language. WML was based on card-and-deck metaphor. This card-based metaphor means all user interactions are split into cards and navigation occurs between cards within a deck. The WML is still used by legacy systems that are supporting low end phones. The WAP gateway enables connecting of mobile devices to web servers.

With advancement of mobile technologies, most built in browsers these days support XHTML-MP (Mobile Profile), the standard designed specifically for mobile devices. cHTML is another standard developed by Japanese mobile manufacturers to support DoCoMo’s i-Mode phones.

XHTML-MP consist fewer elements (Structure ,Texts ,Hypertext ,List ,Forms ,Basic Tables ,Image ,Object Metainformation ,Scripting ,Style Sheet ,Style Attribute ,Link ,Base) and also tighter restriction to enable device browser to handle the web content. Practically all the devices sold today support XHTML. The doctype for XHTML-MP site would begin like

You can visit site like http://flickr.com/mob or http://mobile.fandango.com and can look at XHTML-MP coding.

User experience is next important thing and developer should provide easy navigation by providing necessary links to go to top of the page, home page and link to skip the menu and go directly to the content. The long text on mobile website can be painful experience as user will have to do lot of vertical and horizontal scrolling. CSS can be effectively used to knock off certain text. Use of declaration like .handheldHide {display :none} in handheld stylesheet is enough to filter the content.

Use of few images that too of smaller size is preferred that too in JPEG or GIF format that have high compression ratio. PNG images can be further compressed using OptiPNG tool.

Even though some of browsers support Javascript (IE, NetFront, OPenWave) to some degree, use of it should be restricted as debugging of Javascript is difficult.

Tools and Resources

In order to know the shortcomings of different browsers for different standards one can make use of some of the resources mentioned herein.

To test the support of your browser to XHTML and CSS styling you can access http://cameronmoll.com/articles/mobile/mkp/ . The “advanced” page of this site even tests the support of Javascript by browser.

To determine how your device interprets handheld stylesheet you can visit http://htmldog.com/test/handheld.html url from your device.

One can test their own mobile web site to see if it is ready for mobile user on emulator provided at http://mtld.mobi/emulator.php. This site can also be used by developer in checking and validating their markup language.

Different mobile browsers, their capability and on how do they handle real web pages is well explained at http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/operaStuff/devices/. The site concludes with best browser, which has low resource usage and small footprint, that is Opera.

The browser capabilities have improved much over the past years and almost all of them have a good support for XHTML. However for optimized experience for mobile user’s one need to design the mobile specific site. To support low end phones one will have to provide both versions of website viz. XHTML-MP and WML. Concept of having one site to force-feed the same content as that displayed on the traditional site without considering different needs and requirements of mobile device could lead to disaster.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Star Thrower Story

The Star Thrower Story
- by Joel Barker
There's a story I would like to share with you. It was inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley. Eiseley was a very special person because he combined the best of two cultures. He was a scientist and a poet. And from those two perspectives he wrote insightfully and beautifully about the world and our role in it.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"

His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrassed.

That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man's actions represent is something that is special in each and everyone of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.And that is your challenge.

And that is my challenge. We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, it will propel our Organization along, in our journey to excellence………..

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mobile Location Based Advertising and Marketing showing up

by Purushottam Darshankar
The use of advert and marketing based on user preference and location is already here and is considered to be one of the most promising mobile business opportunities. “Mobile Advertising” can be defined as any promotional or advertisement material pushed on to mobile phone. “Mobile Marketing” can be defined as any use of the mobile channel for delivery of marketing communications. Mobile Marketing is often used to broadly encompass everything from mobile advertising to promotion of mobile related content such as mobile personalization and entertainment items like ring tones, graphics, games etc.

There are couple of reasons why many experts consider Mobile Advertising as an encouraging branch of mobile business. The first and far most being the high penetration rate of mobile phones. People carry their mobile device along most of the day so mobile advertisement can reach target audience almost anytime, anywhere as against ads in newspaper or commercials on television can reach people only in certain situation and within certain time span. More importantly, each marketing message is private to that audience. This means that advertiser can take risks with their messages that are simply not possible in mass-market communication.

The technology required for location based advertising is now available as subscribers are increasingly using LBS applications on their handset such as mapping and navigation solution. Spread of mobile advertising and marketing has created an exciting revenue opportunity and this exponential growth is expected to reach to $13 billion by 2011.(Source: eMarketer , Jan 2007). The mobile advertising eco system which involves advertiser, content provider, carrier and consumer needs to be fostered so that everyone in the value chain benefits relative to their contribution. As we have seen time and time again, if the ecosystem is healthy, segment thrives otherwise it is relegated to slow growth or the interest dissipates altogether. There needs to be a good balance of power between the stakeholders. As a result the mobile advertising is at its infancy in India and is mostly into SMS advertising, but things are changing at rapid pace and are moving towards MMS and WAP push campaigns.

The mobile ecosystem keeps shifting as activities performed by stakeholders are changing with emergence of new ways of advertising. Currently, the mobile advertising chain consists of main segments - advertisers/campaign Sponsors (like American Express, P&G, GE, Toyota, etc.),marketing agencies ( like Ogilvy, Universal, Carat, Mindshare, etc.), enablers( like ThirdScreenMedia, Admob, MobiTV, Enpocket, Rhythm NewMedia, Medio, ActionEngine, ScreenTonic, Google, Yahoo, Tellme, MSN, Infospace, etc.), content provider( like CNN, Disney, Yahoo, YouTube, ESPN, Mixxer, Intercasting, etc.), aggregators( like mBlox, Infospace, WSC, etc.), carriers( like Sprint Nextel, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Verizon, Cingular, Virgin, Clearwire, etc.) and consumers like you and me.

Different forms of location based advertising are available that varies from simple SMS based advertising to branded mobile web site. The mobile web offers variety of banner ads with links to take users to different mobile sites. The common short codes and SMS are currently driving the mobile advertising which could be effectively used for Text-to-win campaigns, product promotion, subscription, coupons, polls, surveys, donations etc.

The other form of mobile marketing is on–package marketing, the imprinting of short codes and keywords directly on packaged goods. Consumers text these keywords to short codes to receive rebates, enter contests or simply interact with the brand. SMS messages have had a successful history of generating high response rates. Simply include a keyword and short code on your product’s package, and consumers’ SMS messages will pour in. Timing of campaign with a well publicized event or holiday will see exceptional results.

Mobile coupons are the cool, new alternative to clipping and collecting the traditional variety. Sent directly to opted–in phones, mobile coupons provide both the consumer and the brand overwhelming convenience. With mobile coupons, brands are able to target consumers by individual preferences and locations, thus producing a greater return on investment. And unlike direct mail, mobile coupon campaigns can be created, implemented and dispatched within an hour, reducing the usual production time and costs. One great use of mobile coupons is to promote store openings. Advertise your short code and keyword on local billboards, radio shows and television stations and then watch as new customers rush with cell phones in hand to redeem their mobile coupons. Couple this with SMS messages containing store locations, new product or service information or even employment opportunities, and you will have a steady stream of business.

Incorporating the mobile advertising without degrading the usability of service is key factor for its success. Most of the subscribers do not want to pay for this service unless they see some value in the message they are going to receive. Getting the permission before sending someone a mobile message is a legal requirement in Europe/US and even in India. The user preferences are important so that marketing offer can be carefully targeted to its audience, bringing in better profits. Also, location information feed from the carrier operator helps advertiser to deliver location based promotions to target audience at right time enhancing the response rates.
Many on-device applications enable subscribers to make personalized request for information. A server-side advertising insertion engine can be used to return advertisements that key off specific words, categories, or location to give context and relevance to the messages being presented to the subscriber. The countries like Japan are exploring advanced methods to build user specific probability model to predict his or her behavior and deliver the right contents. User preferences based on customer profile that capture everything from age and gender to web-surfing habits and social networks aided with their current location is the differentiator that separates mobile advertising from other traditional media and advertisers, operators and manufacturers can all get involved to provide profitable LBA services.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Location Aware Services – Put your field service operation on Maps

Does Location Matter in enterprise field service operation?
by Purushottam Darshankar
Mobility is increasingly treated as strategic part of enterprise IT, not simple add-on, by recognizing the fact that a smart mobile implementation can create real competitive advantage - the potential to “leap frog” the rivals. Customer satisfaction through post-sales service has become an absolute necessity for enterprises that are facing reduced product margins from increased competition and commoditization. The businesses who have adapted to mobile field force applications have addressed this as it has
- improved field workforce productivity and effectiveness
- reduced the field force management costs
- increased service quality and predictability
For service organizations field service forms an integral link in overall service chain. These organizations are always on lookout for technology solutions to assist field force in increasing their operational performance.
It isn’t surprising therefore that 66% of respondents state that mobile field service is either “very important” or “extremely important” to their operational and financial performance. But only 13% of respondents are “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their field service operations. (Source Aberdeen Group) The yawn of dissatisfaction is mainly due to lack of information – Where are my filed peoples? Where have they been? Who should take this job? Which job to take?
The key technology ingredient the businesses are looking to employ is location aware technology as part of purchasing or upgrading technology solution. 63% respondents currently state they use some form of location based solution to improve operational performance of their field force. (Source Aberdeen Group).
Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information System (GIS) and automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems – enable service organizations to locate their human and physical field asset thus making their solution to leverage on location intelligence. This will not only ensure greater management oversight into field employees and their activities but also brings in needed accuracy, real time timesheet and job information to reduce the administrative cost and enforce corporate policies.
As an example, for the repair service division of one commercial appliance giant, field service operation had traditionally been manual and paper-based. Field personnel relied on their back office to deliver their route assignments along with replacement parts everyday before they could start their day.
There was no mechanism in place to find out if a customer had cancelled a service call until they had already arrived on site, significantly impacting worker productivity. And because route and service schedules were not updated in real-time, technicians were often unable to meet the service delivery times promised to customers.
Realizing it needed to automate its field service operation, the service organization equipped its 1,000-strong field force with GPS-enabled handheld devices that allowed service workers to map routes to customer locations and provide status updates to dispatchers.
As a result of the deployment, the company experienced marked improvements in customer satisfaction with customer service levels increased to 98.8%, and technicians improved their daily work order completion rate by 20%. Not surprisingly, the technician productivity improvements exceeded project goals by 250 %.( Source Aberdeen Group
The businesses can adopt to range of LBS technologies that ranges from standard GPS handheld devices, to embedded AVL devices, to RFID tags for service parts for asset tracking and inventory management. According to Aberdeen’s recent survey, customer demand for better performance (nearly 60%) is the key market driver for organization to adopt to LBS solution. Close behind is the need to improve inefficient task scheduling and routing, which is core to field service fleet and asset management. The GPS handheld devices used not only allow back office to track field workers but also point-of-service terminal enabling them to record the key data. Use of Barcode scanners and RFID tags for service parts are some of the indicators of field service optimization efforts.
The business value of Location aware solution in field service can best be measured by relative values of key metrics when compared to Non-LBS users. 30% of companies that use LBS state that they have seen an increase in customer retention, and 33% report an increase in service revenues since Location aware solution deployment. Specific to field force management, 44% of companies have seen a drop in overtime pay with another 36% stating a reduction in mean time to repair (MTTR). (Source Aberdeen Group)
Companies that are using Location aware solutions have seen customer retention boosts of almost 16% on average. This increase is driven in part by improved resolution times and rates. These enhancements map to an overall 16.4% jump in service revenues. On the cost side, efficient route optimization and asset usage have generally led to savings in fuel and insurance costs which add to the bottom line. Given the recent spike in oil prices, a 4.4% reduction in fuel costs can be significant, especially for organizations with larger geographic coverage and larger service van/truck fleets. (Source Aberdeen Group)
Finally, the service organizations that leverage location intelligence can complete more work orders than those that are not using LBS data. On average, LBS-enabled service organizations complete 0.7 more work orders per technician per day. With the average technician staff being 50 technicians – that amounts to 35 extra work orders completed on a daily basis. This differential can be attributed to the fact that LBS-enabled field forces spend less time traveling to and from worksites.
Further, LBS enhancements have allowed companies to shave nearly three minutes of travel for every 60 minutes of time spent at worksites. Once again, with 50 technicians working eight hours a day, this can amount to 1,200 minutes of travel time saved.
On both counts – increase in work completed and reduction in travel time – service organizations can demonstrate marked improvements in service-driven profit margins and overall customer satisfaction.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Enterprise LBS- Standards and its significance

LBS Standards and challenges in adapting to it

by Purushottam Darshankar

Location Based service provides geographic information using device/users location information, spatial data and content based on the user preferences. Until now most of the focus on LBS market has been on consumer market. Location identifier, friend finder, traffic information, convenience services, point of interests etc. have been contributing to more and more revenues for telecom operators. However the possibilities of ease of use, improving the productivity, operational efficiency and reduce cost through location aware services are seemingly endless for enterprise users. Enterprises see the benefits of giving their mobile personnel ready access to ‘where’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ information about the world around them, including information about mobile and stationary humans and physical assets. Also, emergency services, security and disaster management concerns are driving governments to deploy information systems with fully integrated geospatial capabilities, including LBS.
The major factor for enterprise LBS growth is its demand and technology readiness. The enterprise application such as field force automation, fleet management, asset tracking, location billing, CRM, inventory management and telematics etc. are being deployed today. The practicality of these applications are derived from – market proven advances in device technologies, web based software technologies and LBS standards. The most critical enabler for enterprise LBS is standard.
The new LBS standards are still on early stages in their level of maturity. The key challenge for LBS provider is to access the network operator and content provider through proprietary interfaces. As a result the integration effort to support business model workflow is high. Enterprises want LBS to be seamless with their enterprise information system. Shared resources, seamless interoperability, extensibility and collaboration are key to enterprise LBS.

Standards relevant to Location Based Services
The open mobile Alliance (OMA) and Open GIS consortium (OGC) are main governing bodies to provide LBS standards. OMA addresses all key elements of the LBS value chain including those addressed by Location Interoperability Forum (LIF) and Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) forum. The LIF and WAP are now part of OMA. LIF provides specification for determining location information securely.
The most important specification that OMA has come up with is MLP (Mobile Location Protocol). MLP enables LBS applications to interoperate with wireless network regardless of its air interfaces (GSM, CDMA etc.) and positioning methods. MLP defines a common interface that facilitates exchange of location information between the LBS application and location servers in wireless network (SMLC/GMLC). It also supports the privacy of user providing access to location information only to those who are authorized one.
To complement LIF’s advanced MLP services, OGC has come up with OpenLS Services which addresses the geospatial interoperability issues. Key services such as coordinate transformation, Web Mapping, Geography Markup Language (GML), geoprocessing and web integration are handled in OpenLS specification. The OpenLS platform provides open interfaces to LBS core services such as route determination, Directory, location utility (geocoder that obtains X,Y co-ordinates from address, and reverse geocoder that obtains address from X,Y co-ordinates), presentation (display showing map, point of interest, etc.), gateway (find position of mobile terminal ‘from the network’), etc. OpenLS abstract data types (ADTs) are the basic information constructs used by these core services. ADTs are ‘application schemas’ of well-known data types and structures for location information encoded in OGC’s XML for Location Services (XLS). These schemas encode location information, for example, route summary and route geometry, route instructions, location, area of interest and point of interest and address, etc.
OMA and OGC’s specifications are harmonised with those from telecoms standards groups connecting wire and wireless voice systems and the Internet – groups such as Parlay, Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), 3GPP2, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and others.

Challenges in adapting to standards
The LBS standards have not been fully adapted yet; they are still on early stages in their level of maturity. As in other IT domain, open standards put pressure on companies that uses and sell proprietary solutions, but they also provide market extensibility- much broader adoption. The commercial potential and business advantages inherent in using LBS standards are attractive even to those companies that will need to eventually abandon the proprietary solutions they use or sell today. Some providers of LBS, particularly in Japan and Europe, are profiting from LBS offerings in consumer market that are increasing their overall wireless market share, and these companies will surely delay their implementation of standards. However their competitors, made more competitive through the benefits of standards, are likely to push them into the standards world.
The businesses who are adapting to standard based enterprise system will resists carriers efforts to ‘lock them into’ proprietary solutions and would put pressure on standard platform as it would meet their interoperability needs. For telecom operators it would provide a control on what applications they introduce and how those applications are integrated with content providers and their systems. For application service provider standard platform provide a one-stop shop for all their location-based application development needs.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Adding the Map to Blog so easy....

By Purushottam Darshankar

To add a Google Map to BLog or any web page is so simple....

1) Go to WikiMapia.org site and find a part of the map that you want to display....
2) Click "WikiMapia" at the top corner and choose "map on your page" link.
3) Move and resize frame you see to desired view, adjust view setting if needed and copy given html code to your page or blog.

That's all.

Here is a map of apartment in Mumbai where I stay:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Indian IT– Industry-Institute Interaction, Bridging the digital divide key to success

By Purushottam Darshankar

India is gaining a prominence in the IT outsourcing. However, interpretation of outsourcing has changed over a period of time.
Initially it was process of delegating activities which were not part of organizations prime agendas. However, outsourcing today has a whole new prospective. Now we see outsourcing where full ownership of their product, in all aspect of product life cycle like ideation, R&D, prototyping and testing are outsourced.
The outsourcing product development stand to around $11 Billion in India today. Expectations are still bigger since todays $150 - $200 Billion global IT market is expected to grow further in spite of US market slowdown.
This brings us to an important question. Will technology education in the country be able to keep pace with tomorrow’s manpower requirement? Currently we have 1.6 million people employed in IT and ITES domain (with around 6.6 million people indirectly linked to this service) and it is estimated that five times that number will be required in next 6-7 years.
While the numbers by themselves are worrisome, the quality of the talent is even more critical. As of now, the talent pool is almost running dry, with companies fighting amongst themselves for right talent. With around 0.5 million engineers graduating from various universities, demand supply should not be that critical. However fewer that 10% graduate are actually employable or come with proper combination of technical expertise and soft skills (communication, teamwork and leadership abilities). One solution to this would be more industry institute tie ups. The industry can help institutes in setting up their curriculum to the current needs of industry.

The other issue in India is digital divide between the urban and rural population.
Technology and technology driven services can not and should not be the privilege of urban educated. Rural India is still far away from the complicated world of network and technology. The IT can be used to do wonderful things to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural India.
The IT sector, which has long serviced predominantly international clientele, began adapting to itself to Indian conditions late in the day. It has its own challenges of geopolitical and geosocial challenges.
Frequent power shortages, widespread literacy, reluctant flow of capital & poor PC penetration have compounded the issue.
70 Percent of India’s one plus Billion population needs are very basic – transparency in price and market information, organized land, social justice, healthcare, farming goods subsidies etc. IT can help address few of these needs to some extent by creation, storage and transmission of electronic data in all forms.
However the government and bureaucracy in India have kept pushing for introduction of better ICT infrastructure in country. Today dozens of NGOs and corporations are working independently to find applications for technology in rural India to reduce the digital divide.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Innovative VAS for Telecom industry

Innovative solutions a key to success for Telecom industry

By Purushottam Darshankar

India has become one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world. The other side to this growth is that ARPU’s (Average Revenue per User) have been correspondingly declining year on year. The average industry ARPU has fallen from Rs. 375 for Sept ’05 quarter to Rs. 347 for June 2006 quarter. (Source: Report by Internet and Mobile Association of India)
This is where the role of new Value added service (VAS) comes into picture. Indian operators are facing cutthroat competition and with the call rates in India being one of the cheapest in the world, the margins are very low. Therefore they are looking at VAS as the next wave for growth to maintain their profit margins.
As rightly said by Telecom expert ,” If telecom industry does not take command of change and Innovation, then there will be no future for telecom industry. The ubiquitous services that delivers personalized and location aware data would be a key to retain loyal customers for telecom operators “
Telco’s can follow different business models to generate revenues by hosting m-commerce platform, LBS (Location Based Services) platform for enterprise as well as consumer market.

State of mobility in Indian financial services

State of mobility in Indian financial services and why industry is bullish on mobility

By Purushottam Darshankar

In India, financial institutions, especially commercial banks such as ICICI, HDFC have long been early adaptors of mobile technology. Early on, they adapted mobile SMS (short message service) messages and short code services, but recently have been quick to integrate line of business applications into their operations.
ICICI Bank, India’s second largest bank has launched iMobile, a mobile banking platform on mobile phones. iMobile facilitates internet banking transactions on mobiles phones. Customers can now transfer funds to ICICI and Non ICICI Bank accounts just with the click of their mobile. The application covers Savings bank, Demat, Credit Card and Loan accounts. Customers can also pay their utility bills and insurance premium through this facility.
Mobile banking is generally a extension of a bank’s online banking web presence that provides a unique opportunity to user to use their device as banking instruments. However mobile payments and mobile wallet are far more sophisticated and requires many additional components to be successful. In Mobile payment and mobile wallet they act as your credit card or cash. The mobile wallet is combination of NFC (Near field communication) and data services that creates additional services for consumers.
Japan is the only country in world which has well adapted to mobile banking system with 30 million handsets equipped with NFC capabilities. India has long way to go and financial institutes need to build a trust in Indian consumers.
The insurance world in India is dramatically different with lot of new players emerging and insurance agents are centered on serving customers who have damaged properties or experience the automobile accidents. The key differentiator for insurance company is the relationship with customer and how well the insurer services their customers. In India insurance industry has been considered as laggard in area of mobility and other emerging technologies. The reason is mainly due to storage of insurance information housed in legacy systems known as dreaded mainframe.The tools used in their day-to-day life in insurance industry have been paper forms, pen, and cameras. However, mobile device are capable of combining all those manual functions into one converged solution that has online and offline capability. The user can still be able manage his day-to-day functions at accident sites that do not fall under network coverage area. The data captures in electronic format can be synchronized with back end system once the network coverage is available. Not only it allows the insurance company to quickly settle claims but eliminates the paper based processing so common in industry today. The claim adjuster can process claims an average of six times faster than when using traditional paper based processing system.

Mobility advantage- supply chain’s potential in retail boom

Mobility advantage to maximize your supply chain’s potential in retail boom

By Purushottam Darshankar

India has witnesses a big boom in retail industry and KPMG’s associate director Kaushika Madhavan says, "All new entrants are planning rapid expansion and such a scale of ramp-up requires scalable processes and systems, which retailers are yet to develop. So we would witness mistakes being made as Indian retail evolves. Ability to learn from mistakes will be a critical success factor.” and he further adds “The fact is that most retailers in India still don't have a stronghold on operations -- be it merchandising, supply chain management or procurement." In today’s competitive world, the customer’s expectations are more demanding in terms of the level of service they require and the speed at which they expect it to be provided.
One way of making supply chain performance efficient is to make manufacturer responsible for distributor’s inventory levels. Distributors will benefit with this, by reducing requisition-to-order costs, improving fill rates, decreasing stock outs and decreased inventory costs. Manufactures will benefit from reduction in ordering errors, better forecasting, and more efficient promotion planning.
The inventory solution can be possible by virtually connecting the two businesses together through internet. This can be done either by distributor reporting the sales data to the manufacturer or by providing access to point-of-sale data for purpose of determining inventory levels.
Use of bar code scanning technology can be very useful in implementing the inventory solution. There are many devices in market today that combines Windows Mobile platform with bar code scanner to manage the physical inventory. The user experience is much easier as the user has to simply run into a store room and take what they need. The scanned data can be uploaded to backend server in batch at the end of day or in real time using data capabilities (GPRS, EDGE or PDSN) available in hardware.
The key to a successful inventory solution implementation is to understand a workflow that is going to work best both for consumer and distributor.
Alternatively, the mobility solution can be of much importance to transportations and logistics needs of most modern businesses. One of primary services expected by the transportation and logistics customers is timely status updates within the supply chain. Unlike the supply chain of past, heavy inventory is discouraged as cost is involved in moving the products and storing inventory in warehouse or on store shelves. The only time the product makes money is when the end user purchases it.
Due to lean business methodology of today, many enterprises prefer a flowing supply chain that moves product to store or retail outlets via Just-In-Time (JIT) shipping. Faster the product can be delivered to customer, the less it will impact the bottomline. The biggest issue the enterprise face with JIT shipping is the chance that there will be a breakdown in supply chain due to delays in transportation, inclement weather etc. This can be very costly in terms of revenues, but also in terms of customer loyalty.
Many Indian enterprises have started using the SMS (short message service) based solutions along with GPS (Global positioning system)/LBS (Location Based service) technology as means to provide the status data. The future of the industry is web based “push” technology systems that makes use of GIS (Geographical information system) and GPS technology to update the end user with the status as they happen.
The supply chain of future will depend upon the technology that is as mobile as the inventory that is being monitored and tracked.

Mobility as a Strategy for Indian Enterprises

Leverage the Mobile technology for a competitive advantage

by Purushottam Darshankar

India economy has witnessed an impressive growth of around nine percent for last three years, with sectors like manufacturing, banking, telecom, biotechnology and retail showing strong potential with higher growth rates. This article focuses on how most of these sectors can leverage the mobile technology to improve their productivity and operational efficiency.
India has become one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world and has opted for the use of both GSM (Airtel, Vodafone, Idea etc.) and CDMA (Reliance, Tata Indicom) technologies in the mobile sector. The next generation networks (NGN) built around the Internet Protocol (IP) is used for delivering multiple services (voice, data, and all sorts of media such as video) at cheap cost.
Mobile devices on the other hand have become more intelligent. Instead of communicating through legacy circuit-switched carrier systems, new devices are IP address-carrying members of the Internet and often have Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.

Endless possibilities for improving the enterprise

The possibilities of improving the productivity, operational efficiency and reduce cost through mobile technology are seemingly endless. Additionally, increased sale of mobile devices have led to lower prices and the development of more intuitive software.
One of the most basic, and often most utilized, changes that enterprise mobility can facilitate is converting paper-based forms to forms-based applications. The working lifestyle of employees has become increasingly mobile as enterprise implements more services and support programs. As the world has become increasingly mobile, enterprise mobility has been steadily creeping from luxury towards necessity.
By using hand held devices such as PDAs and smartphones to digitally input the data into enterprise back end systems, enterprise sees a reduction in recording errors and data collection time. In the end, this conversion process allows for more accurate business transactions and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Real-time, Web based applications to access enterprise data have also made a tremendous mark on the enterprise mobility world. Providing easily accessible enterprise information and services from smartphones and PDAs, mobile technology has led to increased performance in enterprise intelligence, customer relationship management, business process automation, point-of-sale systems, and host of other enterprise needs.
While enterprise mobility provides the potential for growth in both productivity and efficiency, what most CIO’s and corporate executives are looking for is the ever-vital return on investment. So let’s get down to business and see what enterprises have achieved using enterprise mobility.
Atlas Air, global provider of air cargo charter services, has reduced its wireless communication costs by 10% through the use of MobileAware technology in a wireless crew scheduling and notification system. (Source: MobileAware Press release)
Emery Forwarding , a package delivery company realized nearly 151% return on investment when they deployed event notification system , a mobile solution that allowed customers to sign for packages electronically via Pocket PC. The application updates the back end enterprise data in real-time and sent an e-mail to the customer upon receipt of the package. (Source: Microsoft enterprise case study)
Ray & Berndtson, one of the world's largest executive search firms, needed a low-cost platform for the company's mobile workforce to access corporate Email and other data and provide superior customer service. "Faced with an expensive laptop upgrade, we turned to Pocket PCs and Synchrologic's Mobile Suite to help us cut 50% out of our capital budget, contributing almost a half million dollars to the bottom line...and giving our users a better tool to do their job," states Rick Rawlings, IS Director, Ray & Berndtson (Source: MobileInfo news release)

These are just few examples of how enterprise mobility solutions had a significant impact on ROI. This is right time to make mobility a reality for Indian enterprises.