Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Shelly Palmer, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

It's the Transaction, Stupid

It's the Transaction, Stupid

Red lights flash in my mirror. I can't believe it - another speeding ticket and I'm already late for my morning meeting. As I wait 45 minutes for the police officer to copy my license, registration, and insurance information, my mind begins to wander - isn't this what our customers complain about? Their field workers are in the dark ages, manually processing multiple data sources like licenses, insurance forms, and registrations while pressing hard on carbon forms latched to steel clipboards. And while there are plenty of esoteric reasons to adopt mobile technology, every businessperson knows that it's the irrefutable, tangible return on investment that drives corporate adoption. So in spite of receiving four points on my driver's license and a $55 fine, I appreciate the insight - automating transactions will drive corporate adoption of the mobile Internet.

Wherever I go, it's the same story: "Bob, our field reps record activity on a paper form and at the end of a shift they drop it off at headquarters. That's when the nightmare begins - illegible handwriting, incomplete forms, sold-out inventory, and bundling options that don't exist. The result? Dissatisfied customers, lost momentum, and an unproductive field. And the hard dollar cost - we're paying $10 to $100 to process every transaction."

Whether it's sales, service, inspection, workflow, or public safety, there are plenty of paper forms to eliminate. With a mobilized process, imagine a different scenario of the traffic ticket that took 45 minutes:

  1. Need to copy my license, registration, and insurance? How about scanning the bar codes on my car window and my driver's license and add a real-time query to see if my insurance is up to date? Better yet, with an automatic vehicle identifier (AVI), the police car could wirelessly read this information and indicate if I am a friendly citizen or a stressed-out salesperson on the verge of road rage.
  2. Need my location, speed, and the time of day? A Global Positioning System (GPS), Bluetoothlink from the radar gun, and a real-time clock could provide all of that information.
  3. Send in the ticket or appear in court? How about allowing me to provide you with my credit card on the spot to pay the fine and receive a reduction in points?
  4. First day on the job, officer, and you forgot to check if I have any outstanding warrants? No problem. Like every quality mobile application, exceptional conditions and alerts are part of the package. And no, you can't arrest me today.
This is a simple example, but based on other industries, the cost involved in processing a traffic ticket totals at least $30. This $30 includes the time it takes to write the ticket, enter the data, schedule a court date, enter the data again into the insurance system, process the fine, and record the points on the driver's license.

These same costs are present in many field forces, whether it's sales, service, inspection, or operations. By mobilizing your workforce, you can build a rock-solid return on investment with as few as five transactions per field worker per month while dramatically increasing the speed of doing business and creating a positive experience for your customers.

Isn't This a Technology Magazine?
Okay, I know what you're thinking - another "business" guy waving his hands over all the hard stuff. It's just a paper form, right? Wrong. It's actually multiple-legacy back-end information systems that don't talk to each other, communicating over a low-bandwidth, unsecured, intermittent network to a thin-client device operated by a nontechnical user. It's also business logic to generate alerts and support and maintain the solution while it's in the field. In fact, there are six major technical issues that need to be addressed:

  • Integration
  • Business logic
  • Security
  • Network and client device limitations
  • User experience
  • Total cost of ownership
Since it's impossible to cover all of these areas in one article, over the next several months we'll discuss each topic in detail. For now, let's look at the highlights of each area.

Integration
While the major focus is on handheld devices and wireless networks, the real mobility issue is the complexity of integration across multiple legacy information systems. For example, the system used to issue a traffic ticket will have multiple information-system "silos," including the home state's driver's license and vehicle registration system, similar systems for the other 49 states, insurance systems from multiple carriers, a court scheduling application, an arrest warrant database, and commercial credit authorization. Not only must data be extracted from these systems, but separate data models need to be integrated as well. For example, suppose one insurance system derives the state from the driver's zip code, the home state license and registration system has a dedicated field, and a neighboring state prepends the two-character state abbreviation to the license number and places it in one field. How do we integrate the data from these separate systems?

What we need to do is extract the data in real time and dynamically transform the data items into one common data or business model. The solution is best thought of as Dynamic Business Modeling, or DBM. The DBM is able to point to data in its original legacy location and transform it on demand to present a common model to the world.

This DBM approach also has the advantage of insulating mobile applications from underlying sources because the DBM acts as an abstraction layer between applications and data. For example, if a neighboring state switches to a new license and registration system, the DBM allows the modification of the business model to occur in minutes instead of months, which keeps the traffic ticket system operational.

Business Logic
In addition to extending corporate information systems, the mobile Internet enables business practices that were never before possible. For example, when a police patrol car pulls up behind a stopped vehicle, it makes sense to give the police officer a real-time alert of a dangerous situation. To do this, databases need to be queried for arrest warrants, stolen vehicles, and all-points bulletins. In most cases this business logic hasn't been written. Therefore, not only must any mobilization effort extract legacy data, it must also apply new business logic against the legacy data.

Security
Imagine the fun a teenager would have getting hold of a lost traffic-ticketing device. It wouldn't be surprising if an entire high-school teaching department lost its driver's licenses. Mobility solutions need to address four security considerations:

  • Authentication: Validating the identity of the user. Potential solutions range from simple password-based systems to smart cards and biometrics.
  • Encryption: Ensuring that nobody can eavesdrop on a data conversation. Potential solutions use the native encryption of each network segment or overlay an end-to-end solution.
  • Access control: Ensuring that users see only the information for which they are authorized. Access control needs to be built into every mobile application, and ideally should integrate with existing systems like LDAP or the Microsoft NT Security architecture to minimize administrative costs
  • Theft and employee termination: Both are major security issues. IT organizations must be able to centrally disable mobile devices, and in applications that are very security sensitive local file systems must be encrypted.
Network Limitations
To meet the needs of mobile workers, mobile applications have to work with or without network coverage - that is, online or offline. Offline application functionality may be restricted, but mobile workers still have to do their jobs inside buildings and outside major urban areas and traffic corridors. And limited bandwidth implies a different architectural approach in which the mobile device is best used for command and control of headquarters-based servers on high-speed networks that can carry out operations on behalf of the field worker. For example, a salesperson can use a handheld device to request that sales literature be e-mailed to a prospective client. There's no need for the handheld device to store the literature locally if it can "command and control" a central literature server.

User Experience
Small screens, limited keypads, hands-free operating environments, and end users with limited computer literacy can be barriers to the effectiveness of a mobile application. Applications that are designed, tested, and piloted with a deep understanding of the end-user environment will overcome these obstacles.

Total Cost of Ownership
Gartner estimates that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a handheld device is three times the purchase price. This TCO estimate considers only call-center support and break-fix replacement. If mobile commerce is going to be widely adopted, the real driver behind TCO will be how well mobile applications integrate with existing systems.

For example, when providing secure access control, we have to ask whether we want to introduce a separate security environment or integrate with the existing LDAP infrastructure. It's critical that IT pays careful attention to such ongoing maintenance issues.

* * *

The bottom line is that where paper transactions exist, there are ROI and IT challenges. Companies that address these challenges by deploying mobile solutions within the next 12 to 18 months will have significant competitive advantages. Those companies that are late to market will cease to be competitive. The call to action for mobilizing the enterprise can be compared to the familiar story of evolution - businesses will either "mobilize or die."

M-Commerce
Transactions that make the cash register ring always get the most attention. So what are the business drivers behind mobilizing commerce transactions from the field?

  • Order entry: Most field commerce transactions are paper-based and cost anywhere from $5 to $50 each to process. Mobilization reduces the same transaction cost to pennies.
  • Rejected orders: Whether it's inventory that doesn't exist, misconfigured options, or incomplete information, the average business experiences a 20 to 30% order-rejection rate. This problem is expensive to rectify, and it kills customer satisfaction.
  • Inventory: When it takes one week to process an order, companies are forced to fulfill sales out of their local inventory. By mobilizing the "demand chain," inventory can be centralized, and inventory costs will be dramatically lowered.
  • Dynamic pricing: As was the case with e-commerce, the mobile Internet promises to fundamentally alter pricing. A mobility solution can dynamically adjust price based on inventory levels, test spot promotions, and set prices regionally.
  • Sales momentum: Conducting business in the twenty-first century means that customers expect immediate response and fulfillment. Customer satisfaction is difficult to quantify, but it's perhaps the most important long-term mobile commerce business driver.
Where Are the Transactions?
The greatest needs for mobility exist in four areas:
  • Field sales: Mobility needs include checking price and inventory, validating credit, and booking orders.
  • Field service: The process of issuing original work orders, authorizing return merchandise, and closing out work orders creates a great need for mobility.
  • Warehouse and delivery: Workflow can be mobilized to track the process, identify areas in need of improvement, and enable real-time customer status information.
  • Inspection: Buildings, elevators, safety systems, and other structures and systems are inspected on a regular basis. Mobilization can organize and track the inspection processes.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Greg Gorman is the Director, IoT Developer Ecosystem, Watson IoT, will provide a short tutorial on Node-RED, a Node.js-based programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using a wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click. There is a large library of contributed nodes that help so...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
There is huge complexity in implementing a successful digital business that requires efficient on-premise and cloud back-end infrastructure, IT and Internet of Things (IoT) data, analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Applications. In the data center alone, there are physical and virtual infrastructures, multiple operating systems, multiple applications and new and emerging business and technological paradigms such as cloud computing and XaaS. And then there are pe...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a mu...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SourceForge has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SourceForge is the largest, most trusted destination for Open Source Software development, collaboration, discovery and download on the web serving over 32 million viewers, 150 million downloads and over 460,000 active development projects each and every month.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...