Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: LeanTaaS Blog, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, John Katrick, Elizabeth White

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 Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix 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. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY – 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 results. Among the proven benefits,...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile exhibited at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on qua...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cedexis 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. Cedexis is the leader in data-driven enterprise global traffic management. Whether optimizing traffic through datacenters, clouds, CDNs, or any combination, Cedexis solutions drive quality and cost-effectiveness. For more information, please visit https://www.cedexis.com.