Speakers weigh wireless at conference

Mobile devices are gaining in popularity and will empower workers down the road, according to speakers at a conference held in Toronto on Wednesday.

Bell Mobility’s fifth annual Wireless Internet Conference (WIC) brought together several of the company’s partners to discuss the future of mobile computing at the National Trade Centre.

This has been a tremendous year for growth in the mobile industry in Canada, said Michael Neuman, president of Bell Mobility, during the conference. He added that “mobility devices are the next big freedom machines for Canadians.”

The year 1985 was the medieval period in mobile technology – 18 years ago only a select group of people would use a cell phone because of the high cost and cumbersome size of the technology, he explained. “Today, 40 per cent of Canadians feel that having a cell phone is indispensable.”

In the near future, Neuman said mobile phones will have much higher functionality with global positioning system (GPS), photo capability and a 9-1-1 emergency service – which would allow public safety workers to locate a person too distressed to speak by locating the handset – built into the devices.

Neuman cited the personal digital assistant (PDA) as being one of the new mission-critical applications to organizations and said it will be essential for companies like Dell Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to enter the wireless market more earnestly than they have in the past.

Along with PDAs, the next “big thing” in mobile technology will be short message service (SMS) technology, which gives users the ability to send one person or a group of people a text message via the cell phone.

Neuman said that this technology is beneficial to organizations that need to get in contact with its employees quickly. He added that SMS use has grown 411 per cent over the past year, from 2.3 per cent in 2002 to 11.9 per cent in 2003.

However, Stuart Wells, senior vice-president for Sun Microsystems Inc. and a speaker at the event, was more concerned about the functionality of today’s mobile technology and how customers can access it, rather than discussing the future of the mobility market.

“We’ve got these great technologies, we’ve got these great promises, [but] how can we save money and how can we make money?” Wells said. “This isn’t about next year, this isn’t about two years from now – this is about today.”

Wells said one of the key points to remember when thinking about mobile and wireless technologies is that the physical device is only one aspect of the mobile platform. To gain the most productivity from mobile devices, both users and data must be mobile as well.

This ability to access all applications regardless of an employee’s location is paramount to getting maximum productivity from workers, according to Wells. For example, imagine a world where you could go into any office at any time, log-in and the system automatically knows who you are and gives you access to the applications and sessions you were working on at your corporate desktop, Wells said.

The annual event was intended for Bell Mobility’s customers, developers and partners and included sessions about office automation, ruggedized devices and field service applications, wireless data solutions in the public safety vertical and next generation devices.