Even without the summer humidity, vendors were to pitch their products in a matter of six minutes to a crowd of jaded venture capitalists, fellow executives and journalists.
In its sixth year, Demomobile highlighted new mobile and wireless products, covering applications, client devices and infrastructure. The show, produced by Network World’s Events & Executive Forums group, featured 35 vendors ranging from early-stage start-ups to established public companies. Together the group has reaped US$142 million in venture investment.
For some vendors, the presentations were easy. “I’ve done this kind of thing lots of times. I told my [presenting] team I had complete faith in them. It’s called ‘delegating the fear,” said Paul Fulton, president and CEO of Orative Corp., a start-up with software that sorts and manages cell phone calls and messages for corporate users.”
For all the vendors, the hard work is ahead: turning prototypes, beta code, ideas, ambitions and dreams into viable products that people will buy.
Here’s a closer look at four of the dozen or so enterprise network-focused innovations highlighted at the show.
Cell phones have become one of the most critical tools for employees not only in the field but also in the office, Fulton said. Yet cell phones today lack the management and control features found in corporate PBXs and e-mail systems, he added.
“You get a lot of voice mails on your cell phone,” Fulton says. “But you have to call in and listen to every message, write down numbers and names, and sift the solicitations from the important business calls.”
By contrast, Orative’s client/server software creates a list of your calls, visible on the phone’s screen. You can see which ones are important and call back with the press of a button, or press another button to send an alert that you’ve seen the message and will call back in a given number of minutes.
The software has a server component that runs on Linux, with a set of Web screens for setup by administrators and for setting preferences by users. You can buy a version that links with Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange Server or Lotus Domino to access calendar, contacts and directories. There is a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol interface to link with Microsoft Active Directory.
After a user account has been created, the user from a Web browser logs on to the Orative server, which then dials the handset. Once connected, it downloads — over any cellular network — the small client application, which is based on Qualcomm’s Brew mobile software. After that, the software tracks and displays all your cell phone calls.
Beta testing is set to start later this fall, with availability expected for early next year. Pricing has not been determined but Orative executives say it will be “in line with messaging options” offered by carriers.
Start-up RouteOne LLC says it had to create its own client devices to get its software to work. The company will soon offer through contract manufacturers a trio of handheld devices in different styles without memory or disk storage. Using Route1’s software and a wireless LAN (WLAN) or cellular link, the devices act as the keyboard and display of the PC at your desktop.
The Mobi, at US$500, is a Windows CE-based clamshell-style PDA, with a full keyboard; the Mobi Executive mimics the size and style of a laptop; the Mobi Fleet, about the same size as the Executive, has a ruggedized design and can be mounted in vehicles. The latter two devices run Windows XP and will cost US$1,500 apiece.
The handhelds include an 802.11b WLAN adapter and a choice of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) or General Packet Radio Service/GSM cellular interface. They automatically connect first to a Route1 server for registration and then to the network through a corporate firewall. The server works with an agent on the PC to set up a peer-to-peer connection between the two devices. After that, it’s as if the remote user is sitting at his PC, accessing data and applications on the C drive.
Users can click on a Microsoft Word document, open it and work on it, or view a 2MB e-mail attachment without having to download it from the network. But very little data passes over the wireless link.
“What’s very clever is [that] it’s sending a graphical representation to the Mobi device of everything that’s on my desktop PC,” said Barry Richards, a wireless market analyst with Paradigm Capital, who’s used an early version of a Mobi handheld to access his desktop PC and a tablet PC. Interaction with the PC applications, even over low-bandwidth cellular links, has been quick and smooth, he says.
According to Route1 CEO Andrew White, customers would buy the device and the PC agent, and use their existing cellular carrier or a WLAN. No other software is needed.
The Mobi devices are scheduled to ship by year-end.
Adesso Systems Inc. unveiled Version 2.5 of its Instant Mobility Platform, a set of programs, tools and applications for deploying mobile applications, managing the application data and provisioning end users. The centerpiece of the new release is SyncLink, new code that lets you select data residing in existing back-end databases; deliver it to Adesso users; and, if needed, update those databases.
Using SyncLink’s graphical screens, a developer selects specific database tables from a PeopleSoft or SAP AG application, selects specific fields and assigns access controls such as “read only.” When finished, SyncLink generates its own internal tables in Adesso formats.
This data then is passed down to Adesso clients, where end users can work with it in their applications. When users reconnect and start to synchronize with a field sales or inventory application, SyncLink tracks all the changes, translates data into the appropriate back-end database formats and makes any needed updates.
With this approach, mobile clients don’t have to connect directly to the back-end database, which requires a persistent and often high-bandwidth connection.
The Adesso Instant Mobility Platform ranges from US$20 to US$100 per month with a minimum of a one-year contract. The price is based on the business process framework implemented such as Field Sales or Field Data Collection. The offering can be hosted by Adesso or at the customer site.
Xora Inc. demonstrated Version 2.0 of its GP TimeTrack application, a program that monitors time and location data for field workers with smartphones.
GP TimeTrack and other Xora applications run on the vendor’s EnterpriseOne middleware. Xora offers a hosted service for its applications, or they can be bought via a traditional software license.
As with Adesso, the key change is simpler access to existing enterprise data. The new Data Shuttle server program polls, via SQL queries, targeted tables and fields in back-end Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) databases. Then it makes a Web services call to the Xora server, which routes subsets of data to the appropriate users’ phones. This two-way process can be triggered by an event such as a new service call.
Xora has built a Data Shuttle specifically for Intuit’s MasterBuilder software and will build others. Users can use the Xora tool set to create their own shuttles to any ODBC database.
Also new is a feature called Smart Job Zones, which is software that uses the location data in a GPS-equipped smartphone to trigger time-tracking for a job when the user moves into a certain location.
The features of Version 2.0 are scheduled to be introduced via Xora’s wireless carrier channel in October, as well as via the vendor’s hosted service. The base service is US$12 per month per user, with a US$25 one-time setup fee per phone. Data Shuttle and other new features will be available as an additional service, priced at US$4 per user.