Mobile technology moves at the speed of light, apparently. Just three years ago, the iPad debuted. Today tablets are taking over, and the workforce is running with that technology to new frontiers. Here are three mobile-enabled areas “ready to explode.”
Augmented reality provides composite views, by supplementing computer-generated data. It allows users to “try on” a pair of jeans without ever actually wearing them, or design a room without taking home the furniture.
Combine that power with a predictive algorithm, and the result is a blended boundary, between the real and digital world. It’s not science fiction. The reality is here.
“We create objects that appear in that space, or make things disappear,” said Oliver Diaz, CEO, FuelFX, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. The Houston-based multimedia and interactive application firm has been in business since 2007. It wasn’t until very recently, however, that technology caught up to practicality. Now FuelFX is able to offer, “A new way of visualizing things, the next TV. It’s like a help button for life,” Diaz said.
The company’s solution “makes industrial equipment intelligent” while enabling complex training for employees—by giving the ability to teach processes which normally couldn’t be visualized without an illustration.
How does it work? Through mobile apps and the lens of a smart device, 3D object info is projected onto a touchscreen. Take a refinery for example. An employee walking around the facility will input information about the various parts and pipes and equipment onto a tablet, simply by holding the device. The augmented images appear on screen.
However, he or she can do more than just look at the rendered pipe on the touchscreen. That employee can determine how full it is, how hot it is, and—get this—pull back layers, or cut the pipe in half, to “see inside” and find the reason for blockages.
The app will also recognize parts, animating in complete realism how such parts should be put together. (Think Iron Man.) Each segment can also be linked to online help. Going further, the technology will eventually enable preventative maintenance: different parts that need to be replaced or serviced, for example, will blink as an employee walks by. That’s the future. Actually, it’s starting now.
“Everyone has the tech now, the smartphones, the tablets, making it much more adoptable,” Diaz said. “Google Glass is tailor made for that sort of ‘Iron Man effect.’” FuelFX will be a part of that future revolution.
Pitney Bowes, long known for its postage machines, took a visionary stance more than a decade ago, before the iPhone even debuted. That’s when the company started making substantial investments in software firms that offered location intelligence solutions tools and services.
“The thinking was very much—as people look to communicate, live differently, the technology Pitney offered still had a very big role to play,” said James Buckley, Group Operating Officer, Pitney Bowes, to Mobile Enterprise.
Although mail volume has been decreasing since 2008, and that sector remains the company’s core business, the digital units have become a real focus for the Pitney Bowes leadership team. Today, the company now offers mobile marketing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions for a wide variety of industries.
The solutions are designed to allow enterprises insights into their markets, share information-rich maps and improve strategic decision making.
GIS relies on geocoding and reverse geocoding. The latter is taking a postal address and returning a set of coordinates. Telecommunications, banks, insurance, governments, all use it, to identify high-risk areas, map out crime, and locate resources among other objectives. Reverse geocoding, as the name implies, does the same, backwards—it takes coordinates and turns them into an address.
Reverse geocoding is a primary key to mobile marketing, Buckley explained. Based on where an individual is standing, such as a department store or restaurant, the question becomes “What is the relevant information that can be provided?” This is the area where Buckley sees explosive growth up ahead, largely driven by smartphones enabling such opportunities.
“We are just at the beginning at really understanding what location intelligence can do for mobile workers,” Buckley said. “It’s incredibly positive.”
Field sales and support, the early adopters of mobile devices, are again pushing the frontier by demanding collaboration tools. According to Gartner, by 2016, the average personal cloud will synchronize and orchestrate at least six different device types.
Having a hodgepodge of solutions, though, especially among members of the same team, leads to “Tower of Babel” problems, said Matt Cutler, CEO, Collaborate.com, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise.
Collaboration—creating and consuming content together as well as communicating—is either synchronous or asynchronous and it’s the latter where end users are “experiencing pain,” Cutler noted. The common complaint: “I need a place where I can share documents, take a pic of a whiteboard, push a location, assign tasks—all related to one project.” (One that is typically due in two weeks by an ad-hoc team, or perhaps tomorrow.)
Since a project is the intersection of people, documents, conversations and actions, the question is where to put it all together so that all the various elements can be assembled and easily shared in one place. Cutler is betting the answer is micro-collaboration.
“Historically, collaboration solutions have been geared towards larger projects,” he said, referring to those employing 150+ employees, taking 12 months or longer, etc. The available solutions are powerful, he added, but unfortunately cumbersome for the lightweight, rapid-cycle projects that dominate the work day. “Micro-collaboration is a smaller, faster form of communicating,” Cutler said.
Micro-collaboration must then be “mobile-first” because employees are primarily using mobile devices to get these projects done.
Back in the day, when everyone and their neighbor rushed to put up a website, two mindsets prevailed: “Take what we have and put it to the web. Or, fresh start.” The latter is where Cutler sees enterprises headed when it comes to mobilizing.
Cutler also has some advice for developers who are tasked with making enterprises mobile: Pick one area to innovate and stay standard everywhere else (layout, fonts, etc.) Why? The UI patterns are well established for each operating system. (Whereas for the web, there is no standard for how things are organized.
In conclusion, the mobile mentality is not about jamming everything into a small screen but selectively offering critical functions via intuitive apps. And as technology rapidly expands, what was simply conceived for a movie or comic book is becoming part of everyday living.