From The Editor | January 2, 2007

2007 Mobile Forecast: Executives Speak Out

Integrated Solutions, January 2007

As 2007 dawns, what can we expect from field service hardware and software? Now through March, I’ll feature interviews with two industry executives each month, which present the executives’ predictions for 2007 in their respective markets. This month, I spoke with Eric Eckstein, president and COO of Two Technologies, Inc., and Jim Muzyka, president of Mobile Computing Corp. Here’s what they had to say:

Two Technologies
ISM: Are there any emerging demands from end users in terms of device functionality/device options?
TT: Everyone wants connectivity every way possible. Devices need to support personal, local, and wide area networks – in other words, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular data networks. Not all applications require that, but more and more customers are moving toward that because carriers’ data costs are plummeting.

Also, we’re receiving requests for imaging and visual data capture capabilities from the devices. Instead of focusing on data collection via bar code scanning, we’ve engineered devices that conduct image capture and glean data from the image. This function is vital in proof of delivery: Is the bill of lading signature there? Were the goods really delivered? Is this the correct person we’re supposed to deliver to? Imaging is also useful for construction and field service work: users can take photos of sites to compare with drawings, or of machine parts to troubleshoot during repairs. A picture in the field is worth 1,000 keystrokes, and companies want their field workers to have a high-quality, four-mega-pixel image without carrying an additional camera.

ISM: What are some predictions you have for the marketplace in 2007?
TT: The push toward more connectivity means more computing will be done at enterprise’s edges. The device – and the users of it – do the computing and make the decisions, as opposed to devices being nothing more than glorified ASCII terminals.

Mobile Computing Corp.
ISM: Are there any emerging demands from end users in terms of field service capabilities?
MCC: We’ve added to our roadmap the ability for customers to collect real-time payments in the field using CyberSource as an online payment processor. The software would run on devices equipped with card-swipe readers. This is useful for both route delivery and field service companies to collect payments and speed time-to-invoice.

ISM: What are some predictions you have for the marketplace in 2007?
MCC: We’ve recently formed an agreement with Sprint to sell our solution into the market – the fact that the carrier will be accountable for the entire solution provides end users with great reassurance. We’ll definitely see more arrangements like this in coming months.

Most companies deploying mobile technologies these days realize it is no longer a luxury or an incremental benefit. We see customers competing for business where having a field service automation solution in place is a criteria for winning the business. We’ve gone from a marketplace of early adopters who have gained a competitive edge to one where field service automation is a requirement to just remain competitive. We’ll see a great deal of business activity in the industry. As this occurs, and field service technology providers get some blue-chip customer wins and reoccurring revenue, those technology companies will grow and we’ll begin to see some consolidation in the industry.