For some time now, businesses have been equipping their sales teams with laptop computers, enabling them to access corporate data and applications by dialing into the Internet or private networks. But these days, companies are looking to less expensive and more convenient wireless devices to provide this remote connectivity.
This trend is not lost on application providers, who are scrambling to deliver wireless sales force automation solutions. And one of the leading mobile application providers to emerge from the pack is Braga, Portugal-based MobiComp.
MobiComp provides mobile and wireless solutions in areas such as sales force automation, field services, media, finance, logistics and navigation.
MobiComp realized early on that one of the key components in a sale force automation solution is the database residing on the mobile client device.
This is where the sales reps store all their new orders and customer information,as well as current inventory and order status information down-loaded from the central database.
The reps also need to perform sophisticated lookup and order entry transactions on the data.Meeting these needs requires a fully functional relational database,as well as an efficient synchronization mechanism to replicate data between the client and the central database.
Sales force automation tool for mobile devices
500%increase in sales and revenues projected in next 12 months;one of the first to market in Europe with this type of application;industry recognition for innovation
Mobile Computing Software Solutions
scalable database with a small foot- print,but also an environment for application development and an integrated enterprise synchronization tool."
The application is garnering strong interest from customers.MobiComp is signing on many new clients every month and is projecting more than 500 percent growth in revenues in the next 12 months.
MobiComp 's breakthrough implementation of wireless database technology has also sparked the interest of the mobile technology industry in Europe, as MobiComp has recently been named Innovator of the Year by NETIE, the Association of Enterprises for IT and Technology in Portugal.Says Oliveira,"The flexibility of DB2 Everyplace allows us to perpetuate mobile technology use by adapting to the needs of all of our customers -regard- less of industry or business model."
The real challenge for MobiComp was how to provide this robust data- base functionality in a wireless device, whose storage capacity and processing power are significantly less than those of most laptops.To make its application attractive to a wide range of customers,MobiComp also wanted to ensure that the database would be easy to use and scale readily to any size user base.For help in developing this application, MobiComp collaborated with Quatro Information Systems-a partner that had already installed a non-mobile sales force solution.
MobiComp evaluated mobile data- base offerings from IBM,Oracle and Sybase,ultimately opting for IBM DB2 Everyplace Enterprise Edition.
According to Carlos Oliveira,managing director at MobiComp,"DB2 Everyplace was the only complete solution,offering not only a highly.
DB2 Everyplace Sync Server also allows administrators to define user groups and profiles.These user- specific definitions control what data is replicated to and from the mobile client and help to maintain the scalability of the client-side database by keeping irrelevant data out.
DB2 Everyplace Sync Server authenticates user requests against an administration control database to verify that the client is a valid user and allows the mobile client to synchronize only with the subset of data to which the user has been given authorized access.
Says Antonio Ribeiro,managing director at MobiComp,"If I am a salesper- son in New York,I don 't want information about customers in San Francisco.DB2 Everyplace gives our customers only the information that they need,anywhere and at any time."
Keeping wireless applications in line
As most users of this application primarily synchronize with a central data- base at the beginning and end of the day,MobiComp was concerned with overloading the host database with too many concurrent user sessions.The DB2 Everyplace Sync Server,packaged with DB2 Everyplace Enterprise Edition,resides on both the client and a Web server at the host location.
DB2 Everyplace Sync Server answers requests from the mobile device and routes queries to and from the data- base or updates the database with new information by way of a Java servlet.The Web server connectivity ensures scalability on the host side.
Oliveira explains,"Web servers can handle many concurrent requests,and the ability to connect by way of a simple Web server is what makes this such a highly scalable solution.The theory is quite simple,but very effective."
With more and more application vendors entering the mobile technology arena,MobiComp needed to get its application to market fast.MobiComp was able to do this by leveraging the DB2 Everyplace Personal Application Builder -a rapid application development environment contained in DB2 Everyplace Enterprise Edition. This tool automatically generates applications that use DB2 Everyplace databases.
"The DB2 Everyplace Personal Application Builder sped up the development cycle immensely," says Ribeiro.
"Through its simple drop-and-drag interface and programming wizards,it cut down considerably on the amount of code that we had to develop."
Expanding to other markets
While enjoying success with its sales force application,MobiComp is pressing ahead of the competition by developing Portugal 's first B2C, mobile commerce application using IBM WebSphere Application Server, IBM DB2 Universal Database, and a backoffice solution developed by Quatro Information Systems.
The application will allow retailers to sell goods across wireless application protocol (WAP)-enabled phones.
"The evolving nature of this technology can make developing wireless applications for customers a very difficult endeavor,"says Ribeiro."That 's why we are dedicated to using only technology,such as the WebSphere and DB2 families of products,that will provide stable,long-term support for our customers well into the future."
MobiComp works closely with its customers to make sure that its solutions meet all of their business needs.MobiComp found this same dedication from IBM when developing the sales force automation application.
The software developers at the IBM Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, California,provided MobiComp with consultation,product support and testing after the pilot was developed.
"Any time we had an issue or concern,IBM was right there beside us to give us support,"says Oliveira.
"We 've been able to leverage the knowledge that we gained from IBM to provide our customers with flexible, scalable solutions that require little to no maintenance."
As the market becomes more flooded with mobile and wireless solutions every year,MobiComp is confident that its choice to join with IBM complements its strategy of staying on the cutting edge of mobile and wireless technology.
Says Oliveira,"Today,so many companies are boasting that they have the best mobile computing solution for businesses.But IBM DB2 Everyplace is truly the most scalable,flexible and comprehensive database solution for mobile computing on the market."