• United States
by Mark Lowenstein

The apps: Available anywhere

Jan 30, 20066 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecuritySecurity

Trends that are expected in 2006 as mobile networks turn to 3G.

The expanded capabilities of wireless networks and devices are expected to open new avenues for applications. With 3G networks, we will see greater emphasis on laptop remote access into corporate applications. In this way, middleware for anything other than custom applications will start to become less relevant in the enterprise.

In addition to important developments in network and device capabilities, IT executives should keep their eye on the following hot topics that should expand the applications framework in 2006:

Location-based services. That is expected to be an area for value-added corporate applications this year. More than 50% of all phones being sold to companies have GPS chips, and accuracy levels continue to improve. Carriers such as Nextel have built an extensive partner network to deliver location-enabled applications that are delivering ROI daily in the enterprise market. We are increasingly seeing integrated products that combine such services with in-office software to link assignment, dispatch, notification and tracking.

Enterprises should think about location-based services in two ways: as a unique capability for specific vertical segments, such as fleets and transportation; and as a value-added capability within existing applications. Sprint, for example, has partnered with IBM and Microsoft to deliver a Web services capability for location, where APIs are included in the application framework.

Packaged applications. One key question is, beyond e-mail and personal information-manager applications, which mobile application will be next to scale in the enterprise? In 2006 there will be a number of packaged applications in the areas of sales-force and field-force automation, offered directly by the wireless operators.

One driving force is the reduced need to optimize certain functions for mobile using expensive and complex middleware, because of significantly improved wireless network and device capabilities. Additionally, small and midsize businesses are looking for plug-and-play software for certain functions, and believe that applications such as sales-force automation can be implemented without a great deal of customization.

Device management. Device management is becoming the new front in mobile security. As high-end devices proliferate, sensitive corporate information can get into the wrong hands if a phone is lost or stolen. More-advanced devices are also increasingly vulnerable to spam and viruses. There are millions of enterprise workers carrying around high-end mobile devices containing sensitive corporate information, and enterprises historically have not done a good job of tracking these devices as assets.

There is a rapidly expanding array of products for device management. A sound framework for mobile device management includes both policies, such as extending WLAN policies to the WAN, and technology, including firewalls, VPNs, as well as anti-spam, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs; intrusion detection, mobile-asset tracking and device lockdown.

New business models. Enterprise decision makers might consider managed services as an approach for certain elements of their mobile-solution sets. Device management provides a good case in point. The good news is that there is a broad range of device-management products available today. The bad news is that the product ecosystem is disparate and fragmented. As a result, many IT executives are not dealing with the device-management problem directly and effectively. Managed services is an approach that is gaining popularity. For example, the lead product in Sprint’s Managed Mobility Services program addresses device management.

Enterprises might find some value-added resellers offer a hosted approach to mobile. For example, Integrated Mobile offers companies a series of hosted capabilities, such as device provisioning, asset tracking, customized billing, and such applications as messaging for a monthly fee.

Convergence. Although a compelling converged WAN/Wi-Fi voice device for the enterprise is still about a year away, one area IT executives should keep their eyes on is improved integration with enterprise IP PBXs. As enterprises install more IP-centric equipment in their offices, it is easier to design certain elements of unified communications services. Examples include:

  • Making cell-phone numbers four-digit extensions of the company PBX.
  • Improving access to corporate directories.
  • Integrating voice mail boxes.
  • Integrating voice mail into mobile e-mail services, so voice messages appear in e-mail in-boxes as .WAV files (which can then be easily forwarded, answered and so on).
10 tips for mobile policy

Here’s a 10-point framework to assist corporate decision makers in developing their mobile policies.

  • Develop classification criteria for different types of mobile workers and their unique network, device, application and support requirements.
  • Determine the devices and services you will pay for, based on employee level, function and mobility patterns.
  • Establish how ROI will be measured.
  • Distinguish between broad, horizontal requirements and specific vertical needs.
  • Develop a methodology for effectively communicating your expectations to service providers and vendors based on their specialities, as well as criteria for measuring and benchmarking them.
  • Consider security requirements at the access and device level. Mobile security should be integrated more effectively into the broader enterprise security framework.
  • Determine how personal use of mobile devices and services will be handled.
  • Develop rules for customer access to the mobile framework.
  • Establish policies and a structure for help desk support of mobile employees, and determine whether this is handled internally or outsourced.
  • Develop mobile policies as part of broader IT framework and vendor and partner relationships.
Mark Lowenstein

We’re still in the early days of the long-term integration of the wired and wireless worlds, as we move, measuredly, to an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) framework and Session Initiation Protocol-enabled fixed and mobile devices. IMS is starting to be a major buzzword in the telecom world. Don’t get caught up in the hype, however. This is the beginning of a five- to seven-year network evolution. From an applications perspective, you will see some new features and capabilities based on the IMS architecture beginning in 2007. IMS is not something you should be taking into account from an IT planning perspective for at least a year.

Conclusion: Push vendors harder

Two final observations about how the enterprise mobile market has developed: First, enterprises have tended to expect their wireless operators to reach way beyond their core competencies to meet enterprise application requirements. In essence, wireless operators have had to become mini systems integrators.

Second, operators are being assisted by a large number of relatively small middleware and industry-specific software providers.

What’s missing is the larger packaged application providers – SAP, Oracle and others – have underemphasized mobility in their product development efforts or have missed the mark in what they have done. The larger systems integrators for the most part also have not established centers of excellence in mobile. These two entities, which are lofirmly entrenched in enterprise applications, infrastructure and legacy systems, must step up and launch a more focused, concrete initiative in the enterprise.

As wireless starts to become integral to a company’s broader IT strategy, enterprise decision makers should continue to ask more of their technology providers.

Lowenstein is managing director of Mobile Ecosystem in Wellesley, Mass. He can be reached at