Building Wireless Access to Corporate Data
With most mobile professionals toting cell phones and PDAs, corporations are seeking to leverage these devices to improve worker productivity. To meet this demand, mobile munging companies are springing up at a feverish pace. Curious Networks, Netmorf, and Eba Systems (to name just a few) are new startups promising to connect mobile devices to back-end systems. For the most part, these solutions remain unproven, so it's difficult to pick the one that will best meet your organization's needs. The space is simply too new. However, one startup, @hand, promises to extend back-end systems while also meeting the needs of mobile workers.
@hand's solution allows occasionally connected employees to perform their jobs regardless of the availability of connectivity. It views back-end data from a data management standpoint, rather than a data movement or synchronization standpoint, allowing IT administrators to model and get a single view of their information even if that information is on different systems. Based on a proprietary architecture and XML, @hand sits on top of TCP/IP and utilizes a compressed and encrypted mobile protocol. The protocol is also packetized to enable checkpointing capabilities, so transactions can be initiated, interrupted, and completed later when mobile coverage is inconsistent. So a worker who leaves a coverage area will likely still have enough information to perform his job. Workers would have their handhelds initially configured, and they would then periodically reconnect to receive real-time information and application upgrades.
"Consider an appliance repairman," says Tom Smith, @hand's VP of Business Development and Marketing. "His handheld would be configured for his specific job, and each day he could connect to receive a customer list, a description of the repair request, as well as information about the client's service contract."
@hand currently supports Windows CE, Pocket PC, and Palm OS devices. Support for other devices is pending.
Jeff Vance is the editor of Embedded Internet Times and E-Infrastructure Times, insider newsletters that track emerging startups. He also writes a monthly column about the mobile Internet for devicetop.com.