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The Wireless Web

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Wireless Application Opportunities

Despite the current bandwidth limitations of 2G wireless networks, there is opportunity to lay the groundwork for the real revolution when it arrives. Although much of the early hype surrounding wireless technology has been centered on delivering services to consumers, Figure 1.3 shows three major areas to which wireless functionality can be applied.

Figure 1.3 Wireless opens up opportunities for business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-employee (B2E) enterprise integration.

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) interaction. Companies reach out directly to consumers.

  • Business-to-business (B2B) commerce. Opens connections to suppliers and partners. Opportunities in this area include using wireless for supply chain management (SCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

  • Business-to-employee (B2E) interaction. Introduces efficiencies into an organization by making corporate data available to mobile workers.

In the following sections, we explore how wireless can be applied to each of these areas.

Business-to-Consumer (B2C)

Although the wireless consumer market is in its infancy, numerous wireless applications are emerging in search of the killer consumer application.

As listed in Figure 1.4, consumer applications fall into several major application areas.

Figure 1.4 Business-to-consumer (B2C) wireless applications

Shopping Amazon.com has leveraged its expertise with personal services, moving into wireless with its Amazon Anywhere offering for cell phones and PDAs. Amazon's wireless service focuses on text, avoiding the graphics that appear on the desktop web site.

Finance and Online Brokerage In the banking arena, Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank, offers online brokerage services that include account monitoring and securities trading in real time on the Frankfurt, Zurich, and New York stock exchanges. Users with Wireless Application Protocol-enabled (or WAP-enabled) devices access secure servers that sit behind firewalls at the Zurich data center. Data is encrypted using 128-bit encryption, and as an extra level of security, users are authenticated with passwords before any transactions are initiated.

Travel In travel, wireless application provider EasyReservations (see the "Resources" section, later in this chapter, for web addresses to this and other organizations and products discussed in this chapter) enables users to book hotel and travel arrangements by entering city codes on their cell phones. The wireless site uses profile information that users provide when they register for the service. A provider called HotelGuide.com offers a multilingual service that enables users to compare hotel rates worldwide.

Restaurants Locating nearby restaurants is a natural fit for wireless' ability to provide localized services. The popular print-based Zagat's Guide to Restaurants has made more than 20,000 restaurants available over the conventional web and has now turned to wireless. With a few keystrokes on a cell phone, users can find nearby restaurants and make dining decisions based on price and reviews.

e-street.com is a wireless resource that enables users to find and share information on restaurants, shops, and services using user profiles to deliver personalized content.

Food Delivery Home food delivery is growing as an Internet-based service and is moving to wireless. Cake Avenue, based in Singapore, offers same-day delivery of gourmet cakes. Users can earn frequent-buyer "crumbs" that can be used as credit toward future purchases.

In France, Clicresto provides chef-prepared meals for immediate delivery to office or home. Users sign up using the desktop web or a portable telephone, and after users place their orders, the site personalizes its content so users can see their previous orders, saving ordering time for repeat items.

Laptop Internet Access Companies such as MobileStar and Wayport provide travelers with airport and hotel Internet connections. After inserting a card into their laptops, users can wirelessly connect to Internet access points provided by the airport or hotel, with service available on a per-use or per-year basis.

A recent alliance between MobileStar, Starbucks Coffee, and Microsoft is planning wireless Internet access for 70 percent of Starbucks' 4,000 stores by 2003.5 Cyber-caffeine aficionados will be able to plug a wireless local area network (LAN) card into their laptops and check e-mail while sipping their doppio macchiatos (a double espresso with a bit of froth).

Business-to-Business (B2B)

Business-to-business interaction covers the range of activities between a company and its suppliers and partners.

As illustrated in Figure 1.5, wireless opportunities can be found in the areas of supply-chain management (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP—discussed in the section "Business-to-Employee," later in this chapter), and Collaborative Product Development (CPD). Jupiter Research has projected that e-marketplaces will account for 35 percent of B2B online commerce in the United States by 2005 with a concomitant $2.2 trillion in spending.6

Figure 1.5 Business-to-business (B2B) wireless applications

Supply Chain Management Supply chain management is the use of information technology to optimize the flow of products and services from source to customer. SCM focuses on cost savings in the movement and management of physical goods through the use of information technology. One approach is for companies to share production and forecasting information throughout a supply network, preventing over- and under-production, so that manufacturers can maintain just-in-time inventories (see Figure 1.6).

Wireless connectivity adds to SCM in two ways. First, in terms of push technology, wireless makes corporate data immediately available to mobile workers. Second, wireless can facilitate the delivery of information from the field and feed it back to corporate databases.

Figure 1.6 Wireless technology can be used to improve supply chain management (SCM).

Information sharing is beneficial in theory, but when it means sharing with the competition, companies must weigh the benefits against the risks. In the automotive industry, Ford, GM, and Daimler Chrysler have united to create a third-party marketplace called Covisint that enables car makers and suppliers to meet production schedules while keeping inventories low.

To ensure accurate inventory counts, supply chain vendors are attaching RF-emitting (or radio frequency-emitting) tags to warehouse items such as bins and equipment. Wireless sensors positioned on ceilings or along perimeter fences pick up the signals and can locate any tagged asset with ten feet. Location information is fed to a central database so that the exact state of the inventory is available at any given moment.

The real-time monitoring of a corporation's inventory is advantageous, not just internally but also to supply chain partners. Not only are company operations more efficient, but real-time asset tracking opens up opportunities for supply chain partners to better manage their own commitments.

Collaborative Product Commerce Some manufacturers are pushing the supply chain envelope by including partners and suppliers during product design and development. Collaborative Product Commerce (CPC) is the term that describes the set of tools for managing all information surrounding design collaboration. The Aberdeen Group predicts that the CPC market will reach $20 billion by 2005 from negligible levels in 2000. 7 A key issue, though, is how much information to share with potential competitors.

CPC products range from Lotus Notes to software based on computer-aided design (CAD), workflow management, or e-procurement. Where timely information dissemination is crucial, wireless technology can be easily integrated into CPC systems, enabling designers and engineering staffs to view and comment on works-in-progress.

Business-to-Employee (B2E)

According to the Yankee Group, approximately one-third of the U.S. workforce, 43 million people, are currently mobile. 8 Wireless connectivity opens up new opportunities for expanding the reach of an existing enterprise computing infrastructure.

Services Available to Support B2E

On the network carrier side, Sprint PCS supports software that enables mobile professionals to access e-mail attachments and documents from cell phones, pagers, PDAs, and notebook PCs. The service, ActiveNet, 9 is server-driven and converts e-mail attachments into full text or summary form for wireless viewing.

Compaq has launched an initiative to enable mobile workers to access company intranets, e-mail, and the Internet from Compaq's iPAQ PocketPC and iPAQ BlackBerry devices. Compaq also provides secure wireless connections to e-mail available through Microsoft Exchange.

In the collaborative arena, Thin Air Apps is offering secure real-time access to Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino groupware via Palm-enabled PocketPCs, Research In Motion devices, Symbian hand-helds, and web-enabled cell phones. (See Chapter 2 for more information on Research In Motion.) Thin Air servers may be deployed from behind a firewall or accessed from one of Thin Air Apps' service provider partners.

In the database arena, Oracle's Application Server Wireless Edition provides personalized content to mobile devices. Other related initiatives include PeopleSoft's MobileStore that enables salespeople to access order information over a wireless phone, and SAP's Mobile Workplace 10 and Handheld Sales applications for bringing corporate data to mobile workers.

Figure 1.7 illustrates the application of wireless to the enterprise. Some areas to which wireless can be applied in B2E include:

Figure 1.7  Business-to-Enterprise (B2E) wireless applications

  • Sales Force Automation (SFA)

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

  • Order fulfillment and distribution

Sales Force Automation Wireless sales management tools increase efficiency as well as mobility. Without returning to the office, a salesperson can gather and analyze information for a customer call using data from the company's inventory, the customer database, and accounts receivable.

Customer Relationship Management Customer Relationship Management tools enable an organization to utilize a single integrated system to manage prospects and customers effectively and consistently, regardless of where the interaction takes place. Outside sales, call centers, telemarketing, and direct marketing operations, as well as Internet applications, are included. A strong CRM system reduces the cost of sales through customer retention, improved targeting, and improved productivity across the enterprise.

Enterprise Resource Planning Wireless enterprise resource planning tools increase the effectiveness of managing enterprise resources such as human resources, machinery and equipment, legal positions, and financial situations.

Order Fulfillment and Distribution Wireless technology can be used to assure speedy delivery of ordered merchandise. AMR Research reports that companies utilizing wireless can fill orders more quickly and typically save 3 to 5 percent of operating costs. 11

Next-generation fulfillment systems use radio frequencies to track equipment and wirelessly send data to a central database in real time. FedEx Ground is rolling out an $80 million data collection system that includes installation of new on-van computers, enhanced hand-held scanners for capturing delivery information, and wearable ring scanners that enable delivery people to easily capture package status and location. The on-van computers are equipped with plug-in cards for wireless transmission between the van and a central computer. FedEx is using Ericsson wireless modems in two-thirds of its territory and Norcom Networks satellite modems in remote areas.

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