Next role for the smartphone? Self improvement tool. Accenture has developed the Mobile Personal Services (MPS) platform for smartphones that alone or combined with other technologies (such as GPS, wireless headsets or, no joke, biometric sensors) can offer users feedback on their behaviors and habits. One prototype application, called the Personal Performance Coach, has enormous potential for professionals, particularly in sales.
"Everyone who hears about this thinks, 'This would be perfect for so-and-so,'" says Alex Kass with a smile. "We never think of ourselves first, but the truth is most of us could probably use a little help." Kass is a senior researcher at Accenture Technology Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., and team leader for the platform's development.
Sales is such a personality-driven activity that it can be difficult to critique--or in the face of stress, even well-taken advice can head out the window. "Imagine, though, if you had a little earpiece in, and if you were dominating the conversation a little voice could whisper: Stop talking," says Kass. Via the user's smartphone, the MPS platform can monitor and record a conversation and provide feedback during the conversation or results (created via a secure, remote server) afterward. Pie charts or other graphics could show how much time each person spoke; how many times the user interrupted the other particpants, if the user spoke more toward the end of the conversation or the beginning and how this compared to previously defined goals.
The solution is still in development stages, with a projected release still a few years out. "The goal is to help people better understand their behavior so they can improve their professional effectiveness," says Kass. "No one thinks they're an interrupter until they're shown they've done it 12 times."
VC Investment in Enterprise Wireless Continues Decline
Venture capital (VC) investment in enterprise wireless applications continued to decline in 2006, totaling only $73.3 million on a global basis according to the research-centric investment bank Rutberg & Company. This compares to what is believed to have been about $750 million at the peak of enterprise investment in 2000.
While part of the decline in enterprise wireless venture investment is explained by a shift into consumer mass market investments in wireless games, video, TV and music applications, most is attributable to the inimical environment for venture investment created by the U.S. cellular carriers. With the exception of Verizon Wireless, whose parent owns MCI, and the blue-collar application expert Sprint Nextel, the cellular carriers have shown little enthusiasm for enterprise applications, which typically require systems integration to link with legacy systems.
In Europe and Asia, where cellular carriers compete on quality of service and coverage, third-party providers offer wireless devices, application software, provisioning and integration. As Sam Jadallah, a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, points out: "The U.S. carriers have end-to-end control and management of the cell phone ecosystem." Not only do the U.S. carriers fail to cooperate to create a common, open platform for wireless enterprise applications, but they have created walled gardens with white label "one-size-fits all" software, limiting independent software choices for the enterprise.
Scott Raney, a partner at Redpoint Ventures, believes carriers must exert less control over the industry. In this April's Red Herring he said: "Once the carriers realize that they shouldn't be in the software business, but should open it up to others, we're going to see an explosion in services and we'll be able to figure out a way for everyone to make money."
In the interim, the long slide in enterprise wireless investment has serious implications. Mobility solutions represent relatively low-cost, high-ROI investments for corporate enterprises. We know that there is a continuing push by companies to use IT investments to drive productivity and an imperative to implement mobility solutions. Yet U.S. productivity, which had been growing at a robust 2.9 percent per year from the decade of 1995 to 2005, slowed to 1.6 percent in 2006. Might there be a link between these two developments? Without end-user research it is impossible to know, but lack of innovative new applications for enterprise wireless may well be impeding corporate investments in mobility and holding down corporate productivity.
-- Brenda Lewis
Compliance Does Not Equal Security
Privacy breach notification laws have been enacted by most states. But while the legislation has consumer rights in mind, the content of the laws could be much improved. As currently written, as long as organizations encrypt personal information, they don't need to disclose that the hard drive, mobile device, storage media, etc., has been potentially compromised. While the intention is sound, the requirement is flawed.
Basically, cryptography is the process of converting information into an incomprehensible (encrypted) form that can only be understood (decrypted) by an intended recipient. To encrypt or decrypt information you must use an algorithm in conjunction with a key. The algorithm is the mathematical basis that converts the information for the encryption or decryption process; a key is used with the algorithm to accomplish the encryption and decryption functions. In practical terms, if you know the key--the password--you can access the data.
While the legislation focuses on "unencrypted personal information," it neglects to mention the strength of the key. Don't get me wrong, we need the legislation; it just needs to focus on the right aspects. If you use a trustworthy algorithm, which AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is considered to be, but a password of 123456 to protect the information, you neglect the algorithm's purpose. Encrypting the information in this case provides no protection.
In the previous scenario, an organization would not have to report a potential compromise of consumer personal information according to current legislation. The organization is in compliance with the legislation, even though the consumer's personal information is not protected as they are led to believe. The issue we face is that though the legislation has the right intent, the actual written requirements are flawed.
What should the legislation say? How about, "Organizations must apply due care and due diligence to the protection of personal information by implementing appropriate security controls as recommended by a cognizant information security professional." Some such wording would allow appropriately trained individuals to secure personal information. What constitutes a cognizant information security professional, however, is a subject for another discussion. //
In The News
NTT DOCOMO, RENESAS TECHNOLOGY, FUJITSU, MITSUBISHI, SHARP and SONY ERICSSON have joined forces to develop a next-generation mobile phone platform for dual-mode
handsets supporting HSDPA/W-CDMA and GSM/GPRS/EDGE. The new platform will be based on the SH-Mobile 3G, a single chip system that uses a baseband processor supporting HSDPA,
W-CDMA and GSM/GPRS/EDGE communications.
SEIKO INSTRUMENTS has expanded its customer base through a distribution agreement with INGRAM MICRO. The agreement gives Ingram Micro's Nimax division the authority to sell Seiko's line of mobile printers, portable desktop printers and kiosk printers throughout North America and Latin America.
APPLIED VOICE & SPEECH TECHNOLOGIES (AVST) has forged a strategic partnership with CITIGROUP. The move will provide AVST resellers and end-user customers with financing solutions for its CallXpress product line and related IP telephony equipment.
CURRENT has expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of KREISS JOHNSON
TECHNOLOGIES, a software developer for electric utilities. CURRENT is integrating Kreiss Johnson's Enterprise Analyst product to provide utilities with the ability to analyze all data points on a grid and use that information to improve the efficiency and reliability of electric distribution.
MOVERO and PALM are making it easier for businesses to acquire and manage Treo smartphones for employees. Movero's Business Essentials program offers IT organizations access to tolls that automate change-of-service and management transactions and eliminate upfront equipment costs. Palm claims the joint effort enables businesses to accelerate ROI by mobilizing workers and reducing dependency on IT resources.
and MAPOWER are developing wireless links for remote disk drive storage devices using technology based on Certified Wireless USB from the USB-IF. The companies are developing storage solutions that can communicate with PCs wirelessly using Ultra Wideband technology.
The UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA is getting wireless services in its athletic facilities. The school has deployed a WLAN system from EXTRICOM in a complex that hosted
the NCAA Championships in May and is planning to provide wireless coverage in a training center that is still under construction. Future coverage will be extended to the university's stadium, coliseum and athletic fields.
A new service parts inventory system deployed by JUNIPER NETWORKS has enabled the company to achieve considerable ROI in less than three months. Juniper is using a solution from SERVIGISTICS to manage 40,000 service parts at 182 stocking locations worldwide.
At the PORT OF PORTLAND, authorities have installed CommerceGuard from GE SECURITY to protect the harbor against theft, smuggling and terrorism. The system beefs up security at ports using container security devices (CSD) placed inside cargo containers. The CSDs are designed to
register any opening of the cargo container.
MONDI PACKAGING AG has simplified its communications infrastructure across 80 sites with the deployment of an IP networking and mobility solution from ORANGE BUSINESS SERVICES. The Business Everywhere solution connects more than 750 of Mondi's mobile workers to the company's wireless system and business applications.
The sales team at NMS COMMUNICATIONS is getting a little help from BIGMACHINES to generate quotes and manage configurations for telecommunications solutions. NMS is using BigMachines' CPP (Configure, Price, Propose) solution through the Salesforce.com AppExchange
to provide a single view of customer data and automatically update sales forecasts.
MINO WIRELESS is offering the first mobile VoIP enterprise solution tailored to BLACKBERRY devices. The MINO software, located on a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, can be pushed to BlackBerry devices, thereby letting companies determine the best way to distribute the software. A management application provides a view of individual calling logs, billing and other account information.