It’s incredible how quickly the world has progressed since the mobile phones of 20 years ago. Today it is taken for granted that mobile phones can do so much more than make a phone call. How did we ever manage without them? In reality the evolution is still under way. Wireless technology has taken connectivity to a new realm and has opened a world of opportunities for the enterprise. Significant wireless bandwidth levels and the arrival of converged networks have unleashed a new frontier in workforce mobility delivered via powerful handheld devices. The anatomy of 'true mobility' To get the most out of mobility, there needs to be a real-time connection between your workforce, and enterprise voice and business systems. Communications alone is only one part of the equation. Giving staff the power to interact with business-specific applications and databases without having to be at their desks, is a key driver in productivity and operational efficiency. A truly mobile workforce can access all enterprise tools, from phone and email, to real-time back-end applications on a single device anywhere, anytime. True mobility calls for the mobilisation of critical applications, which is different from consumer communication and data requirements. This necessitates a highly secure device capable of remote management. Next-generation mobile solutions are designed to meet these rigorous demands in a manner that consumer-grade devices cannot. Does true mobility offer anything new? The answer is yes. ‘True mobility’ exploitsthe emergence of converged, next-generation networks, creating significant opportunities for the telco industry. Likewise there is an untapped market for application service providers who specialise in developing tailored mobile solutions for business. Armed with a comprehensive set of productivity tools, workers can strip time and duplication from daily processes. Data is captured instantly, paper forms and manual errors are eliminated, and business systems are kept up to date with more accurate real-time data, enabling better business decisions. On the operations front, sophisticated mobile solutions increase business visibility. Management can incorporate real-time facts into decisions, improving throughput and production management. Inventory levels can be reduced and turnover increased by responding to peaks and troughs in demand more efficiently; staff can be scheduled more economically and labour costs controlled. The ability to scan product barcodes out in the field completes the information chain for ‘quality’ and ‘track and trace’ applications – critical in industries where traceability is essential. Consumer-style devices (mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs) appear more cost effective than an enterprise-class device. There will always be workers who need nothing more than voice and occasional email communication; however for ‘road warriors’ and other mobile employees who need constant access to information located in critical back-end systems, it pays to consider total cost of ownership. Typical consumer devices aren’t rugged and are designed as commodities with a 12- to 24-month lifecycle. An integrated voice and data device can last up to seven years, and provides service cover that extends beyond its expected lifespan. Central management is also critical to security issues associated with business mobility. With data being transferred wirelessly, or stored in phones and laptops, virus protection and management are a major concern. Traditional mobile devices aren’t built with the security of data in mind. To lose a PDA is potentially a major security breach. Centralised device management is a deciding factor in many organisations’ decision to take on ‘true mobility’. Workforces can’t do business anywhere, anytime unless their data is safe. Unshackle staff from their desks There is much more to mobility than voice, email and calendars. Its evolution during the previous 20 years is only the tip of the iceberg; new paradigms in cloud computing and GPS-enabled location-based services, virtual healthcare, customer service and business transparency have only begun to be explored. The integration of robust voice and data capabilities into a single, enterprise-grade device is pushing new frontiers in human enterprise and virtual capabilities on fixed mobile convergence. E-health, field automation and e-education delivered via highly powerful mobile devices are possibilities that go beyond traditional mobility, and are fast becoming a reality. In the face of economic challenges, the adoption of ‘true mobility’ is set for maximum growth as organisations make smaller workforces more efficient, using less budget. No matter what industry, when the workforce can access business applications in the field, the benefits will reach deeply into business and the bottom line.