AvantGo mobile apps go vertical

In keeping with a recent trend toward vertical markets, wireless data delivery company AvantGo Inc. last week introduced an application designed for inspectors.

In keeping with a recent trend toward vertical markets, wireless data delivery company AvantGo Inc. last week introduced an application designed for inspectors.

AvantGo Mobile Inspection targets industries such as energy, government and manufacturing, whose employees usually carry clipboards around.

"Information technology hasnt really reached this area of people," said Richard Owen, CEO of AvantGo, in Hayward, Calif. "And they are finding it actually costs more to do it that way [keeping track of a paper-based system] than to use an electronic solution."

Mobile Inspection Solution follows a series of vertical applications from AvantGo, including Mobile Sales, Mobile Delivery, and Mobile Pharma. Its a recent focus for AvantGo, which, like many survivors of the wireless dot-com shakeout, started out targeting consumers and later eased into the enterprise. The enterprise, however, is turning out to be too wide an audience, Owen said.

"A lot of people, ourselves included, really focused in 1999 and 2000 on broad infrastructure," he said. "What we discovered is that there are high ROI [return on investment] applications, but mobility per se is not necessarily high ROI. The logical thing is to focus your forces on the areas that are strong and not on the areas that are weak."

The Web-based Mobile Inspection application, which is based on standards including JavaScript, XML and HTML, features the following:

* Interactive data collection forms that include radio buttons, drop-down menus and text fields as well as barcode scanning, signature capture, and free-form drawing; and access to corporate data and reference information on the company server.

* An Inspection Management Console, which enables IT managers to create and send out data collection without having to do additional programming. It also compiles reports on completed inspections.

* Automatic database updates each time new forms are created and old forms are changed.

The application supports handheld devices that run the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems. Owen said that the company is looking into supporting RIM Blackberry devices as well, but that the application might be too graphics-intensive to translate well on a Blackberry. Analysts said that AvantGos logic is likely to become industry logic in the next year.

"You get the most bang for your buck with a vertical application," said Tole Hart, senior analyst of mobile communications at the Gartner Group, in Stamford, Conn. "E-mail and messaging is becoming commodity now."

Gartner is preparing a report that rates the popularity and viability of various mobile applications. E-mail is primary, Hart said. Beyond that, the vertical industries that take most advantage of wireless include banking and trading, legal services and transportation.