Mobile devices and wireless technologies keep proliferating in multitudinous directions. But from the perspectives of participants in this weeks C3 Expo in New York, theres room for improvement on both scores, ranging from more all inclusive device management to stronger Wi-Fi encryption and beyond.
“I think theres a real opportunity for vendors to provide full-scale management across all mobile platforms,” said Tom Goodman, director of IT at Essex Corp.
“Certain companies have products that do bits and pieces of this, but nobody today is doing it all.”
Unmanaged devices represent a real threat to enterprises, according to Mike Coop, vice president of field operations for Cranite Systems, a federal government contractor.
Salespeople, for instance, keep valuable contact information on PDAs and cell phones.
As a result, these devices need to be protected from getting into competitors hands, according to Coop.
But mobile security policies are also crucial, and theyre still sorely inadequate or even missing entirely in a lot of organizations.
Essex Corp. has just instituted one new policy of sorts, Goodman said, relating what he dubbed a “Bluetooth war story.”
The CEO of Essex, a “technophobe of the highest degree,” asked Goodman to help him ground the Bluetooth that came with his new car.
But due to the software built into the vehicles Bluetooth, the car started showing up as “a $60,000 node on the corporate network,” since Bluetooth was also running on the company chiefs BlackBerry device.
The cure came when the IT director decided to “disassociate” the BlackBerry from the corporate network. Instead, the BlackBerry is now dedicated strictly to the CEOs personal use.
Coop half-jokingly described another possible mobile device policy.
“No salesperson is ever going to leave a cell phone in his car,” he quipped, during a panel session on wireless security at the computer and channel trade show.
Mobile workers can use some assistance with regulatory compliance, too, said Cathy Renner, large corporate and government account manager at CMS Products Inc., during an interview with Ziff Davis Internet at C3s ShowStoppers press event.
According to Renner, users in fields such as health care and finance need easy-to-carry portable storage devices for backing up their data.
The backups give extra assurance of HIPPA or Sarbanes-Oxley compliance in case a PDA gets lost or its hard drive goes bad.
Issues Require Resolution
In addition to backup software, CMS makes two different portable backup devices.
Renner said shes just made a big sale of its latest device a large pharmaceutical firm, which has become highly enamored of the new storage mechanisms miniaturized form factor.
Attendees also cited a potpourri of other mobile and wireless issues still requiring resolution.
To one attendee, buttonholed by Ziff Davis Internet in a corridor at Manhattans Javits Center, battery life leaped out as the most prominent.
“Devices keep getting smarter and more powerful, but they cant really get much better until batteries start lasting longer,” said the user, an employee of a major defense contractor who asked not to be identified.
“Todays battery technology needs a complete overhaul, and huge opportunities exist for anybody who can manage to do this,” he added.
Some attendees said theyve noticed a big need for more wireless hotspots, particularly in residential complexes such as senior citizen homes.
Others foresaw the ultimate development of multi-tiered wireless networks, integrating Wi-Fi-based LANs (local area networks) with Bluetooth-based PANs (personal area networks) as well as WANs or MANs (metropolitan area networks) enabled for either GPS or WiMax.
Intel Corp. has already committed to adding WiMax to its Centrino technology over the next couple of years, Coop said.
He predicted that WiMax will become particularly popular in New York and other areas with lots of tunnels, where satellite signals needed by GPS devices dont always fare too well.
“WiMax is beginning to emerge as a MAN technology,” said Daniel Dern of Dern Associates, an industry pundit and author who moderated another panel session at 3C.
During the panel on WiMax, Carlton ONeal of Alvarion told the audience that a number of “pre-WiMax or WiMax-enabled” broadband access networks have already been deployed at places throughout the world, by carriers ranging from British Telecom in the U.K. to Telmex in Mexico and a CLEC in India.
On the other hand, there are now tens of millions of wireless devices in the installed base, and they arent WiMax-capable, Dern noted later.
Also, on the Wi-Fi side, stronger encryption is still essential for many applications, according to some.
At Digital Experience, a pre-show press event, an executive for Gateway Inc. said his company is looking at deploying Wi-Fi on PC server hardware as well as on desktops and notebooks.
But, he added, the server-side Wi-Fi wont happen without the use of encryption and other improved security methods.
For his part, Coop called for widespread industry adoption of top-grade FIPS-level encryption, instead of merely emerging AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) technology.
Meanwhile, in the personal productivity arena, ThinkFree Inc. gave a demo at ShowStoppers of a version of its new Office 3 software thats been trimmed down to run on mobile iPod devices.
ThinkFrees Microsoft Office-compatible software is written in Java, for easy deployment across Windows, Linux or Apple Macintosh environments, according to a company rep.
The rep said ThinkFree has been talking with several other OEMs about producing special editions of ThinkFree Office for additional devices.
In the vertical markets arena, NEC Solutions Inc. is using the C3 show floor to demo the use of its Vocera voice-enabled communications device in conjunction with real-time access to human language interpreters, for implementation within health care organizations, for instance.
Meanwhile, the show in Manhattan is also the scene of a variety of other vendor announcements around technologies outside the mobile/wireless realm. For example:
- Also at ShowStoppers, Digipede Technologies announced the release of a Microsoft .Net-enabled grid computing solution aimed at letting departments and whole enterprises pull together the computing power of their collective PCs.
- In its hugest office product launch of the past two years, Xerox Corp. on Tuesday rolled out a total of 24 new products and services.
- Also on the C3 show floor, Google is demoing its Search Appliance and Desktop Search Enterprise Edition. Visitors can move from the Google booth to Intellext next door to see Google deployed with Watson 2.0, a forthcoming upgrade from Intellext that adds Google tools, a new user interface, and Firefox integration.
- Seiko Instruments is unveiling three new smart label printers, supplying first-time company support for Apple Macs.