Whats On Your Desktop?

Most customers can't answer that basic question. Maybe Micropath can help.

The expense of maintaining an up-to-date inventory database has discouraged some corporations from embracing asset management, throwing cold water on a potentially hot market for some solutions providers.

But Micropath Inc., a services firm specializing in IT asset management, thinks it has hit upon a solution. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company recently unveiled handheld technology that puts such familiar devices as Palm computers at the front lines of asset management.

The devices are employed as part of Micropaths inventory updating service and let technicians track a customers moves, adds and changes on a day-to-day basis with easy updating.

Asset-management automation already exists in the form of widely used tracking tools that keep tabs on devices connected to a network. What Micropaths handheld offering aims to do is automate physical inventory taking, which involves capturing a devices key data such as serial number, location and user. That can prove a time-consuming and expensive feat, given the rapid movement of technology in companies due to downsizing, mergers and acquisitions, and other upheavals, say Bill Holder, chairman and CEO of Micropath.

Micropaths service and handheld approach offers a "solution for ongoing asset management," says Holder.

Micropath currently provides its handheld-based technology as part of the companys asset-management offering.

Micropaths approach relies on the companys own asset knowledge software, which runs on a range of handheld devices. Typically, the software has been deployed on Symbol Technologies SBT 1700 handheld computers, which provide bar-code scanning on a Palm OS platform. Holder notes that Micropaths software also can run on devices using Windows CE.

Technicians use the handheld devices to scan the bar code on equipment. The data then is recorded in the customers asset database. Holder says that paper-based inventory methods are about 95 percent accurate, adding that Micropaths automated process can produce 99.5 percent accuracy.

Patricia Adams, a senior research analyst at Gartner Group, says Micropaths approach is useful for doing a baseline physical inventory, noting that automation makes the process faster, reduces costs and increases accuracy.

Adams says another plus for Micropaths handheld technology is its ability to keep inventory databases current on a continual basis.

Micropath often goes to market with larger IT service vendors, and such companies as DaimlerChrysler Services (debis), Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Unisys Corp. have tapped Micropaths handheld-driven services. Micropath is considering licensing the underlying software to partners.

Holder notes that about 55 percent of Micropaths business comes via the partner route, adding that he is "seeking partners all the time." Partners with established customer relationships and con- tracts call on Micropath to provide its specialized services. He says ongoing projects with asset-management services potential include EDSs $7 billion pact to build a massive intranet for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Automation could make the widget roundup faster for organizations trying to corral a mass of IT gear.