June 20, 2018
When you hear the term “casually connected”, you might think it’s a reference to social relationships. Obviously (hopefully) we’re not talking about the relationship with your spouse or significant other. When we say Casual Connection around our offices, we’re talking about the relationship between your mobile device and your backend systems.
Is there WIFI? Are you connected? These are questions that are heard daily now – but now long ago would have gotten some very strange looks. As we’ve all become dependent (maybe even addicted) to our smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, the need for connecting them to the outside world is greater than ever.
I grew up in the age of landlines for phones (including BIG long distant charges) and connected batch data entry (cards, tapes, CRT’s) into big company computers. Back then, mobile computing was a thing for James Bond films. Today, the only wire my college-aged daughter is familiar with is a plug (multi-port required, naturally) to charge ALL her devices (including auxiliary batteries further insuring her connection).
We have become so dependent on “being connected” that there is a whole new stress level that exists when that connection is broken. Trust me when I tell you that this situation is not a pleasant time in my home when this occurs.
The connection panic is not just limited to our teenagers. That dependency seems to grow every day for all of us – in all areas of our life – business and personal.
Security is Key
The interesting counter to all of this is our company history of working with RF-based industrial terminals and the security risk they opened up with organizational networks. RF devices enabled a remote user to access the company network for data entry (not just data retrieval) inside the firewall. Because of this access, considerable effort and expense was taken to encrypt and secure these communications. And this was done with proprietary devices!
As we now have an abundance of non-proprietary (IOS, Android and Windows) mobile devices, there is even greater interest in network and data security. But even in a world where hardly a day goes by without a government agency or major corporation being hacked (it would probably be easier to list those who haven’t been hacked) – there still exists a huge demand and need for connectivity despite the risk.
In light of the risks, some of the major customers for our mobilePLUS solution still don’t allow wireless communications. While others are considering limiting access – all out of security concerns with RF devices.
Meeting the Need
The connectivity issue was a major consideration in the architectural approach for our latest release for mobilePLUS. This release was focused more on operational requirements to accommodate environmental changes like data and network security – rather than the more traditional functional updates.
One of the approaches we took with our latest mobilePLUS application release was to offer compatibility with Windows 10 Professional. This enables mobile devices like tablets to log into a network domain – while still maintaining the same AIT capture options (barcode/RFID). As a result, organizations can leverage their existing security tools and policies used with laptops for their mobile device connectivity, thus reducing the cost, effort and risk with the deployment of mobilePLUS.
Making It Casual
The other aspect of this new architecture was offering it with a “Casual Connection”. Casual Connection allows mobilePLUS to run on a mobile device without a requirement for network connectivity. So – no network, no problem. But if & when there is a network available, mobilePLUS has the ability for the device to then connect and share its work with the host. When not connected, any work is stored up for when network coverage is available and it uploads then.
And if connection isn’t a factor in your environments, mobilePLUS still maintains the traditional connected or wired method as an alternative.
Casual Connection provides the best of both worlds for mobile data collection. Since the bulk of the users work all resides within the tablet or mobile device (transactions, data, work directions, etc.) – it can be done anywhere without worries of connectivity. This allows the easiest and fastest means of sharing their work when secure connectivity is available – without any special efforts on the part of the user.
In regards to mobilePLUS, Casual Connection is the best way!
Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.