4 Creative Ways Mobile can Keep Your Supply Chain on Track

4 Creative Ways Mobile can Keep Your Supply Chain on Track

Mobile devices are everywhere. Every aspect of the supply chain, from the supplier to the consumer, has been impacted by mobile technology. There is a good chance that you are already using some type of mobile supply chain application, but is your mobile strategy keeping up with the needs of your operation?

Not only is mobile hardware changing quickly, with new phones being released constantly, but the software that runs on these devices is also changing. Device manufacturers are continuing to add more and more features into the operating system of mobile devices as well as giving developers the ability to quickly take advantage of these new features in their mobile apps. In addition to the devices and software improvements, manufacturers have also been producing rugged cases for mobile devices that add superior durability while still being able to take advantage of the latest mobile technology and features.

Barcode Scanners Increase App Adoptability 

While barcode scanners have been used with mobile apps for a very long time, there have also been many hardware and software improvements that have increased both reliability and ease of use. A good scanner can make the difference in the adoptability of your app and can make your business more efficient from source to customer. Reducing the time it takes to actually scan an item and adding support for many more barcode types can make tasks like inventory and asset management much more efficient. It complements voice features well by allowing identification of products in environments where speech recognition might not work well.

Related: See how we added product scanning to improve warehouse inventory count and identify packages at delivery checkpoints for AC Moore

Speech Recognition Tailored To Your Product Lines

Voice and speech recognition have probably have made very rapid advancements in the past few years. All the major players including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung, have worked on optimizing and perfecting the ability to recognize and process speech. Not only will you find it on mobile devices, but this past year has seen a large adoption of devices such as Amazon’s stand-alone Echo and Dot products. What used to be a novelty years ago has now transformed into a valuable feature available on almost all modern mobile devices. Speech recognition is able to easily complement technologies like barcode scanning in areas such as inventory management. It also has the flexibility of being as adjustable and powerful as you need by tying a recognized vocabulary with data from suppliers, transportation, sales, and consumers.

  • Using voice to document quality control inspections
  • Improving safety by not requiring workers to take eyes off equipment and instead use voice to enter/read data

GPS

GPS technology has also improved over the years giving mobile devices much quicker and more precise location information. While traditional mobile uses of GPS like navigation are quite mainstream, features such as geofencing are not as widespread. Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary that mobile software can react to. It can trigger a check in when a truck arrives with a shipment or optimize and adjust workflows based on estimated times of arrival. When combined with a smart mobile app, it can also give receiving terminals detailed information about drivers and shipments (eliminating possible paperwork) as well as giving feedback back to drivers about possible gate changes or wait times.

Supply Chain Case Study: See how changes to truck routing and package tracking improved routing and fuel efficiency for JB Hunt.

Beacons

With the introduction of Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) beacons, companies have been able to improve the logistics of their business in a much more efficient (and affordable) way than what was delivered with RFID. Early adoption of beacons was often used for indoor navigation, where GPS signal was unreliable. Shockoe has tackled this through a great personalized tour experience app with Anheuser-Busch. Uses have expanded to allow workers to efficiently navigate and locate items in storage, as well as being able to give a customer the ability to find the product they are looking for in a retail store. In addition to location proximity, beacons can also be fitted with additional sensors for light, humidity, and temperature; which expands their many uses to areas such as storage and transportation. A beacons low cost, enhanced battery lifetime, and the fact that they can be used with mobile devices (bypassing the need for specialized equipment), makes them particularly ideal for supply chain operations.

  • Alert personnel that humidity levels for monitored goods are above acceptable range and direct them to the location using their mobile device
  • Navigate grocery customers looking for a certain product to the correct aisle for the store

Mobile technologies are being used in all aspects of supply chain management from manufacturing to the consumer. At Shockoe, we are building smart mobile apps that leverage the latest features available. We work to give suppliers, truck drivers, dispatchers, receivers, retail stores, and customers real-time insights and collaboration using an app they love. 

Related post: 4 Tips in Designing a Retail Inventory Management App 

 

Digital transformation through an attorney’s eyes

Digital transformation through an attorney’s eyes

Like many of my colleagues at Shockoe, I began writing computer code in a high school classroom.  However, in my case, the school was particularly advanced for its time in offering such a course, and our “computer” was a keyboard, dot-matrix printer, and a modem connection to the University of Virginia, where the actual computer occupied an entire floor of a large building.  And while most of those colleagues went on a path that brought them relatively quickly to Shockoe, I spent two decades working as an attorney in New York, Seoul, and Virginia.

Now in my third year of software development I have felt particularly happy to be at Shockoe because I believe it addresses needs that I often saw during my time working as an attorney, needs that I am certain are shared by many industries.

In my experience, the following was typical of the manner in which law firms implement technology.  First, the decisions are made by senior partners who, being busy with the representation of clients, have little time to keep up-to-date with what is available or most desirable in technology.  This leads either to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, or an attempt to take care of the problem in one fell swoop with a package solution that may or may not fit comfortably with the way they have set up their practice.  In the latter case, the acquired technology may go unused, or used only to the extent required by the firm.  For example, if a time-tracking application is difficult to use, an attorney may keep track of his time on post-it notes as she always did before, then have her secretary type it all into the application at the end of the week.

In either case, what then happens is that employees begin finding their own solutions. Each attorney and his or her assistants devise their own system, piecing together hardware and applications as they see fit.  Depending on their level of technological sophistication, they may, or may not, arrive at a solution that works well for them.  However, this approach drastically reduces the potential for collaboration, and creates a host of potential problems, as the less technologically-adept might adopt solutions that introduce security vulnerabilities or other problems.

Although so often noted as to sound trite, an average employee today with a typical mobile device is comparable to an employee with superpowers two or three decades ago. To make the most of those powers, however, requires sophisticated solutions.  This includes, of course, a focus on the possible pitfalls of any new technology. A device that allows employees to watch training videos at convenient times may also allow them to spend the working day watching Netflix. Large collections of data become valuable, and thus must be protected, not only from hackers in foreign locales, but from disgruntled or former employees.  Yet while minimizing risk demands much attention, it is just as important to make certain that new technology is used to its full potential. Making one’s workforce five times more efficient is simply not good enough in a competitive business environment if the competition makes their workforce eight times more efficient.  

This is what excites me about working at Shockoe, being able to use my skills to allow our clients to make the greatest possible use of the technology available to them. Apps created now increase employee productivity, streamline task performance and ensure employees have real-time data access they need for day to day exchange opposed to the opposite stagnant mentality. If this sounds familiar to you, check out our work for Financial Services Mobile Technology and contact us for any innovative ideas to help your team tackle your digital transformation with a great mobile strategy.

Security – A Layer in the Mobile Ecosystem

Security – A Layer in the Mobile Ecosystem

Successful Mobile Solutions are often praised for their simplicity and intuitiveness, while this is very true this part of the solution is often one component of the entire ecosystem. Mobile Solutions are very much like icebergs where the Presentation Layer (Often referred to as the App) is the tip of the Iceberg. Although this analogy has been overused over the years, I find it to be a very accurate representation of a Comprehensive Mobile Solution. Under the surface of the successful App or Series of Apps we often find well thought out Application Distribution and Delivery, Service & Integration, as well as Structured Data and Infrastructure Layers. All these components serve to make up a great Mobile Solution. Picture again the Iceberg, and I am sure you will imagine the water around it, that is the Security Layer, something I have been covering in my most recent posts.

Although I can go into great detail about any one layer mentioned above, it is the security layer that I have emphasized most of my posts on over the last few weeks and the one I want to close out on today. In order to have a great solution, we need to identify the right combination of people, processes, and technology, and I realized that most of my posts speak to the process and people aspect of security and omit the technology aspect.

One of the reasons for omitting technology is because there are several great solutions in the market place and narrowing down my security recommendations to just a few does not do the marketplace justice. Picture Mobile Security to be like the home page of your phone; if your phone is like mine no two apps are built by the same company (Unless you count the text and phone app), the reason for this is because we look for best in class solutions that can help us solve our unique needs. Similar to this is the Mobile Security Market Place. That being said, I do want to mention a few products, in no particular order, that Shockoe has had the opportunity to work with and deploy for several clients over the last few months.

One of the first security questions we normally get is “How can we protect the data on an app deployed on an employee device”. While the answer to this is not simple a solution can be found in one of my previous posts (SDK vs Wrapping). Some of the solutions we have worked with include Mocana, Air-Watch, Good, and Citrix.

Mocana is a unique application in that it is a leading Mobile App Protection Platform; this company is strictly focused on providing a simple yet secure solution to wrap Enterprise Mobile Apps without the Big Enterprise Systems. Although one of the primary focuses for Mocana is Secure App wrapping, it does this job second to none and as such is a strong competitor in the marketplace. One of the benefits to this company is its customer service, working with Mocana, Shockoe was able to develop an Appcelerator Titanium Module that can be used with all Titanium Apps.

Air-Watch is one of the most well know Enterprise Mobility Management suites in the marketplace. Although acquired by VMware in 2014, this acquisition only served to strengthen its foothold on the market. Air-watch continues to innovate like no other company in the market and offers a comprehensive suite of Mobility Management products, including the option to use an SDK or Wrapper. Outside of the level of security offered by the products, one of the things that interested us the most in our dealings with Air-Watch was the console; the step-by-step approach helps IT administrators become productive with the tools extremely quick. Again, the level of service provided by this company is always helpful when the security situations cannot be resolved. We find that Air-Watch has been a great fit for those companies looking for a comprehensive EMM solution on multiple platforms.

Last, and certainly not least is Good Work, a recent introduction by Good Technology in an effort to replace Good for Enterprise. The Good Platform has been around for a very long time and is great for organizations that have strict policies on devices and/or are working on a BYOD policy. Be on the look out for an announcement from Shockoe for a new Good Module that can be used with cross-platform solutions such as Appcelerator.

While these three solutions only represent a small subset of Mobile Security Technology Vendors, they are ones we have worked with closely over the last few months. The key to selecting the best suite of solutions comes down to understanding your businesses short and long term Mobile needs.

Mobile Security – Wrapping vs SDK

Mobile Security – Wrapping vs SDK

As we stated last week, protecting company data and a user’s personal information is essential when building Mobile Solutions.  One of the questions we are often asked is; “When selecting a method to protect data (Containerizing), which is better using an SDK or Wrapper?”

There are benefits to both and more often than not, companies can use both methods depending on the mobile solution and content.  To containerize an app essentially means enabling security around specific rules, authorization, or content a business wants protected – In some cases it might be specific to the app while in others it might be specific to the device.  Containerizing Enterprise Apps is a great strategy to protect corporate data while not touching personal data.  

As I mentioned above, there are two primary methods of securing mobile app’s data, and content – Software Development Kits (SDKs) and App Wrapping. While the concept behind each can is the same, understanding the scenarios of when to use one vs. the other is essential to determining which is best for a business.  Depending on the Security Vendor, both wrapping and the SDK should accomplish the following:  Data Encryption, Prevent the cutting or copying of data, App-Level VPNs, & Device Integrity Checks.  Furthermore either of these methods can be used to validate user authentication and allow system admins the ability to gain control of the app or remote wipe specific content or the entire app from a user’s device.

The key to determining what strategy to uses lies in your company’s ability to access the Mobile App Source Code.  The SDK method to containerize individual apps requires app developers to have access to the app source code in order to integrate the SDK.   One benefit of the SDK method is that it does give software developers the added option to choose to use custom components or methods prescribed in the SDK for securing the app.  On the other hand the major challenge in the SDK method is that Software providers often need to create and maintain multiple versions of the same app to support multiple security solutions and/or deployments thus making the maintenance and total cost of ownership (TCO) for the SDK method more expensive.  A firm understanding of the source code and developer skills, which could vary, based on the platform, are also required for this method.

Conversely, app wrapping methods do not require any changes to the app’s code and are more cost effective.  App wrapping does not require any developer skills, but has more limited security features, in most cases.  A power user or system admin would upload the APK or IPA to the Security Vendor’s Solution to enable the app wrapper, and proceed to distribute the app through appropriate methods.  In most cases, businesses can only use the wrapper when they do not consume a shared service and do not have access to the source code.

To learn more on this topic and how to strategically select the best option for your business Contact Us

Building A World Class Sales Mobility Strategy and App

Building A World Class Sales Mobility Strategy and App

CIOs in top performing companies recognize the benefits mobility brings to their salesforce.  In 2014, we have seen an increased demand for mobile applications to enable corporate sales teams.  From planning to face-to-face meetings to post-call follow-ups, sales enablement solutions can be designed to streamline and support every step of the sales process.

Companies find it hard to achieve these benefits without a true mobile strategy, but if implemented correctly, we have seen the following benefits:

  • Pre-Sales Planning:  A customized mobile sales solution can point your sales force to sales tools, product information, and customer information, and calculators for specific selling situation.
  • Higher Customer Engagement:  Mobile solutions can enable data-driven decision support and assessment tools make it easier to deliver targeted, expert advice in consultative selling situations.
  • Faster Customer Follow-Up:  In a world were speed and service is critical, mobile solutions help businesses stay one step ahead.  Mobile applications streamline the capture of the customer information and interaction and can allow your team to send response e-mails and invoices faster.

Aside from these benefits, a good sales tool can also help reduce overhead, increase revenue with more sales per day per sales agent, and reduce material and workforce costs, all while making your teams more efficient

For more information, download our white paper or contact us at sales@shockoe.com

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iPad or Surface to rule the enterprise? You make the call.

iPad or Surface to rule the enterprise? You make the call.

On the heels of a major upgrade to their mobile software, Apple recently unveiled their newest version of the world’s the most popular tablet.  The new “iPad Air” is a thinner, more powerful version of the company’s flagship device.  But will the combination of the sleek new operating system and more eye-appealing tablet translate to the enterprise as the new go-to tech for the workers on the factory floor to the board room?

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa recently said that demand for PCs has declined. So does that mean that Apple, Windows and Android based tablet devices are replacing PCs as work devices?

One of the tell-tale signs of health of the PC industry, the back-to-school surge, was actually the worst single period for new PC sales since the global economic collapse of 2008.  While Kitagawa expects the PC sale slump to level out in the United States, tablets and Android devices in particular are seeing a big jump.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Kitagawa stated.  “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

While Android’s price point might appeal to new consumer entrants to the space, what about at corporations?  Reuters reports the real showdown for enterprise should come between Apple and Microsoft.  Carolina Milanesi, another Gartner analyst — who is a little more frank about the competitive benefits of devices — said that “the iPad Air will compete with Surface Pro.  Not some rinky-dink Android tablet.”

We wrote last month that Apple’s iOS7 made technological advances that will resonate with the enterprise, specifically around security.  Interestingly, security might not be a determiner at least among upper management and might have more to do with ego.  Many analysts believe that the iPad will remain the preeminent product among those in upper management.

“They [senior executives] will continue to prefer the Apple devices over their competitors; even over the Microsoft Surface 2 devices that have been released recently,” Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy told Computer World.

“There are some IT shops looking at the Microsoft devices and thinking ‘these might be a nice IT-friendly device’. However, the reality is when looking at these new tablets, the lightweight iPad Air, you are going to see senior people in the organisation continue to bring these into businesses and ask or demand for them to be supported by the IT department.

“I don’t see shift to Microsoft Surface replacing the iPad, particularly at the executive level.”

But there are only so many executives in the enterprise and the power of mobile devices at the front line stands to make a more profound impact on the business.  So when considering moving away from PCs to extend the tablet within the enterprise at the factory floor level, Microsoft might be the more attractive option for CIOs when it comes to their staff.  The old do as I say, not as I do trope might apply here.   Matthew Oakeley, global IT head of Schroders, told Computer Weekly in an interview that he does not think the iPad will ever be a true corporate device throughout the enterprise.

“I bet a lot of people bought iPads for work but don’t use them for work,” he says.

“The real problem is that, if you run a Microsoft Windows estate, you want something that can talk to it.

“At an event I asked Steve Ballmer: ‘When are you going to solve the iPad problem? When are you going to make it that the iPad can talk natively to Microsoft?’

“And he said, ‘Probably never; we are not friends.’”

 

Microsoft has made an empire on strategic plays like the one Ballmer is said to have outlined for Oakeley above.  Because Microsoft software is so firmly entrenched in the enterprise space, there’s no reason for them to leave their high ground by creating iOS connection points.  Surface devices are quietly helping Microsoft hedge their bets against Apple’s dynamic and attractive product explosion of the last ten years.  Still Apple’s growth has been largely consumer driven and doesn’t have the history of twenty years of software developments tailored to enterprise that Microsoft offers.

So who will rule the enterprise? As Microsoft VP Frank Shaw demonstrated, both sides have valid arguments for why their tools should be the standard, but in the end it is going to be a matter of perspective.  Hopefully, an organization will look at what set of functions matter most and will work best for their corporate culture.  Both sets of products have their merits and knowing one own’s unique organizational needs will be the key to making what might be a better/best decision for an organization.

Those are the decisions that we at Shockoe help our customers to determine every day.

How can we help you with your plans for a mobile enterprise?

Why iOS7 is a Game-Changer for the Enterprise

Why iOS7 is a Game-Changer for the Enterprise

The recent launch of Apple’s new iOS7 has many talking about how the new version of the operating system was the final death knell of Apple’s skeuomorphic roots, but beyond the style and sleekness of the upgrade, the enterprise should see the feature dense iOS7 as a major force in driving enterprises to mobile.

Security has and will continue to remain a major concern for the enterprise, but as Q2ebanking.com’s CSO Jay McLaughlin recently stated, the iPhone is by far the most secure device to try and integrate into the enterprise — as long as users aren’t jail-breaking the device.

“iOS 7 presents new vulnerabilities in the fact it contains new code, technology and features,” McLaughlin told TechRadar.com. “Once discovered, you’ll see new exploits created – many of which would be used for jailbreaking purposes – which inherently breaks and destroys the strength of Apple’s underlying security model for iOS. […] Historically, Apple has tightened its security within iOS with each subsequent release, adding stronger encryption, Data Execution Prevention, ASLR and the new A7 processor’s ‘Secure Enclave.’ As such, when in a non-jailbroken state, the iPhone is one of the most secure consumer devices.”

Here is eight features of Apple’s iOS7 that will change the business world for the better:

Stronger Security through TouchID & Activation Lock

One of the biggest drawbacks of extending the enterprise to mobile is the multitude of security threats to which mobile devices can expose an enterprise.  TouchID made news when in less than a week a computer club in Germany demonstrated there are ways to bypass the TouchID system.

Even so, ComputerWorld’s Michael deAgonia writes that it is still a groundbreaking advancement for mobile.

“I’ve already decided [TouchID] will be a game-changer. In concert with new Activation Lock features in iOS 7 — GPS tracking can’t be deactivated and access to the iPhone is blocked without entering your iCloud username and password, even after a device wipe! — it’s hard to see this as anything but a major win for security.

[…]

The hoops someone would have to jump through to hack into the phone — lifting fingerprints, making a fake print using latex — are complicated, if they even work at all. For me, this doesn’t change its usefulness; it’s just a reminder that no security function is 100% foolproof.”

Weak passwords, disabled security locks and misplaced devices are what keep security-minded companies up at night when thinking about extending mobile in the enterprise.  While not perfect, fingerprint-based authentication in concert with the Activation Lock and device wipe capabilities can allow companies to quickly intervene in a potential security violation before sensitive data is compromised.  Better to wipe a $200 smartphone quickly than expose a business to tens of thousands, or even millions of dollars to a potential data breach while a would-be hacker fiddles with latex fingerprint molds.

Simplicity With Enterprise Single-Sign-On

For the busy folks on the front line delivering packages, checking manifests and entering patient data and all the while jumping between programs to do so, the repetitive authentication for each transaction can become major deterrent in the use of the products, or at the very least the secure use of them.  What if that worker could log into a CRM app and then jump into an order-tracking app without another sign-on?  iOS 7 allows users to take their corporate credentials across apps, even including apps from the App Store. This reduces the need to remember and enter a number of different passwords while also keeping data secure.

Opening Up on Managed Open-In

Would you like an employee accidentally tweeting the Q4 forecast numbers?  Probably not.  Thanks to Managed Open-In, companies can force their employees to open email attachments in specific corporate-managed applications rather than an app of the user’s own choosing.  So, even without a containerization solution to protect corporate data, enterprise information technology departments can keep business data in business-related applications on the mobile device. The business can then dictate to the user the open in options by app or user account, providing a lot of management flexibility.

Private Server Conversations With Per-App VPN

Per-App VPN allows information technology departments much more granularity in access to back-end systems. Only specific apps can gain access to a corporate network, so unmanaged or unapproved apps can never gain access to sensitive data within the enterprise.  As well this restricts the ability to remove data from unapproved applications thanks to Managed Open-In.  This feature greatly improves user experience and firewalls privacy so that non-business data is unable to touch the corporate network.  One of the major benefits to business?  Since this can quickly create barriers between SAP and Facebook, Per-app VPN makes Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) a much more realistic goal for enterprise.

Mobile Device Management Software Made Simple

iOS7 includes a new MDM protocol to streamline third-party MDM solutions.  For large businesses, the need to keep hundreds or thousands of users up to date with supported versions of software can be daunting without management software.  Corporate-owned devices can be automatically enrolled in an MDM solution during activation, automating much of the custom commands, fonts and wirelessly set-up managed apps.

Giving iWork Mobile to Get

Microsoft made a kingdom into an empire by licensing their end-user productivity tools.  Now, just like Google Drive did, Apple is giving away iWork with Cloud capability in their latest release.  This move won’t push blue chip companies to defect in droves from Microsoft’s enterprise licensing program, but for smaller businesses this strategic investment on Apple’s part could help them justify the cost of equipping Apple devices while simultaneously extending on one set of productivity tools between laptop and mobile device.

Keep the “Property” in “Intellectual Property” Through App Store Volume Purchase Program

Enterprises can now buy apps and books for their iPhone and iPad-using employees and keep the to those apps or books to transfer them to other workers. For a handful of users, this might not seem like much, but those 99 cents start to add up quickly when it comes to thousands of users or expensive B2B apps or books or other such pricey materials.  Previously, companies had to go through a painful process of buying redemption codes to hand out to employees to go out and download the apps on their own.

Microlocation through Apple’s iBeacons

Apple’s iOS 7 supports low-cost transmitters that can work with an iPhone or iPad to collect location data, even if there’s no location system installed in a workplace or other environment. The system works over Bluetooth 4.0 and can be used to interact with an environment just by passing through it.

Major League Baseball has been a staunch supporter of the practical for Apple’s new tech for a few years now, and they have been off and running with how to use the iBeacon technology since last winter.  So far, MLB has created an experience to populate a ballpark guides stadium specific information and which prompts users with different results based on where they are located, be it prompting the ticket bar-code at the entrance for the ticket-taker or popping up a coupon for a free soda once one smells the aroma of hot dogs.

“We’ve been looking at customizing the app based on where you are within the stadium, but GPS is notorious for not working indoors, especially when you are in a building made of steel,” MLB iOS developer Marc Abramson told Mashable. “Instead, we are incorporating Apple’s new Bluetooth and iBeacon technologies for iOS 7 and couldn’t be more excited about the potential.”

“Essentially, we want to create micro-locations within the stadiums where you can get different experiences,” Abramson said.

On the factory floor or in a busy transit center this sort of device/environment interplay could change the way the user interacts and experiences their environment.

Endless Possibilities

These eight features are just a few of the many advances that Apple has made with their revolutionary iOS7 product.  Beyond what we wrote about above, there’s plenty more worth mentioning: Multi-Tasking APIs, AirDrop and PDF annotations are but a few.

The advance of mobile technology inside the enterprise will lead to major innovations for businesses and with the introduction if iOS7 large organizations have even less reason to put off extending to mobile.

We wrote months ago that organizations who move quickly but cautiously will be the ones that reap the largest long-term benefit for their business.  That said, Apple has addressed many of the major concerns for caution in the competitive marketplace with the introduction of technologies like Per-App VPN and ESSO.  Extremely secure yet game-changing technology is now available to the enterprise and iOS7 has done enough that smart enterprises will use these security, locational and MDM advances to propel their business forward in the next year with the largest gain at a fractional risk.