Supporting Windows Mobile 6.5: Why it is still important.

Many folks are very excited about the growth of iPads, Android tablets and smart phones for their Maximo mobile strategy. Field users obviously love the large screen and great interfact. But, as noted in a previous post, there may be a few drawbacks, such as scanning capabilities. For serious enterprise asset management implementations, a mix is very important. Obviously, you would not use a hammer to turn a screw, so the right tool for the job is very important. And if one of those tools is missing, or may be removed from the tool crib, there is every reason to be concerned.

Microsoft has recently announced their latest mobile embedded framework. The latest operating system for handhelds, Windows Embedded 8, as it stands now, will provide a full featured operating system, with a new set of APIs, full device encryption and a “modern intuitive, multi-touch app experience”, which will make using tablets even easier to use.

Yes, once again, the Field worker may appear to be getting most of the love.
Here’s the big drawback.

No Physical Keyboard.

That’s right: No support of physical keyboards. Only on screen keyboard support, which hurts right in the old 10-key. I think several veteran inventory workers just visibly shuttered. Oh, and that user out there that takes meter readings all day just turned a little green, too.

Martin Cooper, Father of the mobile phone

Martin Cooper, Father of the mobile phone

Many of us have taken in stride the on screen keyboards that let you see what you are typing. The idea of “touch typing” is disappearing, especially if you cannot feel the keys as you type.  So, the result is stopping, looking at what you are typing, and resuming your work. These few seconds really can add up. If you haven’t been in the warehouse when a seasoned cycle count worker is kicking out their job, then think about the person at the bank, or accountant that is using 10-key. They fly through those digits without nary a glance. And they are all the speedier for it. Imagine if they stopped and looked at every key before entering it into the system, and you get an idea of how bad an idea of is is to eliminate support.

Now, there is no reason to gather the pitchforks quite yet. Microsoft has said they will support Mobile 6.5 until at least 2020. So all of those commercial handheld units with scanners, including you folks in the Oil and Gas industry that require I-Safe devices for your calibration equipment have about 6 years to make sure Microsoft understands how important physical keyboard support is to your bottom line.

Or, perhaps a new technology will come out in that time, so that this is just a “cry wolf” situation. Since the days of Martin Cooper’s first cell phone call, technology does march on (Or we’d still be using “Brick” phones). I just hope that technology conforms to improve the end user experience, and not the opposite.

Kat Pullen is a Convergence Specialist at DataSplice, LLC, a mobile computing company founded in 2001 to deliver handheld technology to Maximo users in the field. While DataSplice Mobile supports iPad, Android and Windows 8.1, the majority of clients are still very happy with Windows Mobile 6.5. DataSplice is committed to supporting a full range of devices, both mobile and desktop, because you shouldn’t have to compromise.

Counting your inventory before it hatches

Thinking about using an iPad or phone to scan your inventory?
“Saving” money with consumer grade phone cameras may cost you in the long run.

From UPC to QR codes, the omni-present black and white bands are everywhere. And, with the growth of smart phones, those funky lines and squares can be read by anyone. But, should that drive your bar code reading choice for your Maximo system? Probably not.

Bar Code Question Mark

Using a Smart phone to scan your inventory may not be very smart.

Why can’t I use my smart phone? Well, you can use your smart phone…or iPad, for certain asset management applications. I prefer using a rugged tablet for work orders and mapping. For quick approvals of work orders, a smart phone is great. I know: You’ve heard the argument about the cost of dropping and breaking a device. And yes, while there are cases that make iPads a little more rugged, they won’t make up for the down time when they do break.

But that’s not the total argument
Here’s something you may not have considered…try to scan with any type of speed with one of those devices and your going to find out the limitations of that snazzy device. You’ll see that cycle counting is going to take much longer than if you used a dedicated mobile scanning device.

Well, why is that?
The problem lies in the technology to capture the bar code. Smart phones, and by extension, iPads and other consumer grade tablets use their full color cameras to capture and interpolate the image. Plus, each time you snap that image, the camera needs to take a few seconds to auto-focus and take the picture. They also can blur, possibly misreading the scan, although it is more likely that it just won’t register and you have to repeat the effort again, which also translates into lost time and productivity.

Commercial grade scanners (and there are some built into rugged tablets), are designed specifically to read the black and white bars…or more to the point the white space between the bars. They capture the image quickly in one shot, because they don’t need to focus. Because they are designed specifically for reading bar codes, you can bet that performing a physical count of your inventory in Maximo is going to go much faster. And that’s not even taking into account bar codes on high shelves that your phone can’t see clearly

Maximo is an Enterprise level system. Doesn’t it make sense to use enterprise level equipment to make it as efficient as possible? You bet your sweet WONUM it does!

Kat Pullen is a Convergence Specialist at DataSplice, LLC, a mobile computing company founded in 2001 to deliver handheld technology to Maximo users in the field. One of her first gigs at DataSplice was hardware sales, and she’s heard a tale or two about bad bar code scanners.