Handhelds help out farmers, fishermen

While mobile technologies obviously have room for improvement in the personal market, the world of business seems further in front with a handheld for almost every occasion.

While mobile technologies obviously have room for improvement in the personal market, the world of business seems further in front with a handheld for almost every occasion. Milk deliverers, farmers, fishermen, sales reps and administrators already have devices for use, and more applications are on the way.

The Palm handheld has made great strides in recent years, boosted by mobile specialists such as Holliday Group in Christchurch and recently BiZA2Z in Wellington.

Meanwhile, Livestock Improvement in Hamilton has custom-developed the DataMate device to help farmers record the breeding of more than 2.5 million cows. And Farmworks of Fielding is developing a Palm-based handheld to help farmers with stock and crop management. Talon Technologies on Auckland’s North Shore, which makes fish-finders and auto anti-theft devices, is developing a GPS-based tracking device suitable for both Palm and Compaq’s iPaq.

Holliday Group’s range of Palm-based standard handheld products includes products for sales and service, customer management, despatch, freight tracking and stock control. Earlier this year the company launched MilkVend, which manages the daily delivery of dairy products while milkies are on their rounds, by integrating with its easyVend back-office accounts and run management system. Sales applications using Palm and Jade technology were adopted by TelstraSaturn and the Kapiti cheesemaking company. Earlier this year, Holliday Group launched products based on the Vodaphone GPRS network.

Hoping to give them a run for their money is year-old BiZA2Z of Wellington. Headed by former Datacom and Creative Solutions staffer Karun Shenoy, he and his two contractors have developed a “kernel” of infrastructure code that will use Palm and Compaq iPaq handhelds “to run the mobile office and back office of businesses in our vertical markets”.

CRM might be “too grand” a word, says Shenoy, but managing sales, distribution and wholesaling for “people who are moving about” is the promise of his products due to market in three or four months.

BiZA2Z has already developed GoWireless which lets small business websites like business portal www.abx.co.nz be accessed by mobile devices. Other solutions are being beta-tested. The company is also working on a product for a government agency and last month received just over $9000 from the Ministry of Economic Development’s enterprise awards scheme for software development.

Shenoy says his products will work well on CDMA and GPRS systems but WAP and GSM is slow. “Right now, mobile internet solutions are hampered by slow network speed, unavailability of devices and the early hype and disappointment from WAP in Europe."

He says the company field-tested its first vertical market application a couple of months ago. He says the user response was positive but network speed (WAP over GSM) and device capability (Ericsson's R380) as well as the pricing model were issues. GPRS and CDMA, with their speed, always-on nature, no latency, megabyte-based pricing and better devices, were seen as factors "that would make a big difference”, he says.

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