The fundamental purpose of this paper is to illustrate that mobile computing is a versatile and potentially strategic technology that improves information quality and accessibility, increases operational efficiency, and enhances management effectiveness
Mobile Computing Defined
The term "Mobile computing" is used to describe the use of computing devices--which usually interact in some fashion with a central information system (Server)--while away from the normal, fixed workplace (Office). Mobile computing technology enables the mobile worker to: (a) create; (b) access; (c) process; (d) store; and (e) communicate information without being constrained to a single location. By extending the reach of an organization's fixed information system, mobile computing enables interaction with organizational personnel that were previously disconnected. Mobile computing is an extremely versatile, capable, and exciting technology that offers many otherwise unattainable benefits to organizations that choose to integrate it into their fixed information system.
Mobile computing enables improvements in information accessibility. The degree of improvement is directly dependent upon the mobile hardware and communications equipment in use. The degree of information accessibility required--which defines the hardware and communications requirements--is determined by the business needs that are driving the mobile computing application. Mobile computing technology (hardware, software, and communications) provides a wide range of options that can be mixed and matched to fit the needs of each individual mobile computing application.
The improvements in information accessibility enabled by mobile computing result in improved information flow both to and from the central fixed information system. The mobile computer enables quick and efficient information retrieval from the central information system. The ability to access central information and make fixed or ad hoc queries of corporate databases enables employees to get the information they need to complete the job. The mobile computer also enables transmission of current operational data, in native digital format, from the mobile user to the central fixed information system.
Once transmitted to the fixed information system, the data from the mobile user can be processed and made available for all other users of the central information system. Thus, the information available to a mobile user from the central information system reflects current information from other mobile users as well. Mobile computing eliminates the delay that occurs when an employee must physically return to the office at the end of the day and submit paper forms so that data entry personnel can enter the information into the central information system.
Even employees that are not continuously connected to the fixed organizational information system via a wireless link will experience significantly improved information accessibility through mobile computing. One sync-service call at the end of the day from the mobile user via a standard modem is all that is required to transmit the entire day's transactions to the central computer, saving travel and data entry time. Additionally, any scheduling or assignment changes for the mobile employee for the following day can be transmitted to the employee during the same call.
The direct measurable results of improved information accessibility--both to and from the mobile worker--are many. They include: (a) improved customer service; (b) reduction of selling times; (c) greater accuracy; (d) fewer complaints; and (e) saving lives by being environment friendly.
Increased Operational Efficiency
Mobile computing enables improvements in the operational efficiency of organizations that integrate th e technology into their fixed information systems. It enables the computing power and information contained within the fixed information system to be structured around the optimum work flow of a mobile worker, instead of altering the mobile worker's work flow to meet the optimum configuration for computing. The mobile computer stays with the mobile employee, instead of the employee being required to travel to the computer. Mobile computing can improve efficiency in many ways, including: (a) saving time; (b) reducing waste; (c) cutting cycle times; (d) reducing rework; (e) enabling business process reengineering; (f) improving accuracy; (g) decreasing time spent on customer complaints; and (h) reducing unnecessary travel.
Increased Management Effectiveness
Mobile computing technology can improve management effectiveness by improving information quality, information flow, and ability to control a mobile workforce. It makes the most current and accurate information available to both the mobile worker and the users of the fixed information system with which the mobile worker communicates. These benefits can be seen in all areas of the information system, from the fixed reports generated by a management information system all the way to ad hoc systems such as decision support and executive information systems.
Strategic Nature of Mobile Computing
The strategic role of information systems involves using information technology to develop products, services, and capabilities that give a company strategic advantages over the competitive forces it faces in the global marketplace. Mobile computing is a key enabling technology for the creation of strategic information systems.
Mobile computing is an important, evolving technology. It enables mobile personnel to effectively communicate and interact with the fixed organizational information system while remaining unconstrained by physical location. Mobile computing may be implemented using many combinations of hardware, software, and communications technologies. The technologies must be carefully selected and the applications designed to achieve the business needs required from the overall organizational information system. Mobile computing is a versatile and potentially strategic technology that improves information quality and accessibility, increases operational efficiency, and enhances management effectiveness.