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By Thomas Hoffman


Although carriers such as Verizon and AT&T already resell widely-used corporate applications such as Microsoft Exchange, expect to see more telecommunications companies hawking a mix of both vertical industry and horizontal applications that can be used by businesses in the next few years, says Daryl Schoolar, an analyst at In-Stat in Phoenix.


These types of applications could include meter reading and electronic grid management systems used by power companies or vehicle diagnostic software used by transportation carriers, says Schoolar.


Carriers who market these types of applications and make a big splash "are going to make buckets of money," predicts Cathy Hotka, principal of Cathy Hotka & Associates, a Washington, DC-based retail industry consultant. It could also help carriers generate additional return-on-investment from the 4G networks they’re installing, adds Schoolar.


Some retailers such as Best Buy (m.bestbuy.com) and Sears (sears2go.com) are currently working on stripped-down versions of their e-commerce sites for mobile users, says Hotka. Calls by CIOZone to Best Buy and Sears officials to learn more about these efforts were not returned.


Since beginning the rollout of mobile devices as a component of its electronic medical records system in 2005, and now fully deployed at three of its five hospital facilities in Northeast Florida, Baptist Health has had mixed success with adoption by physicians and other medical professionals. "It got off the ground well but in some areas utilization has declined," says Dave Dully, CTO for the Jacksonville, FL-based company. The use of these devices "hasn't always meshed well with (clinicians') practice patterns," he says.


But Dully believes that technological advances in battery life and voice recognition should help improve adoption rates. For instance, mobile cart manufacturers are working on abilities for end users to swap used and charged batteries more easily, says Dully. "If clinicians need to keep working and changing batteries is not part of their workflow, they're not going to do it consistently unless it's hassle-free for them" says Dully. Simplifying battery exchanges and extending the battery life of devices should help, he says.


Dully also expects that improvements with voice recognition software will help with the adoption rate of tablet PCs by physicians, particularly if it frees up their hands from having to enter information on the keyboards while they're checking on patients.


For its part, Amtrak has been using cellular wireless evolution data only/evolution data optimized (EVDO) and global system for mobile communications (GSM) to support track and vehicle maintenance for the past three years. The Washington, D.C.-based transportation company also uses ruggedized wireless devices in its maintenance facilities and rail yards to enable maintenance workers to access inventory information on hundreds of thousands of parts used on its tracks and trains, says Nicholas Doggett, Amtrak's director of network architecture.


Looking ahead, Amtrak expects to rollout wireless e-ticketing applications to its train conductors in the next few years, says Doggett. Although Amtrak officials haven’t yet determined the type of mobile device or network to be used by its conductors for e-ticketing, Doggett says the company will likely be looking at using one or more cellular networks since they’re more ubiquitous and cost-effective than alternatives such as installing a WLAN architecture or utilizing satellite communications.


That's not to say that satellite won’t continue to play a role in Amtrak's future operations. The company has had satellite communications on virtually its entire diesel fleet for the past ten years and it would likely look to newer satellite technologies in the next three-to-five years to increase its bandwidth capabilities, says Doggett.





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