Repeat entrants couldn’t rest on last year’s laurels as judges recognized many new companies with awards at the second annual Field Enterprise Solutions show. The Chicago event, sponsored by Advanstar and Field Force Automation magazine, took place in early August.
"We had some returning companies that won awards again and some new companies that won. I think that reflects what’s happening in the marketplace," says Catherine Long, marketing director for Advanstar. "There were new companies with new innovations and companies that entered their products in new categories, so they are evolving with the industry."
The focus of both sets of companies is also changing with the industry; whereas last year, the highest number of entries was in the notebook/subnotebook category, the most entries for this show were for mobile dispatch.
ServicePower, a winner last year, was recognized for the best workforce management solution and the best dispatch solution. ServicePower 2000 optimizes scheduling for field service technicians by matching skills and real-time availability with the company’s field service needs.
"ServicePower 2000 also has good algorithms to look at a lot of different factors in deciding who to dispatch on field service calls," says judge Tim Schmidt, managing partner of Florida-based Encore Consulting Group.
Nextair was another double winner. Judges chose Nextair’s mdispatch.com as the best wireless Internet solution and its AIRIX solution--which includes the AIRIX Design Studio, AIRIX Server Platform and AIRIX Virtual Machine--as the best middleware solution.
Itronix’ GoBook was chosen as the best notebook/subnotebook. The product functions in extreme heat and cold and can survive repeated drops, shock, heavy vibration and dust. The GoBook offers a magnesium outer casing, the latest PC architecture, including an Intel Celeron 600MHz processor, 256MB SDRAM, shock-mounted 6/10/20GB hard drives and sunlight viewable 12.1-inch SVGA color touchscreen display.
The device is wireless friendly, according to Schmidt. "They build wireless in from the foundation. With other companies, it’s an afterthought," he says, adding that the Itronix GoBook has fewer problems with RF noise than most other competitive products.
Like the GoBook, Intermec’s 700, which judges chose as the best handheld/PDA device, is rugged enough for field service applications. The device features integrated wireless LAN, WAN and PAN radio options for mobile communications, as well as fast data input via a keypad, optional integrated scanner or touchscreen.
Judges chose @hand’s software as the best wireless data transfer solution. The software enables mobile workers to communicate with corporate systems using a variety of handheld devices. Perhaps its best feature, according to Schmidt, is the ability to continue to work on an application when out of range, without losing any data. Once back in range, the software automatically updates the back end with any front-end information that was added while disconnected.
Siebel Systems’ logistics and parts solution was the best in its category, according to Schmidt, because the company has a fully integrated solution that meets the needs of field service workers. Siebel, a multiple award winner, designed the solution’s algorithms to integrate supply needs with actual usage to help ensure that a company doesn’t delay field service work because of lack of parts.
RPA Wireless, which has a long history in the field service arena, had the best paging service/application solution, according to judges. Judge Don Blumberg, president of D.F. Blumberg Associates in Ft. Washington, Pa., adds that RPA’s solution has stood the test of time in meeting field service needs.
Antenna Software’s wireless Internet solution is also time-tested, Blumberg says. "It’s one of the best in terms of providing reliable service with very little RF noise. In areas of poor coverage, noise reduction is a very important consideration."
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