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z Tech Tools 03/03/03

Departments Tech Tools
By Matt Purdue and Eric M. Zeman

It’s a Hard-copy Life for Us

We’re well on our way to a paperless society, right? You read the local news on your PDA, the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel on your e-book reader and pay all your bills on the Web, right? Neither do we. For those of us still stuck in the hard-copy (i.e. real) world, we know how important it is to leave a paper trail in the field. But we also know what a pain in the assets it can be to buy, service and support portable printers. That’s what makes the CTRAX Ergo so interesting. The Ergo is a digital clipboard that converts written entries on any paper form to ASCII text. The ASCII text can be stored on the device for uploading to a database. And unlike Tablet PC devices, the Ergo does not require an expensive stylus for data entry; users only need a ballpoint pen or pencil. CTRAX’s patent-pending Zoom-Touch Controller enables the device’s character-recognition system. The Ergo also features an Intel XScale-based processor, one-half or one-quarter VGA display, lithium-polymer battery with a claimed 20 hours of continuous use, and space for two wired I/O modules and two wireless I/O modules all run by Windows CE 4.1. The device measures 9 millimeters thick and weights less than 1 kilogram. Price: $1,695. Contact: www.ctrax.com

It’s Not Just a Job, It’s Your Business

You need for your mobile workers to have tunnel-vision. You want them to focus on the job at hand, get it done right the first time and move on. After all, there is nothing more aggravating to your customers (and expensive to you) than having to do the same job twice. But your managers and schedulers need just the opposite view. They must see the big picture in order to handle the influx and constant movement of jobs in the field. That’s what Advanced Systems Concepts has in mind with its updated ActiveBatch Version 4 job-scheduling and management application. The upgraded software includes an improved interface that allows operators to instantly view and monitor active jobs while simultaneously giving them a total view of dependencies and other ongoing system relationships. The software supports four standard interfaces (GUI, CLI, MMC and COM), as well as optional Web server and RIM BlackBerry access. Other upgrades include support for additional Unix platforms, expanded scheduling options, improved database compatibility, new file dependency support and improved reporting capabilities. Price: ActiveBatch Version 4 starts at $1,495. Contact: www.advsyscon.com

Not Idle Chatter

Prefer to use instant messaging (IM) to conduct business but can’t take the security risk? IM business solutions provider FaceTime Communications solves this quandary with its secure wireless instant messaging application, IM Auditor, which manages, controls and operates any enterprise-wired or wireless device, with public and private IM networks. This wireless IM solution bridges all wireless networks and supports thin clients for all major wireless devices, including Palm, Visor, RIM and CE devices for secure, mobile-to-mobile wireless IM. The server is installed behind corporate firewalls and features IT administrative controls that extend the IM networks. It also enables customers to control, access, manage and interoperate with all IM networks with such features as capturing, recording, and reporting conversations on popular services like AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! Price: NA. Contact: www.facetime.com

Freeze Frame

If your field techs can’t find their own noses without a flashlight and a map, you’d better make sure they have access to the right maps. One thing that might help is FieldSmart Route from MapFrame, a company that has been in the mapping solutions business for 12 years. FieldSmart Route is designed for roving utility crews and promises to provide a mobile point-to-point routing system with optimization capabilities. The software uses client GIS data with supplementary maps supplied by Geographic Data Technology. The software builds directional information between two or more points—devices, structures or addresses—in the user’s service territory. The application runs on any Windows-based mobile device, displaying route details directly on the maps. FieldSmart Route also works across multiple systems, such as CIS, GIS and work-management, and claims to adapt to either a wired or wireless environment. Price: Varies by number of users and configuration. Contact: www.mapframe.com

Excuse Me, What Time Do You Have?

Who’s got spare time anymore? You eat breakfast, go to work, deal with a million projects, come home, eat dinner, say hi to those people who used to be your family, then go to sleep. That radio-controlled car you got for your birthday? It sits lonely, gathering dust. vConcepts promises that its Globileware device will actually give you more time to get acquainted with your RC racer. Globileware is a wireless application gateway that claims to provide access to enterprise information to mobile employees while avoiding code variations for each unique device. According to vConcepts, Globilware requires no programming and prevents WAP porting and recoding. In fact, vConcepts is bold enough to boast that Globileware is compatible with any wireless device, offers the ability to query any data source and enables remote administration of any system. vConcepts users are promised freedom from recoding and migrating existing applications to a new wireless platform. Price: $150,000. Contact: www.globileware.net

Mega Mobile Mapping

Need critical mapping data available on your field forces’ handhelds? Look no further than IntelliWhere LocationServer 5.0, from Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions' IntelliWhere division. A server-side software development platform based on Intergraph's GeoMedia, it location-enables and automates data delivery to your mobile workforce. The new version streamlines enterprise workflow with enhancements that allow field crews or dispatch staff to request mapping and asset data and have it delivered to a handheld device. This allows companies to allocate work, assign routes and provide corporate data based on a mobile workforce’s location, offering navigation advice to help consumers find their nearest services and adding location intelligence to mission-critical corporate systems. Software developers and systems integrators can enable applications and corporate systems to provide maps and analysis tools within their existing interfaces with real-time extraction of IntelliWhere OnDemand data, XML-based spatial query engine and existing applications. It supports up to 50 mobile clients and is bundled together with Intergraph and IntelliWhere software for an out-of-the box solution to automate field crews. Price: NA. Contact: www.intelliwhere.com