TotalCIO

Jun 30 2011   8:07PM GMT

How enterprises are testing the mobile business app waters

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

While you’re debating whether to develop native mobile business apps, use HTML5 for mobile or take a hybrid approach using PhoneGap, one enterprise IT exec highly recommends asking for an experimental budget to test use cases first.

Large-scale deployments of mobile business apps will move beyond the realm of marketing within the next few years, predicted Jim Worth, director of global services at pharmaceuticals manufacturer Merck & Co. Inc., during a panel discussion titled “Mobile: Delivering New Context and Capabilities to Applications and Collaboration” at the recent Enterprise 2.0 event in Boston.

Sure, Merck is building mobile applications to help educate doctors and patients about various health care issues — a huge marketing opportunity, Worth said — but an experimental budget is allowing his team to also investigate how data can be collected and pushed out to mobile devices. One mobile app is being considered that would collect vital signs and report them to a central location. Another potential app is one that would send an alert to patients’ mobile devices when it’s time to take their medication.

Yet another mobile application is one that would alert a specific member of a clinical trial team if something is holding up the trial process, Worth said

Other companies are in the development stage with mobile business apps. For example, a large airline has tapped IBM to build a native application for frequent flyers. That app would look for a frequent flyer’s mobile device to come online, and then send travel updates or even alert a customer service rep to call the customer.

Geolocation also presents business opportunities, not just in the context of sending coupons to mobile devices but, for example, to locate members of a project team and sync them up with each other or with business partners in the area.

Panel moderator and mobility expert Maribel Lopez, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research Inc. and founder of Lopez Research LLC, called this “connecting with context.” She described a scenario in which a mobile device could pinpoint her location, search her LinkedIn account to see whether any of her connections are in the vicinity, and based on her preferences, recommend a restaurant where they could meet.

“I’ve allowed all these services to dig into my information because I want the value [these services] create,” Lopez said.

Given the social nature of many workforces these days, it is possible that people could look at geolocation services as an advance, not an intrusion.

Still, geolocation creates privacy and security issues for both employees and corporations. As a result, enterprises are developing policies during the experimental stage for the use of mobile business apps.

“There’s a whole bunch of policy questions; and before you can write those policies, you need some experiences,” Worth said. “So, do some experimentation and quickly follow that up with a policy.”

Let us know what you think about this post; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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