New Mobile Device Capabilities a Boon to Businesses, Consumers

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Technology and advertising giants are exploring consumer use of cell phones as scanners for special bar codes that enable access to information on everything from movie trailers to airline tickets. Meanwhile, businesses are using cell phones and BlackBerrys for complex tasks such as accessing and updating patient medical records, closing sales, and dispatching service representatives. The clear implication for records managers is that cell phones and related devices will become new points of records creation and use.

The New York Times reported that cell phones may soon provide a link between the physical and digital world. This “physical hyperlink” is possible because camera-equipped cell phones with the right software can scan a new generation of bar codes.  These resemble a black and white matrix like a crossword puzzle and contain a website address locator that links the cell phone to an Internet site. Once connected, content such as videos, music, or text displays on the cell phone’s screen.

In Japan, where cell phone companies loaded code readers on all new phones a few years ago, hospitals now place the codes on prescriptions so pharmacies can scan the information and avoid errors. Passengers on All Nippon Airways domestic flights can buy tickets via the Web using their cell phones. But instead of showing paper tickets, boarding passengers simply wave their cell phones over a scanner. Motorists can even scan codes on billboards to learn more about advertised products.  

In Britain, readers of The Sun newspaper can scan the code in a sports article and see a related video on their cell phones. Academic publisher Prentice Hall has included the codes in a textbook so undergraduates can get updates on case studies.

Forrester Research estimates that about 28 million U.S. households with cell phones have models with cameras. But few people have downloaded the software to read the codes. U.S. Wireless companies Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint declined to say whether they are collaborating with code reading technology firms. The carriers may also be investigating image recognition software that would allow cell phones to recognize actual objects and deliver messages related to them.

Meanwhile, businesses have recognized that even mid-priced mobile devices such as BlackBerrys now have as much processing power and storage as PCs did a few years ago.  As cellular networks get faster making it easier to connect mobile devices to the Web, customized applications are making inroads into information access, capture, and use.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad personnel now access updated schedules and log their hours using cell phones. The phones can also run diagnostics for customers’ network connections and may soon deliver turn-by-turn driving instructions. 
Sales Reps at ING Investment Management use their BlackBerrys to look up records of previous sales calls. Representatives can also close sales with institutional investors and transmit the information to a central database using the handheld device.

Healthcare is a growing source of demand for mobile applications. Doctors can access and update patient medical records using BlackBerrys, then send prescriptions directly to a pharmacy. Among the biggest users is the U.S. military, where medical personnel use mobile devices to access patient records in Iraq and Afghanistan. Using the Battlefield Medical Information System Tactical, more than one million electronic health records for military personnel are available. After treating soldiers, doctors update information by transmitting it to a central database. Upon transmission, the chip in each doctor’s device is updated with new information that has been filed on other soldiers. 

According to IDC, the market for mobile enterprise applications is expected to triple to $3.5 billion by 2010.

Source: International Information Management Newswire

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