Corrections or additions?

This article by Douglas Dixon was prepared for the January 23,

2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Wireless: Its Bright Future is More than Talk

We are living in the midst of a wireless revolution,

as we transition to the always-connected lifestyle. We already have

accepted the value of mobile phones for both personal and business

use, to help us keep in touch with friends and family, and to help

mobile professionals keep in contact with the home office and

customers.

But beyond wireless voice connections is wireless data access, which

can have a more powerful impact on business. We are beginning to see

this kind of potential when the FedEx driver scans our package on

pick-up so that we can track its progress over the Web, or when a

Sears repair technician uses a wireless terminal to order parts and

schedule a service call on the spot.

These are major applications deployed by Fortune 500 companies. But

how can smaller companies evaluate the potential of wireless-enabling

their businesses, of providing access for a mobile workforce? How

can you understand wireless technology, and evaluate the potential

applications for your business?

This is the challenge addressed in the new book, "Wireless Data

for the Enterprise: Making Sense of Wireless Business"

(McGraw-Hill,

October 2001), by George S. Faigen and Boris Fridman of College

Road-based

Broadbeam Corporation.

Broadbeam is a "middleware" company, providing the software

and systems expertise to connect enterprise applications to wireless

networks, and then bring wireless data to portable hand-held devices.

Faigen, chief marketing and strategy officer, and Fridman, founder

and board chairman, wrote the book to describe the possibilities of

wireless in business, explain what is possible with today’s

technology,

and then lay out guidelines and issues for understanding how to

wireless-enable

businesses and enterprises. "We wanted to make sure readers

understand

the value of mobile computing," says Faigen.

The book argues that wireless sometimes can be a disruptive force

for a business, changing business processes and entire markets, as

FedEx did with tracking packages. For FedEx, being able to track

packages

even when they are not in a building offers the added benefit of

attracting

new business. "When a new customer calls up with an additional

package," says Faigen, "it’s a fantastic opportunity to show

service, and to ask, `can I get your regular service?’"

The book includes case studies of early adopters of wireless like

FedEx that demonstrate the economic benefits of bringing wireless

data to mobile workers. Broadbeam has worked with FedEx Ground for

the past three years. In fact, it has worked with all of the companies

in the book. But the book underplays the connection. "We wrote

the book to be a piece that we could hand out," says Faigen,

"but

not so it would shout as a Broadbeam advertisement. McGraw-Hill wanted

a book that would be agnostic."

Broadbeam was founded by Boris Fridman in 1992 as Nettech. The name

was changed to Broadbeam in June, 2000, for two reasons, says Faigen.

"It did not exactly fit where we were going, and in the world

of the Internet we did not own Nettech.com"

Broadbeam currently employs about 45 people, about 16 of them

developers.

It has an office in Richardson, Texas, with developers from an

acquired

company, and a sales office in Windsor, UK. "We have been through

five buildings in 10 years," says Faigen.

Broadbeam is privately held, and has been venture-funded since 1997,

when it received its first investment of $650,000 from Early Stage

Enterprises of Princeton. In 1998 the company sold an additional $3.5

million preferred stock to Early Stage, Keystone Venture Capital of

Philadelphia, and Greystone Venture Partners of Chicago. In 1999 the

company closed a Series C round totaling $10.875 million, of which

$2.2 million was purchased by strategic partner Itochu Techno Science

of Tokyo. A Series D round closed in 2000 totaling $29 million with

ABS Venture Capital leading the investment.

Broadbeam’s customers include over 500 businesses and

170,000 mobile users. "Five hundred people are using our software

around the world to write applications," says Faigen, "and

close to 200,000 users are running their business every day on our

software." Broadbeam claims to have "the most widely deployed

wireless data software platform worldwide."

"Most of our customers are Fortune 500-type customers," says

Faigen, "because they have ventured out into the wireless world

first." Broadbeam’s products and services are used by BellSouth

Telecommunications, Telia, Worldcom, FedEx Ground, and Sears, among

others. Companies using its mobile application development platform

include Oracle, PeopleSoft, Sybase, iAnywhere, ADP Claims Solutions

Group, FieldCentrix, and UPS Logistics. Broadbeam also was the first

wireless platform provider to support handheld Palm VII and Windows

CE devices.

Faigen joined Broadbeam in April, 2000. Previously, he was the head

of RONIN in the Carnegie Center, where he advised high-tech computer

and telecommunication industries on how to grow new products. He

started

his career in mechanical engineering, with a B.S. from Carnegie-Mellon

University and then a job at IBM as a research scientist. While at

IBM, he earned an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University

of Kentucky. It was at IBM that he moved into sales, and then

transferred

to New Jersey.

Faigen’s mechanical engineering interest began with motorcycles.

"I

liked to work on race engines, on motorcycles," he says. "The

thing that seemed logical was mechanical engineering. I drove a

motorcycle

cross-country several times." But, he adds, "there was no

way I was going to race them. All I needed was a quick reminder of

the mechanical principles of kinetic energy being dissipated against

asphalt."

Broadbeam was founded "as a systems integration house," says

Faigen, "always on wireless data." One early customer was

SeaLand in New Jersey, which needed a way to track containers in a

yard that spanned hundreds of acres.

As systems integrators, Broadbeam developed custom solutions for its

customers. "Around 1995 we codified the software and packaged

it," says Faigen. "It still requires some integration. It

was a base tool from which we could start a project with a

customer."

"We develop an intrinsically wireless platform that helps an

application

navigate the wireless airwaves," says Faigen. Developing software

for wireless requires a different approach than for desktop

applications.

"Application developers get used to writing an application that

assumes all the roads are paved," he says. They assume guaranteed

networked connections, consistent transmission times, and reliable

power.

In the wireless world, connections can be lost as you drive under

a bridge, and messages can arrive with widely varying timing as you

move between towers. There is also complexity of all those different

kinds of network technologies to deal with, and wildly varying user

devices to display information and take user input.

"We build the platform that understands the diversity of

devices,"

says Faigen, "phones, PDAs, laptops, and the variety of networks

around the world." This is the concept of software middleware,

allowing developers to "write to a layer and let somebody else

worry about that stuff. We are the stuff that takes care of all the

problems."

Broadbeam’s product line is based on the Axio wireless data software

platform. "Axio is our umbrella brand," says Faigen. Using

Axio, users can access enterprise applications and Web content from

both browser-based devices, such as phones or PDAs, or intelligent

devices capable of operating offline, such as Pocket PCs or laptops.

The Axio wireless software platform is based on the ExpressQ mobile

messaging server, which maintains a persistent network connection

across all the temporary disruptions of wireless. It also includes

connectors to various enterprise applications, including to an E-mail

Link product to connect to Internet E-mail, Web Link to the Web, and

MQ Series Link to the IBM MQ Series mainframes.

You have to think wirelessly," says Faigen, "and

consider that the mobile user has a very different experience. You

cannot just take your desktop experience and make it mobile."

After all, "when you go camping, you don’t take your bed with

you." Similarly, "you do not want to take everything that

you have at your desk with you. It’s a trade-off, to provide you the

necessary function when mobile." And the problem includes the

design of the device, the display screen, the input capabilities,

and how luggable it is.

Broadbeam offers a full range of solutions, from the packaged product

to design and development services. "FedEx bought the

application,"

says Faigen. With other customers, "some have application

developers,

and we train them, some say build it all for me."

While other companies are jumping on the wireless middleware

bandwagon,

"we are the ones with customers," says Faigen, "paying

customers." Other companies "focus on technology that’s not

going to work." Another major problem is that "sometimes

start-ups

think one customer is a market." But Broadbeam’s philosophy is

that "until you discover the customer demand, don’t build

products."

"We are technologists at heart," says Faigen, but "we

stifle our technology interests until we can prove to ourselves that

there is market that wants to use it."

Working with customers, the key for Broadbeam is to find "some

initial starting point: to catalog what I have, help me assess where

my business is." The bottom line issue is how do you get a return

on investment with wireless, how do you find the right initial

project,

"get the sweet spot to start with." Because, says Faigen,

"if I start with the hard thing, I’ll have nothing to prove to

my senior management that this was a good investment. We’re always

looking for that early win, to prove the technology, and that has

a measurable ROI."

"Humans when mobile are a challenge," says Faigen. "We

are getting smarter about thinking mobile, but have just started down

this path. We help customers understand how to do it right the first

time, and avoid the pitfalls"

"That’s what we tried to do in the book," says Faigen, "to

make the journey easier."

The book is intended to "deliver a definitive blueprint for

thinking

about and implementing technologies required to go wireless."

It is especially addressed to businesses with mobile workers.

"What

we have not done in our society is to think about the non-building

employee," says Faigen. "We focus computers on people who

sit in buildings all day. For the mobile worker, voice is a start,

but voice doesn’t help that person do business processes that everyone

else can do at the home office. They need the business processes,

on the screen."

The book begins with a glimpse at the future, with a day in the life

of a mobile professional on the road in Tokyo. It then reviews the

history of the development of wireless data, and looks at current

technology and trends for the future.

The next section of the book provides five extensive case studies

of wireless pioneers. Each case study looks at the experiences in

deploying the technology, and the lessons learned, and bottom-line

return on investment. The benefits can be quantified in terms of

business

costs, in customer satisfaction, and in efficiency, "the job is

done more adeptly," says Faigen.

For the London Ontario police department, the ROI included less

paperwork,

more accurate and faster information reporting, and a 30 percent

reduction

in voice traffic. "Voice is highly unreliable," says Faigen,

"the numbers do not come across well."

For Northeast Utilities in Connecticut, the ROI included not only

dispatching utility trucks more efficiently and updating maps more

rapidly and accurately, but also savings in consumables. Not having

to print large maps for the trucks will save 38 tons of paper, and

toner cartridges too, resulting on a savings of $400,000 over five

years. Even better, because of more efficient routing the utility

can buy cheaper trucks and replace them less often.

The middle of the book explores the technology and options for

middleware

software and wireless networks and devices, both by explaining the

technology, and by providing questions, answers, and checklists for

understanding how they can be applied to business applications.

The final chapters of the book provide guidelines for creating a

wireless

business, discussing issues for choosing technology components, and

moving step-by-step through the design, implementation, piloting,

and roll-out process.

The 288-page hardcover book has been of great benefit to Broadbeam.

"We wrote the book to be able to thump it on desk of a prospective

customer," says Faigen, "and basically say we wrote the book

on wireless data. It differentiates us from everybody else who writes

white papers," says Faigen. "It allows us to establish a

position

as thought leader with our customers as well as with our channel

partners.

And the subtext is that you want to work with us."

"The fact that McGraw-Hill published it is also helpful. We wrote

the first few chapters and sent them out to five publishers, and three

said they wanted to publish it. That told us we were in the right

space."

"We promote with it at trade shows," he says. "People

come over and say `let’s talk about the book. Why did you write it?’

We’re kind of entering their mind. After we have pierced through the

barrier of why should I talk to you, we find it leads to much more

interesting conversation. We start with business reasons, then circle

back to technology. It’s like selling a Hawaii vacation: You show

the pictures of the destination, get the person excited, and then

talk about seat assignments."

"It always comes to the why," he says, "you lead with

the why."

Broadbeam Corp., 100 College Road West, Suite 110,

Princeton 08540-5052. Janet L. Boudris, CEO. 609-734-0300; fax,

609-734-0346.

Www.broadbeam.com

Wireless Data for the Enterprise: Making Sense of Wireless

Business by George S. Faigen, Boris Fridman, and Arielle Emmett,

editor. (McGraw Hill, October 2001, hardcover $49.95).


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