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
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"
October 2001), by George S. Faigen and Boris Fridman of College
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
and then lay out guidelines and issues for understanding how to
businesses and enterprises. "We wanted to make sure readers
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
even when they are not in a building offers the added benefit of
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,
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
It has an office in Richardson, Texas, with developers from an
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
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
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
to New Jersey.
Faigen’s mechanical engineering interest began with motorcycles.
liked to work on race engines, on motorcycles," he says. "The
thing that seemed logical was mechanical engineering. I drove a
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
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
"We develop an intrinsically wireless platform that helps an
navigate the wireless airwaves," says Faigen. Developing software
for wireless requires a different approach than for desktop
"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
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
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
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
says Faigen. With other customers, "some have application
and we train them, some say build it all for me."
While other companies are jumping on the wireless middleware
"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
think one customer is a market." But Broadbeam’s philosophy is
that "until you discover the customer demand, don’t build
"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
"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
about and implementing technologies required to go wireless."
It is especially addressed to businesses with mobile workers.
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
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
more accurate and faster information reporting, and a 30 percent
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
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
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
as thought leader with our customers as well as with our channel
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
"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
Princeton 08540-5052. Janet L. Boudris, CEO. 609-734-0300; fax,
Business by George S. Faigen, Boris Fridman, and Arielle Emmett,
editor. (McGraw Hill, October 2001, hardcover $49.95).
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