A Wireless System
In today’s global marketplace, organizations of every
size, from every industry, ARE looking to extend their business
into the wireless world. The ability to offer remote access
to information and transaction-based systems via wireless
handheld devices is rapidly becoming commonplace. However,
the decision to offer wireless connectivity poses technological
challenges that have never been confronting by businesses
to date. While many companies incorrectly equate the development
of a wireless system to that of an online (i.e. e-commerce)
system, developing systems for the wireless world is significantly
more complex than developing traditional online solutions.
The primary challenge is that a fully functional wireless
system must be capable of providing services across a constantly
increasing number of different kinds of wireless network and
device types, each with their own operating systems, functionality
and user interface requirements. Additional challenges include
integration, security and ongoing maintenance. In fact, mobile
commerce technology requires an entirely new computing paradigm
that can overcome these challenges and, at the same time,
provide a robust, multi-functional system that offers all
the features and benefits that wireless device users are beginning
Necessary Functions and Features of a Wireless System:
Today, the features and functions offered by different wireless
system developers vary greatly. Because of this, it can be
difficult for a company to determine exactly what they really
need and want from a wireless system. The ideal wireless system
should have the following features and functions:
Device Independence: The system
should be device independent, meaning that the client portion
of the application should be easily portable to a wide variety
of wireless devices. To appeal to the broad audience, the
system should be accessible by various types of devices such
as advanced handheld computers that can run client programs,
smart cellular phones with and without embedded browsers,
and various front-end programs from various service providers.
Network Independence: The system
should be network independent in order communicate over numerous
existing wireless networks. With no universal network standard
existing – or imminent – in the wireless world,
each different network utilizes differing protocols. Therefore,
a wireless system should employ multiple protocols to connect
with any network provider that provides wireless capabilities.
Wireless System Core Components
Using the model described above, we can outline the necessary
components of an effective wireless system. First, the wireless
device would connect through the supported wireless network
to a network-specific gateway. The network gateway would then
pass information from the device to the wireless application
server, which would parse the information according to the
device type. The server would then deliver this information
to the organization’s system for processing. Once the
information is processed in the system, the results would
be returned back to the wireless application server. The server
would then format the information according to the device
type and deliver the new information through the network gateway
and back to the wireless device, where it would be presented
to the end user by the device software.
Obstacles Facing Development of a Wireless System
Developing the system described above is not an easy undertaking.
This is particularly true for companies whose internal expertise
does not encompass large, advanced wireless development teams.
Many companies that have attempted to develop their own wireless
systems have encountered barriers that became too large to
overcome. The following issues and potential problems make
internal development of a wireless system a complicated, lengthy
and risky endeavor:
Device Specific Programming Expertise:
Each individual device has its own programming environment
and introduces significant difficulties for development because
of its limited capabilities. Thus, companies will require
specialists on staff for each individual device. In addition,
these specialists will have to coordinate between groups to
ensure that all devices are working adequately.
Network Specific Programming Expertise:
Each network provider maintains different protocols for connecting
to wireless devices. Additionally, different interfaces and
infrastructures exist to connect the company's system to that
of the network provider. Thus, idiosyncrasies of each protocol
have to be taken into consideration by both the device development
groups and the system development groups. Therefore, in order
to create a wireless system internally, a company would have
to invest significantly into building and maintaining a communications
Continuous Infrastructure Development: Each
service provider has developed individual proprietary server-based
offerings that content providers must utilize in order to
supply their services through these providers. Working with
these providers requires building communication infrastructures
and supporting the proprietary interfaces to their servers.
Ongoing System Development and Maintenance:
New devices and service providers are appearing almost daily.
This makes it difficult to maintain the cross-platform capabilities
of the system.Options Available for the Development of a Wireless System.
Another option for a company to consider when deciding on
how to build a wireless system is to outsource the wireless
functionality to a vendor that specializes in wireless development.
There are a variety of companies that offer technologies and
services for wireless access to content providers. The following
are examples of types of companies and their product offerings:
Wireless software integrators: These
are companies that develop the full system from scratch. However,
such companies usually have specific expertise in only a limited
number of wireless devices and/or networks. In addition, the
software development process will last a long time, and the
coordination responsibility will be on the company.
Wireless information distribution vendors:
These companies utilize developed products and turnkey services
for push-type information delivery. Although they are useful
for alert and news information delivery, these products are
not capable of the wireless two-way interaction that is necessary
for essential functions of a wireless system.
Web filtering vendors: These vendors
deliver filtered down content from a client's Web site to
the wireless devices. While appealing on the surface, this
solution requires significant development effort, because
it is extremely difficult to fit pages of a Web site into
the paradigms of wireless devices. Often, these attempts are
fruitless because the screens and navigation on the wireless
devices becomes unusable. With this solution, there is no
way to directly connect the devices to the middleware or back-end
of the system.
Wireless application vendors: Wireless
application vendors are the most suited vendors for the interactive
intensive nature of wireless applications. Vendors in this
category provide turnkey solutions for enabling wireless interaction
between the back-end system and users with wireless devices.
Often, these vendors provide hosting options to ease and speed
up rollouts of wireless services.
Design and development of a wireless system requires adoption
of a completely new computing paradigm never seen before.
The complexities and challenges that company’s face
in building such a system cannot be underestimated. While
many options exist for organizations that want to extend their
business into the wireless world, the one that can offer a
fully featured wireless system in the least amount of time
is the utilization of a wireless application vendor. Of the
wireless application vendors currently on the market, the
best-of-breed will be the one who can provide a proven system
that is both device and network independent, can be easily
integrated and customized, is scalable on the fly, and can
be brought to market quickly and effectively.