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Building A Wireless System


Introduction

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 to demand.

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 infrastructure.

 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.

Conclusion
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.


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