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Business, Unplugged

Companies are using wireless devices for an ever-growing range of operationsUsing a hand-held register to checkout a customer waiting in line. Turning voice messages into time-and-date stamped text documents as the words are spoken. Using a PDA to read a client’s file pulled from an office computer minutes before a sales meeting.

The common denominator? All are part of the growing trend of companies taking more of their work wireless by using special software for mobile devices.

Global Bay Mobile Technologies Inc. makes software that companies can use to create applications for projects they would like to do wirelessly, says Sandeep Bhanote, CEO of the South Plainfield firm.

For example, a retailer can use Global Bay’s software to make a program for taking inventory using laptop computers. Then the same software could be used to create a different application to ring up customers on hand-held scanners so they don’t have to wait in checkout lines, he says. “Our platform allows [businesses] to mobilize any business process,” says Bhanote. The devices used in such settings would mostly run on Wi-Fi networks in the stores, he says.

The advantage is that companies don’t have to spend time or money to make—or to have an information-technology firm make—new software every time another program is needed, he says. Global Bay’s software costs between $1,500 to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on factors like how many employees are using it. Global Bay also rents the software to customers and will make programs on demand for $40 per month plus a setup fee.

Clients include the New York City Department of Health, where workers use mobile devices with Global Bay software during inspections of day-care centers throughout the five boroughs to take notes and reference information such as past infractions, says Bhanote.

“The software is device and network agnostic,” he says, meaning it can be used on any laptop or PDA running on any wireless network including Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.

The dropping price of laptops and PDAs along with the size and strength of wireless networks has laid the groundwork for a boom in software applications for mobile devices, Bhanote says. “Five years ago, none of this was really possible,” he says.

Another software maker—Pacific DataVision Inc. of Clifton—also makes a program used by field workers. Cablevision Systems Corp., a cable television, Internet and phone services provider based in Bethpage, N.Y., has installed Pacific DataVision’s software on cellular phones used by technicians to call dispatchers, says Brian McAuley, chairman of Pacific DataVision. The software, which converts voice messages into text and then time-and-date stamps the communications, allows dispatchers to prioritize calls from hundreds of field technicians so they can respond to the most important calls first, he says.

In the past, a technician would call dispatch to let them know a customer wasn’t home, says McAuley, who co-founded Nextel Communications Inc., which was bought by Sprint in 2005. The field worker would then wait anywhere between 12 to 15 minutes for a dispatcher to respond with further instructions. With Pacific DataVision’s software, which can be used on any device or network, technicians now wait an average of two minutes, says McAuley.

The software is also used by firms like construction companies to document field reports that are stored instantly on desktop computers back at the office, he says. The basic service, called SkyMail, costs $14.95 per line.

Antenna Software, meanwhile, makes a program that links programs on desktop computers with mobile devices, says Jim Somers, vice president of marketing at the Jersey City-based company. Salespeople on the road, say, can use BlackBerrys with Antenna’s software to do things like peek at and update their notes on clients, he says. Clients include Xerox of Norwalk, Conn., and DirecTV Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo.

The software can run on any device or network, says Somers. “What started as helping people communicate better [wireless communications] has evolved to a point where it’s improving business processes and helping companies stay competitive,” he says.

In the coming years “employees won’t even think about being mobile,” says Somers. “It will become a natural part of doing business.”

E-mail to tgaudio@njbiz.com

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