Enterprise interest in wireless stays strong: survey

Despite pressures on the IT bottom line, interest in the development of wireless applications is rising rapidly, to the extent that projects are going ahead.

According to a survey by Evans Data Corp, more than half of global companies expect to develop a wireless application in the next year.

A Web-and phone-based survey of 401 developers at a variety of companies showed 51 per cent 'probably' or 'absolutely' will undertake development of wireless applications during the next 12 months. That is about 5 per cent more than those who said they would pursue such projects six months ago.

This interest also holds true within Australia companies.

Greg Carvouni, CIO for the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority, said his department has been using wireless applications, linked to Lotus Notes via GSM and satellite communications, for heavy vehicle regulation inspectors for the past two years.

Carvouni said development of these applications was continuing along with other wireless applications. These will be used to communicate various data to field staff including project data, job costing and timesheets.

Howard Malyon, IT manager for Grace Removals Group, said his company was looking at wireless applications for its addition to the business within the "next year or so".

He said the application would be used in a "couple of areas … one would be to collect inventory information accurately while in a client's residence, the other would be an application to manage our storage facilities around the country".

Evans analyst Joe McKendrick said about 45 per cent of the banks and financial institutions surveyed said they were building applications for wireless access to personal banking, while about 26 per cent of retail organisations were building wireless applications for distribution or field service.

While the Evans survey shows continuing interest in wireless, another recent global survey of 3500 companies by Forrester Research, showed strong interest in deploying handheld computers, though not necessarily in connecting them wirelessly.

Forrester said 47 per cent of surveyed companies are deploying handhelds, while just 24 per cent said they are in the midst of mobile (including wireless) data deployments.

Carvouni said the deployment of handhelds within his department was on the agenda for next year. However, Malyon said handhelds were still viewed as an "expensive toy" within his company.

"I do see them being more accessible in the near future, something like the mobile telephone when it first hit the market. It is likely at this point we would start to consider them seriously as a business tool."

The Evans survey also found strong interest by individuals in buying their own wireless devices. About 45 per cent of wireless devices are bought by employees, while group or department purchases totalled just 28 per cent. Nearly 27 per cent of the time, the purchase occurs by other means, including corporate purchases, possibly with input from IT.

"Purchases of wireless devices are still following the grass roots pattern, similar to the way PCs arrived in the 1980s, where you didn't have a central IT manager bring them in, but instead it was the department or individual," McKendrick said.

While Maylon said wireless devices were currently moving to "cental purchasing and control", Carvouni said these devices were still viewed as something "an individual will purchase" within his department.

"But I do see the company making use of them as a business tool in the future. In which case the company would make the purchase."

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