Competitive advantage is the top reason companies are extending applications to the field, according to Boston-based research firm Aberdeen Group.

“”Deploying enterprise applications on wireless handheld devices increases the user acceptance level of that application, improves data-flow across

the organization, reduces business cycles and costs, and enhances communication across the enterprise,”” says Aberdeen in its recent report Mobile Middleware: Adding Business Value to Handheld Devices.

But exactly how do IT organizations go about selecting the applications that should be deployed? According to Tina Lorentz, director of business development at Dublin, Calif.-based iAnywhere Solutions Inc., it’s determining the benefits of extending mobility to various business transactions.

“”One of the questions or concerns for IT is to what extent do we support those devices,”” says Lorentz. “”IT is challenged with . . . what kinds of applications and information make sense to extend to those users and is there an ability to improve productivity or profitability of my organization by leveraging those devices.””

Toronto-based PixelPoint wants to make that decision easier for those in the restaurant business. Its PocketPOS (point-of-sale) application is designed to extend the company’s back-end POS software to a wireless environment so servers can take orders on any handheld device running Windows CE 2.1 or higher. According to CEO Lino D’Angicco, PixelPoint developers designed the wireless application to perform in exactly the same way the software works on a fixed terminal.

“”It’s one application across the board,”” says D’Angicco. “”You’re running right on the software so whatever modules are set up — project management, inventory — it’s as if you were ordering on a fixed terminal.”” If a waiter opens a cheque using a handheld, the order is linked directly to the central system so the bartender can open the same cheque to add a drink order, for example.

While there has been some resistance to the change, restaurants that have given PocketPOS a try — including The Docks in Toronto and Skyline Chili’s of Cincinnati — are experiencing a higher turnover of tables — because it takes less time to take orders — and increased satisfaction since customers don’t have to wait for orders to be processed.

“”Instead of somebody having to walk back and forth to a fixed terminal every time, they just stay on the floor and place their order,”” says D’Angicco. “”We have some customers who have converted their business to do that with salespeople on the floor and delivery people from the kitchen.””

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