Psion makes move into handheld device management

ORLANDO – Better known for its line of rugged handheld computing devices, Psion Teklogix this week introduced software to help customers improve communication and management of their mobile products.

During its second annual customer conference, the Mississauga, Ont.-based company provided the 122 customers and 52 partners in attendance an opportunity to preview both the PTX Connect — a communication software platform — as well as the new Mobile Control Center (MCC) — a device management software product.

Sam Qita, senior product manager of software at Psion Teklogix, said MCC allows managers to track their mobile workforce remotely over Wi-Fi and wide area networks (WANs). “The monitoring is done real time over 802.11 technology,” he said.

The MCC software, due out in April, uses a single management console, allowing administrators to control devices, generate activity and asset reports, distribute or update software, configure applications and troubleshoot problems all from a central location.

In addition, Qita added, as a security measure, administrators have the ability to lock down devices from the management console in the event of theft or loss. Access parameters for specific applications can also be set for individual workers.

Matthew Hebert is looking forward to enabling MCC to the mobile devices used by Jackson Laboratory employees. As the primary support technician at the non-profit Cancer research centre, Hebert said he likes the ability to remotely configure, troubleshoot and fix the devices without having to hop on a plane to one of the laboratory’s two campuses, one of which is located in Maine and the other in California. 

“It would also be nice to assign user rights to people using the management system so administrators can go in and configure everything and then database people can go in to troubleshoot issues,” he said.

Psion’s second software announcement, PTX Connect, brings Push to Talk (PTT), voice-over IP, instant messaging, text messaging and voice mail capabilities to its Workabout Pro family of handheld mobile computers.

According to Qita, the PTX Connect software takes the handheld one step closer to helping customers solve business problems.

“It’s a multi-modal communication platform that users to connect and collaborate,” he said. “And managers can create different groups to determine who can communicate with who.”

Also important for conveying emergency messages or company announcements, Qita explained, is voice broadcast, which allows supervisors to automatically deliver voice messages to their entire team at once. 

PTX Connect is currently available in North America and selling for US$250 per client unit. MCC will be supported on all Psion Windows CE and PPC devices at US$40 per client.

During his keynote address yesterday, Psion Teklogix CEO Alistair Crawford, said the company is seeking appropriate acquisitions to further grow its business. “We bought Synergy (a Canadian company) last June to access the imaging technology, but it was a small purchase,” he said. 

Currently, Psion is looking for potential acquisition candidates in the RFID space, Crawford added.

“I would like to expand our growth in the Americas with the right acquisitions, but we will grow it organically if we can’t find them,” he said. “Shareholders are just as happy if we give them cash.”

In the next 18 months, added Crawford, the company will put more focus on the movement of environmentally safe, lead-free products. Investment will also continue in product development, he said. 

“You will see improved processes and efficiencies on how we deal with you,” he added. “The only reason we invent new products is so you gain more profitability and productivity.”

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