A Hard Look at Wireless Commerce Hardware - Page 2

By Richard Mitchell | Posted Nov 14, 2000
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Global telecommunications networks also are rolling out General Packet Radio Service to transport high-speed data with global system for mobile communications (GSM) and time division multiple access (TDMA)-based wireless networks. It allows voice and data calls to be handled simultaneously and supports high-speed delivery of e-mail, Web browsing, and access to corporate LANs and intranets.

A key GPRS backer is Stockholm-based Ericsson, the third-largest wireless device manufacturer. Ericsson soon will launch the R520, its newest GSM handset that supports GPRS. GSM is the dominant wireless technology in Europe.

"Three key areas are increased bandwidth, the packet switch phenomena and the use of security tokens," says Jacob Goldman, Ericsson director of business development for financial services. "An end-to-end system has to be developed for mobile e-commerce."
"Mobile handset technology is improving at an incredible pace."

Ericsson already markets the R380, a dual-band mobile phone with personal digital assistant functionality. It is built on the EPOC mobile terminal operating system, is WAP-enabled with a built-in modem and has a GSM 900/1800 dual band.

"Mobile handset technology is improving at an incredible pace, and many types of devices will be available," says Randy Dence, vice president of business planning and development for w-Technologies Inc., a New York-based provider of wireless products and services. "You will see PDAs with voice capability and mo-bile phones with data capability."

This user community is leveraging handsets and applications that are increasingly being tweaked for B-to-B commerce. Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola Inc., the second-largest mobile phone vendor, is working with application software providers and telecommunications carriers to support supply chain transactions, workflow approvals, auctions and reverse auctions through wireless devices, says Jim O'Malley, manager of global mobile e-commerce solutions.

Motorola's Timeport P935 personal interactive communicator soon will feature w-Technologies' financial service software applications. Functions will include wireless cash management and security trading.

The vendor also is teaming with Tokyo-based Sega Enterprises Ltd. to develop cellular phones with high-speed data processing that can access the Internet. The new devices are expected to be available next spring.

"An '800-pound gorilla' in the telecommunications industry, Motorola is taking aim at its competitors in the mobile wireless race with its recent WAP-enabled phone introduction," the Aberdeen Group notes in its "Mobile Electronic Commerce, The New Economy on the Move" report. "Motorola will need to continue its innovative ways to catch up to the market leader, Finland's Nokia Corp."

Time for High-Speed Innovation

Innovation is the name of the game for handset vendors readying for e-commerce. Security is another in-creasingly important component. Millions of wireless devices already hold chip-based subscriber identity module (SIM) cards in GSM handsets. The cards' microprocessor chips store information on subscribers and hold encryption keys.

"Encrypting transactions is a big concern in the industry," Patel says. "B-to-Busers have to log in with an ID and password each time they access a corporate database. It's a lengthy pro-cess, but there is a need for security."

Other obstacles to wireless commerce include a dearth of applications. But that also is expected to change over the next 18 months. "In the next year we'll see tremendous growth in applications," iConverse's Fox predicts, "including the classic business applications of customer relationship management, financial services and sales."

Indeed, Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp. and Helsinki-based Nokia recently began an alliance to develop and market end-to-end mobile Internet and intranet solutions to enterprise customers. The parties will integrate Nokia's WAP Server software and Compaq's ProLiant server running Windows NT.

The vendors will support CRM, order/shipment status, security and other applications. Nokia is positioning one of its newest handsets the 9110 Communicator for mobile commerce. The device supports e-mail, fax delivery and Internet access, and contains software for the Macintosh and Windows platforms. It is embedded with an AMD 486 processor and has data speed of up to 14,400 bps.

"The device has a much bigger display and a full keyboard for legitimate alpha-numeric input capabilities," says Brett Roeder, director of wireless technologies for Seagull, an Atlanta-based mobile-commerce software vendor. "Most of the phones people use to access the Internet have small screens with four lines that display 15 characters. The newer phones have 10 lines and 30 characters."

Handset manufacturers are studying more efficient ways to secure transactions and add applications. They also are working to make the phones smaller and lighter, with larger screens and faster transaction speeds. It may be a tall order. But with potential revenues for U.S. mobile commerce-enabling technologies projected to leap tenfold by 2004 to more than $1 billion, handset vendors have great incentive for moving into high-speed innovation.

Copyright )2000 EC Technology News, and Thomson EC Media.

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