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MOBILE COMPUTING

Introduction
Mobile computing is the discipline for creating an information management platform, which is free from spatial and temporal constraints. The freedom from these constraints allows its users to access and process desired information from anywhere in the space. The state of the user, static or mobile, does not affect the information management capability of the mobile platform. A user can continue to access and manipulate desired data while traveling on plane, in car, on ship, etc. Thus, the discipline creates an illusion that the desired data and sufficient processing power are available on the spot, where as in reality they may be located far away.
Mobile computing:
Mobile computing offers significant benefits for organizations that choose to integrate the technology into their fixed organizational information system. Mobile computing is made possible by portable computer hardware, software, and communications systems that interact with a non-mobile organizational information system while away from the normal, fixed workplace. Mobile computing is a versatile and potentially strategic technology that improves information quality and accessibility, increases operational efficiency, and enhances management effectiveness. A detailed analysis, supported by selective presentation of published literature, is used to elucidate and support these asserted benefits of mobile computing. Additionally, a set of heuristics called the MOBILE framework is developed. The MOBILE framework assists information technology professionals in achieving the stated benefits of mobile computing by defining the types of problems, opportunities, and directives that are best addressed through mobile computing technology.
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Mobile Computing Technology
Mobile computing is accomplished using a combination of:
(a) Computer hardware
(b) System and applications software and
(c) Some form of communications medium.
Hardware
The characteristics of mobile computing hardware are defined by the:
(a) size and form factor;
(b) weight;
(c) microprocessor;
(d) primary storage;
(e) secondary storage;
(f) screen size and type;
(g) means of input;
(h) means of output;
(i) battery life;
(j) communications capabilities;
(k) expandability; and
(l) durability of the device.
Using these hardware characteristics, mobile computing hardware can be grouped into the following general categories:
(a) Palmtop;
(b) Clamshell;
(c) Handheld Penkey;
(d) Penslate; and
(e) Laptop. Users need and want access to their data wherever they go, and they will use a wide assortment of mobile computing devices to get it. Except for possibly high-end laptops, none of the categories of mobile computing hardware are replacements for a loaded desktop PC. Instead, each category of device fills a niche that helps to satisfy the demands created by mobile users' many computing needs. Although a lot of mobile hardware has many eye-catching characteristics, the decision about which hardware to employ should be based entirely on clear business needs. Defining these needs, and having a solid strategic plan for how the new hardware will be used, is the best way to avoid disappointment and missed opportunities.
Software
Mobile computers make use of a wide variety of system and application software. The most common system software and operating environments used on mobile computers include:
(a) MSDOS;
(b) Windows 3.1/3.11/95/98/NT;
(c) Windows for Pen Computing;
(d) Windows CE;
(e) PenDOS;
(f) PenRight!;
(g) Palm OS;
(h) Psion EPOC32; and
(i) Unix. These operating environments range in capabilities from a minimalist graphically-enhanced-pen-enabled DOS environment (PenDOS and PenRight! for DOS) to the powerful capabilities of Windows NT.
Each operating system/environment has some form of integrated development environment (IDE) for application development. Most of the operating environments provide more than one development environment option for custom application development.
All mobile computing application software does not have to be custom-designed. Prewritten application software can be purchased for many application areas, such as sales force automation. Additionally, many companies that develop mobile computing software offer systems integration services, and will work with the client to modify their existing application to fulfill the client's specific needs.
Communications
The ability of a mobile computer to communicate in some fashion with a fixed information system is a defining characteristic of mobile computing. The type and availability of communication medium significantly impacts the type of mobile computing application that can be created.
Modes of communication
The way a mobile computing device communicates with a fixed information system can be categorized as: (a) connected; (b) weakly connected; (c) batch; and (d) disconnected. The connected category implies a continuously available high-speed connection. The ability to communicate continuously, but at slow speeds (i.e. < 28 Kbps), allows mobile computers to be weakly connected to the fixed information system. A batch connection means that the mobile computer is not continuously available for communication with the fixed information system. In the batch mode, communication is established randomly or periodically to exchange and update information between the mobile computer and fixed information systems. Mobile computers may operate in batch mode over communication mediums that are capable of continuous operation, reducing the wireless airtime and associated fees. Disconnected mobile computers allow users to improve efficiency by making calculations, storing contact information, keeping a schedule, and other non-communications oriented tasks. This mode of operation is of little interest because the mobile device is incapable of electronically interacting and exchanging information with the fixed organizational information system. Exchange of information with a disconnected mobile computing device can only be accomplished by manually entering information into the device or copying from the device's screen and manually entering the information into the fixed information system. This mode of information exchange is no more efficient than using paper and is effectively nonexistent, since virtually all modern mobile computing hardware is capable of some form of native electronic data communications.
Available technologies
There are many communications technologies available today that enable mobile computers to communicate. The most common of these technologies are: (a) Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs); (b) Satellite; (c) Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD); (d) Personal Communications Systems (PCS); (e) Global System for Mobile communications (GSM); (f) RAM and ARDIS data networks; (g) Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) service; (h) one and two-way paging; (i) plain old telephone system (POTS); (j) Internet; (k) infra-red; (l) docking (serial, parallel, LAN); and (m) disk swapping. These diverse communications technologies make available a continuum of connectivity that provides communications capabilities ranging from manual-assisted batch transfers to high-speed continuous communication.

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