Bernard Williams, business development director – EMEA at Zebra Technologies, looks at how the company's Zatar information platform meets the need for greater connectivity among mobile devices while also providing an ideal medium for business collaboration.
When many people think about mobile devices, the first things that come to mind will likely be smartphones, PDAs and possibly mobile printers. However, a mobile device could just as easily be a term used to describe a drill or any form of mobile object that have the potential to become 'smart' with the application of an RFID tag or direct part mark.
Nevertheless, regardless of how wide the term mobile device is applied to objects within the workplace and no matter how smart individual items become, many still operate in silos with no connecting thread between them. That said, there is now growing awareness surrounding the benefits of mobile devices being more easily connected with one another in order for companies to benefit from more seamless, real-time visibility of where these devices are or what they doing at any given time.
Also, we are increasingly living in an apps-dominated world. Cisco recently spoke about billions of devices that are going to be smart the next 10 years. If this is the case, there are going to be a lot of devices out there that are going to be smart with the ability to provide updates in terms of their current location and activity status.
To facilitate connectivity of a wide range of different devices used by a company and its partner network, and to help device developers provide or source the best applications for specific tasks at hand, Zebra has launched its open Cloud-based platform called Zatar. Zatar can not only help more 'mainstream' mobile devices to connect, it also looks at devices on the edge of the mobility spectrum; devices that don't usually enjoy as much visibility as they should. Another key advantage is that the platform makes it easy for users to connect all kinds of mobile devices regardless of where they are around the globe. In this sense, Zatar could be thought of as a platform that helps companies to connect, create and control worldwide.
Moreover, Zatar makes it easier for companies to work together more efficiently. It's more than about simply connecting mobile devices to the platform; because Zatar is a completely open API (application program interface) users can enjoy a rich open world of collaboration. In a traditional enterprise there would often be an administrator sat behind one desk and one monitor. However, in the modern manufacturing, retail and healthcare environment companies want more of their people to see the data, understand what's happening at various levels and speed up their processes by accessing more real-time information.
To make information more visible over a company's different sites and departments, Zatar allows users to take all that available information, put it into the Cloud and collaborate more effectively and seamlessly with individual people, teams and groups. Essentially, they can benefit from a shared business world. These worlds are still private, while allowing users to choose who they wish to collaborate with. It's a little like giving a Facebook page to a technical smart device. A mobile device connected to Zatar can effectively update its status, saying 'here I am and this is what I'm currently doing'.
Zatar has been designed to be simple to use, while also being highly scalable – and this is where many of the business benefits come in, particularly for manufacturers. By paying a monthly pay-to-use fee, companies can not only become more efficient, they can also become more agile in how their business processes work. One interesting area of development is around the concept of the Internet of Things (IOT), which essentially refers to individual identifiable objects and how they are virtually represented within an Internet-like structure. A recent report indicated that many manufacturers believe IOT would change the business process and in so doing unlock new revenue opportunities from existing products and services. If you have a group of people currently talking about how IOT will make these types of changes that's got to be a strong indication of where things are moving. And of course the great enabler of this type of IOT methodology is greater track & trace together with more convenience means of collaboration.
A point to stress here is that data that sits at the Cloud level in Zatar belongs to the company that owns the data. If that company wishes its partners or supply chain network to access the information they can easily to this, however nothing happens with the data unless someone writes an app for it. In this regard, Zebra is looking to create connected devices by putting together a pool of apps manufacturers in order to give IT people working in manufacturing, retail, healthcare and logistics the freedom to choose who their apps developer should be. Zebra is not advising companies to use a particular apps manufacturer; they can make their own decisions all the way through the process. Indeed, Zebra has built its entire position and brand on giving the end-user the best means to make their own informed choice as to what solution they want to put together.
At the cutting-edge of mobility development
In summary, Zatar is all about taking consumer-type expectations and putting them into the enterprise area to allow companies to develop solutions and to keep a better track of individual devices and objects in terms of where they currently are in the chain and what tasks they may currently be performing. Through encouraging and facilitating the proliferation of connected devices we feel Zatar is at the cutting edge of mobile device development.
Bernard Williams biography
Bernard Williams is business development director – EMEA at Zebra Technologies. His current responsibilities are to develop business opportunities for new technologies in integrated visibility, connected device solutions and mobile payment process. With over 28 years in the ink jet printing and thermal printing Auto ID market, Williams heads up an incubator team specifically recruited to create early adoption in the markets. Williams trained as an engineer building packaging machines in Bristol for Bradman Lake Ltd. He then spent 10 years with Domino printing sciences based in Cambridge, moving onto Eltron and Zebra Technologies for the past 18 years. He has a broad experience of Europe having worked in Germany and the Nordics for a number of years as well as operating on a pan EMEA basis.