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IBM, Apple Deepen Their Mobile Enterprise Incursion

By John P. Mello Jr.
Apr 7, 2015 11:13 AM PT
ibm-mobilefirst-ios

IBM and Apple last week released an octet of iOS apps for the enterprise aimed at improving productivity in the healthcare, airline and insurance industries, as well as on the factory floor.

The eight new apps are part of IBM's MobileFirst for iOS program, an offshoot of the alliance the companies forged last summer.

Four of the new apps are aimed at the healthcare industry:

  • Hospital RN allows hospital staff to access patient records from anywhere in a medical facility and, with the use of Apple's iBeacon location technology, identify patients by their proximity to an iOS device.
  • Hospital RN
    Hospital RN

  • Hospital Lead makes it easy for nurse managers to assign tasks to staff and manage task lists that allow issues to be reported, delayed, delegated or marked complete.
  • Hospital Tech lets nurse technicians maintain close contact with their care teams for quick and efficient handling of patient tasks.
  • Home RN permits caregivers working outside a healthcare facility to add information to a patient's record -- such as photos and videos, as well as text and audio notes -- and send push notifications to a patient's care team to keep them current on a patient's status.

First Factory Floor App

The four other apps released last week:

  • Ancillary Sales gives flight attendants the power to perform tasks in flight such as selling seat upgrades, food and beverages, and duty-free merchandise -- all with Apple Pay or a credit card swipe in the in-flight point of sale system.
  • Order Commit allows retailers to plan product assortments and obtain important metrics on financial targets and sell-through.
  • Order Commit
    Order Commit

  • Risk Inspect improves the quality of insurance inspections through the use of photos and video.
  • Rapid Handover for the iPad, the program's first industrial process app, enables a foreman to document and share with incoming shift members such information as production goals, and equipment maintenance and crew lists. It also allows documentation of issues like broken equipment and safety hazards.
  • Ancillary Sales
    Ancillary Sales

This is the third batch of apps produced by IBM and Apple for the MobileFirst program. They released 10 apps last year, and another three at the Mobile World Congress in March.

Less Than an App

Something all the FirstMobile apps have in common is they feel more like mobile apps than enterprise apps.

"They adhere to one of the tenets of mobile apps: They're simple," said Van L. Baker, research vice president for mobility at Gartner.

"They have very few screens and very straightforward actions," he told the E-Commerce Times.

These apps are a little different from the programs purchased at the iOS App store, however.

"Don't think of them as packaged apps," Baker said. "In many ways, they're app templates."

That's because the apps are only about 70 percent finished when they're brought to an enterprise. The app is finished when it's integrated into a business' back-end systems.

"That's a lot of work, because each implementation is going to be unique to a given enterprise," Baker said. "So they're more than just templates, but they're less than finished apps."

Warm-Up Act

Although the apps present a simple face to their users, they are conduits for very powerful backroom operations.

"There's a lot work going on the back end to feed real-time, up-to-date data to the application that makes it actionable for the user of the app. That's the way mobile apps need to be designed in order to have impact," Baker said.

"You process it at the back end and use the business process to inform the app. You don't make the user have to input 10 different parameters and then have to query all the systems in order to populate the app," he explained. "You do that automatically, and it makes for a much better experience and a much more productive app."

As good as the apps seem to be, they may just be the warm-up act for things to come.

"The app thing showcases that the companies are talking and that IBM can deliver apps," said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group.

"The real promise of the alliance," he told the E-Commerce Times, "will be the tools that IBM wraps Apple's systems with so they can compete with the strong back-end tools Dell and Lenovo have and Apple doesn't."


John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.


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