Manual Intervention

By Cara Sievers Comments
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In the back rooms or on the bottom shelves at almost any small, medium or large business, there rest the emergency manuals. Employees consult these manuals during an emergency situation to determine what protocol to follow, the tasks for which they are responsible and whom to call during which stages of the incident – that is, if the manual is not too cumbersome or dusty to read, the most current version is available and the employees are calm enough to search for the information.

Enter the Wallace Incident Communicator (WIC) from Wallace Wireless. This software, which debuted in 2001, is installed behind a company’s firewall and allows “mission control” to program information and have it pushed to employees’ wireless devices. While updates to hard-copy manuals may be overlooked or poorly executed, WIC allows the tiniest updates to be made in real time. (See sidebar, How It Works). WIC was used during 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the wild fires in the Western United States, and the 2003 power outage. But the software isn’t just for emergencies. Companies can communicate any type of information to their employees, including updated contact information for coworkers.

Wireless dealers also can offer WIC to their customers as a part of a business continuity disaster recovery (BC/DR) plan or as a value-add on top of the device and monthly airtime charges. “This is an incremental cost on top that can add a significant amount of value,” says Rob Moffat, president and co-founder of Wallace Wireless.

WIC has been updated over the years and includes versions for various verticals, but this summer the company released a new version, 4.1, that also enables hosting management of multiple WIC customers under an ASP model. Dealers now can host it and manage it for their customers, broadening the addressable market to include even small businesses.

“It used to be just software a customer bought and installed behind a firewall, which was great for a lot of the larger customers,” says Moffat. “But a lot of the smaller customers didn’t have the infrastructure to do that themselves, so we made some changes to the core system so that somebody like a TELUS, Verizon or Sprint could actually host the applications and provide it out to the customers.”

On traditional software licenses, Wallace executes standard reseller agreements, where the reseller commissions are between 25 percent and 50 percent, depending on total sales volume. End users pay upfront for the license and an annual maintenance fee of about 20 percent. The fees are based on the number of users that will load the application on their wireless handsets.

End-to-End Security

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Under the hosted option available in WIC 4.1, dealers, carriers and resellers can offer the software as a service (SaaS) and sign customers up on a monthly subscription plan. Already, the company has three hosting partners, Moffat says. Hosting partners sell the service under the WIC brand and enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with Wallace Wireless, which gets a cut of every subscription as it’s sold, so the partner doesn’t have to pay for the software licenses upfront. If the partner is hosting the software, it gets more than 50 percent of the revenue. Presently, Wallace Wireless does not host software for wireless dealers, but some of its hosting partners are enabling dealers to sell the subscription service for a commission.

“We do have many dealers who are doing that today with Sprint in the states,” he says. “So, you can get access to Wallace Incident Communicator on the Sprint bill.” A Sprint dealer can sell the service for a commission. End-user charges range from $10 to $25 per month depending on the WIC modules that the customers have deployed.

Another partner is Send Word Now, an alert and response service provider. Dealers can resell WIC for a commission and Send Word Now provides all the customer support.

Wallace Wireless offers white-label options under revenue-sharing and other licensing models, says Moffat, noting these arrangements are attractive to operators that want greater control over branding and revenue. The company already has one white-label deployment, but declined to disclose the operator.

T. Robin Cole III, president of The Rite Group, which has a Connect-Rite division that is a Sprint Nextel dealer, says, “customer acceptance is phenomenal,” and his customers like that the system seamlessly integrates with, and scales up with RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server software. The only thing his customers are concerned about is seeking assurance that the platform will be modified as new wireless handsets become available. “We expect Wallace Wireless will extend their platform over time to embrace whatever RIM and the Microsoft CE-platform manufacturers come out with,” Cole says.

Cole also says he receives excellent support for the WIC platform. Wallace Wireless provides a support line for dealers to call for sales or technical assistance, and they have quarterly newsletters that provide updates for customers and dealers. Furthermore, Wallace Wireless can host a demo account for dealers, which reps can download to their handhelds for live demos of the software’s capabilities.

Moffat says Wallace Wireless always is interested in dealers with established customer bases. “If they’ve got existing customers who have wireless deployments, then this is typically a fairly easy sale because it’s just a value-add on top of what they’re already doing and the cost is incremental compared to the monthly airtime charge,” he says.

Moffat says now is a good time for dealers to consider selling a product like WIC because of a combination of mature devices and faster networks. WIC’s first deployment was on the BlackBerry 950 and it only had 4MB of memory. “I would have to say that the industry has matured now to the point that the networks and the devices are capable of handling enterprise applications,” posits Moffat.

And the desire for business continuity solutions is growing. Forrester Research Inc.’s Business Technographics May 2006 North American and European Enterprise Infrastructure and Data Center Survey found that 56 percent of 1,017 IT decision makers at North American and European businesses said purchasing or upgrading disaster recovery capabilities is either a critical or important priority during the next 12 months. Forrester reports that “more firms are turning to Web-based software to transform their static BC plans from Word documents and Excel spreadsheets into a more mature BC program.”

Moffat says the core verticals for this product have been those involved in the critical infrastructure space, including governments, financial services, utilities and transportation. However, he’s seeing a lot of deployments in Fortune 500 companies in areas such as manufacturing, retail and aerospace, which don’t necessarily fit into other verticals. He thinks this is due to their size. “The larger they are, they more they want to be sure they can protect their name,” Moffat explains. “Because a fire is one thing, but if there’s damage to their reputation, that’s significantly more costly for the organization.”

Wallace Wireless also offers tailored solutions for particular verticals, such as WIC for Education and WIC for Public Safety. WIC for Education, for example, would store not only crisis-management plans, but also floorplans and the student database. (So, for example, if an administrator saw little Johnny walking down the hall, she could type in his name and tell him he should be in geometry.) WIC for Public Safety was customized much the same way, by offering additional functionality, such as access to police records, evacuation routes, the fire inspection database, or instructions on responding to a crisis involving hazardous materials.


How It Works

When an emergency happens, the Wallace Incident Communicator (WIC) from Wallace Wireless will send a visual and/or audio notification to each appropriate person’s handheld about the incident. Then, the software can be programmed to deliver whatever information is necessary, like a checklist, for example, for that person to complete the next steps as his or her part of the emergency response. On the server side, triggers for WIC to disseminate information can come from anything from a fire alarm to a burglar alarm to someone manually entering the info.


WIC’s GUI

WIC’s customizable icons

One key aspect of using WIC for crisis communication is that it doesn’t rely on a network connection. “It’s secure content management on the handheld for these customers, and even if they’re not in network coverage, or they’re on the subway or they’re underground, or whatever, they’re still going to have the information with them,” says Rob Moffat, president and co-founder of Wallace Wireless.

WIC works with BlackBerry and Windows Mobile 5, but Moffat says there is significantly higher usage of his company’s product with the BlackBerry, and he believes that’s due to BlackBerry’s security capabilities.

There’s no minimum or limit to the number of devices attached to a WIC platform. Moffat has seen instances of one user and up to thousands. Since WIC’s debut, the product is being used by about 70,000 end users.

Moffat says the difference between WIC and similar products is its capacity. Wallace Wireless uses a compression algorithm that can store hundreds of thousands of pages of information on these devices, if needed.


Practice Makes Perfect

Rob Moffat, president and co-founder of Wallace Wireless, says when companies are proactive about employing technology like WIC for everyday operational issues, employees have a peace of mind and familiarity with the system – so, when Houston does indeed have a problem, the business continuity benefits of the solution kick into high gear. “If you’re a security guard, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a major incident, it could just be filling out your daily log … or perhaps integrating it with a Bluetooth scanner so as the security guard goes through the building, he can scan the rooms he’s been in to prove he’s been there,” explains Moffat. “Anything you can do to drive operational use tends to benefit back when there is an emergency or crisis. The users are much more comfortable using the technology.”

Such everyday uses include:

  • Security and facilities staff filling out incident logs.
  • Sales staff accessing customer information.
  • Field workers using a Bluetooth bar code reader to record site inspections.
  • Employees accessing contact information to initiate notifications across corporate groups.
  • Personnel using GPS to record location and event details.
  • Mobile workers using GPS to get driving directions between current location and next job location.

Only Online
http://phoneplusmag.com/onlyonline

Improving Communications in Emergency Situations To read more on mobile business continuity planning solutions, visit www.phoneplusmag.com/onlyonline to view a white paper by Wallace Wireless’ Rob Moffat.

Links
Alberta Treasury Branch www.atb.com
BlackBerry www.blackberry.com
Bluetooth www.bluetooth.com
Forrester Research Inc. www.forrester.com/rb
mBiztech Corp. www.mbiztech.com
Microsoft www.microsoft.com
Research in Motion Limited www.rim.com
Send Word Now www.sendwordnow.com
Sprint www.sprint.com
TELUS www.telus.com
The Rite Group www.rite-group.com
Verizon www.verizon.com
Wallace Wireless www.wallacewireless.com
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