Intelligent Notification: Another Reason the Apple iPhone May Soon Infiltrate Your Business
A new application from intelligent notification vendor MIR3 promises to enable IT administrators to use an iPhone to manage, send and receive notifications from anywhere there's connectivity. The move suggests Apple's mobile phone may break into enterprise applications sooner than expected.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Since its United States release in late June, the Apple
iPhone has found a happy home in countless pockets, due in no
small part to its innovate and intuitive touch-screen-based
user interface (UI).
And though the device’s potential as a business tool has
been questioned since its introduction—perhaps most
notably because Apple doesn’t currently offer a secure “push”
e-mail application that integrates with Microsoft Exchange or
other corporate mail environments—the true value of its
unique UI to enterprises has yet to be realized.
That may soon be changing. Frank Mahdavi, chief strategy
officer at MIR3, a provider of intelligent notification
applications, says he firmly believes the iPhone will find its
place in the enterprise, and MIR3 is banking on that assumption
with its new iPhone- and iPod touch-based notification and
The new iPhone-based intelligent notification application,
which became available Nov. 5, enables IT administrators and
corporate executives to create, manage, send and receive
wireless notifications, all from an Apple iPhone or iPod touch
A Beginning Step for iPhone Business Apps
MIR3’s application represents a beginning step for the
iPhone as an enterprise device, because it’s one of the first
external applications that takes advantage of both the devices’
unique hardware and software to enhance a business-specific
program. Apple has announced that it plans to release a
software developer’s kit (SDK) by February 2008, that
will enable external developers to create applications for the
For his part, Mahdavi acknowledges that corporate IT has
been skeptical of the iPhone’s value as an end-user tool.
“Since the iPhone first came out, IT organizations have been
wary about the device finding its way into corporate
environments without sanction,” Mahdavi says.
Even so, given the attention paid to the iPhone launch and
features, MIR3 predicted that C-level staffers would actually
be the first folks to visit their IT departments with iPhones
and requests for network access. So the company decided on the
iPhone as the handheld on which it would initially offer its
new intelligent notification management application.
“We felt that by putting our application on the iPhone we’d
get a lot of exposure at the executive level,” which would, in
turn, boost corporate acceptance of the device, Mahdavi says.
While MIR3 did not wait for Apple to release an iPhone
developer’s kit, he says it was a motivating factor in
his company’s decision to release its application on the
An avid iPhone user himself, Mahdavi cites the device’s form
factor as a reason why MIR3 chose to first release its new
application on the iPhone.
“The iPhone is a notification machine,” he says. “Though
Apple didn’t invent anything new [with the iPhone,] it brought
in existing technologies and mashed them up into a very slick,
very small profile device with a large, touch sensitive, high
resolution screen. Just try to do some of the things the
iPhone lets you do on a Palm Treo. You can’t because you don’t
have enough real estate. Apple brought everything into a small
form factor and you don’t even need a stylus.”
Systems for Business Continuity Calls
San Diego-Calif.-based MIR3 has been a player in the
intelligent notification space since 1999. Various firms,
government organizations, universities and non-profits,
including 87 of the Global Fortune 100, the U.S. Air Force,
Brown University and the American Red Cross, use MIR3
technologies for business continuity, disaster recovery,
operations and facilities management, and end-user
MIR3 offers applications that “interactively” function with
any text- or voice-based communication device. That
interactivity includes what Mahdavi calls “actionable
delivery,” or the ability to communicate back and forth instead
of simple one-way communication between an administrator and a
For instance, in an emergency management setting, IT
administrators can use the MIR3 application to designate
specific users or employees to a group, create a customized
notification for that group and then send messages with
specific questions like “Is everything all right in your office
building?” Members of the group can then respond with preset
commands like “yes,” “no, we need help.” Responses can then be
employed to perform a number of automated tasks such as
connecting recipients to a conference call or sending specific
information based on their responses. And administrators can
then immediately act on the information delivered to, say, send
help to a particular location.
The new iPhone based application is different than MIR3’s
previous offerings because it not only enables IT
administrators or other corporate executives to send and
receive IT alerts or emergency communications using a mobile
device, it also allows them to create and manage distribution
of such notifications, as well as act on them, with a few
taps of an iPhone or iPod touch.
“What we envision is this: An IT person is sitting watching
movies at home when a corporate server goes down. Our
Web-services API sends a notification saying the server is
down, and then on an iPhone the IT employee opens up a portal,
logs in and reboots the server,” Mahdavi says. This scenario
would replace an IT staffer having to fire up a PC and network
management application to get the fallen server up and running
Why iPhone and not a Treo or BlackBerry?
Why go with the iPhone first and not a BlackBerry- or Palm
“[The iPhone’s] ease of use is essential,” Mahdavi says.
“During emergency management you’re adrenaline is pumping,
you’re not thinking clearly and you probably won’t be as
effective” as in a normal situation. This is where the simple,
intuitive iPhone IU proves to be particularly valuable,
according to Mahdavi.
It’s also worth noting that though MIR3’s mobile phone-based
notification management application is currently available only
to iPhone users, the company is working on similar applications
for BlackBerrys and Treos, which it expects to be available in
Roberta Witty, a research vice president in Gartner’s
security risk group, has been following MIR3 for a few years,
and though she’s as of yet unfamiliar with the company’s
iPhone-based notification application, she’s not convinced
enterprises are going to being placing orders for iPhones just
so they can use them for IT alerts or emergency notification.
“To me whether it’s an iPhone or any other cell phone, it’s
just another end point. It’s just one more device,” Witty says.
“Are people going to run out to buy an iPhone for business
continuity? After 9/11 lots of people went out and bought
BlackBerrys or Treos, but the iPhone in particular, who
Witty’s skepticism follows along with the conventional
wisdom that enterprise IT departments are hesitant to adopt
Apple’s mobile phone because it represents a lot of
systems administrative work; plus it’s security remains
relatively untested for the corporate market.
A Consumer Device with Business Potential
Wireless expert Maribel Lopez, a vice president and
principal analyst with research firm Forrester, says she sees
the value in Apple’s mobile user interface for business
Lopez thinks the iPhone’s touch screen UI could be valuable
to organizations looking to run business-specific applications
on the device, assuming the structure of the applications is
designed or redesigned to take advantage of the interface.
“Applications designed for use on a device like the iPhone
will have more direct access to processes,” Lopez says. In
other words, such apps could be designed to have faster access
to pertinent data or to complete a process more easily than
devices with other user interfaces. “This means end users will
be able to find, use and understand the features out of the box
without extensive training,” Lopez says. “If you
can get employees to use those applications without extensive
training, it is a huge win for businesses.”
Lopez says the iPhone’s UI could be particularly well suited
to run applications that require users to fill out forms, close
out help desk tickets, or retrieve information on clients or
locations. Physicians or nurses could also benefit from an
iPhone-based app that enables them to manage patient health
records via an iPhone or iPod touch. “The iPhone could be
treated like a tablet without the pen,” Lopez says.
As for Mahdavi’s vision of the iPhone as a business tool
outside of intelligent notification, he enthusiastically states
that Apple is only beginning its entry into the mobile
enterprise space. “The first step is the upcoming software
development kit (SDK), so developers can create applications
that run indigenously on the device. Security enhancements will
likely come soon after,” he says.
Whether or not you, like Mahdavi, believe Apple and its
iPhone stand a chance in the competitive mobile enterprise
space—and there’s been no
shortage of skeptical voices on this issue—it’s worth
keeping in mind the device has only been available in the
United States for four months.
One thing is for certain: the iPhone has certainly
piqued the interest of corporate executives, and as Apple and
external developers develop new applications, the device’s potential
value to businesses and their enterprise users only
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.