RIM WES 2008: My Five Favorite New BlackBerry Products and Services
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
Research In Motion’s
(RIM) seventh annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) is officially over, but I can’t stop thinking about some of the innovative new products I saw on display in the event’s Solutions Showcase. Five products in particular caught my attention, including new enhancements to a BlackBerry-based mobile workforce monitoring product; a service that pushes various media content to corporate handhelds, an uber RSS reader and all-around mobile companion; a BlackBerry virtualization key; and a cool app and electronic pen combo that captures handwriting and lets you search that text via BlackBerry.
Here’s a look at my favorite five products and service from WES:
TeleNav Track, a cell phone-based GPS tracking service, helps manage mobile workers. In addition to its monitoring functionality, the application also offers audible and visual, turn-by-turn driving directions, electronic time-sheet reporting, bar-code scanning, jobs alert and change capability, electronic forms and progress reports, all optimized for the BlackBerry display.
I reviewed TeleNav Track last spring and was impressed with the application overall. In particular, I really liked the customizable Web-based dashboard that provides administrators with various tracking information like time-card records, locations, speeds of travel and job progress reports. With a single glance, admins can use the product to see where workers are, where they’ve been and whether they’re on schedule. “Geofences” let administrators know when employees enter or exit specific locations. And they can communicate with users via TeleNav’s text-message service or e-mail.
Or course, I’d already seen TeleNav
Track in action, but the attention the product was getting from users really reminded me what a valuable application it truly is. And the company is about to add a new set of features, making a great service even more valuable. The new functionality, expected to be released at the end of May, includes team timecard reporting, distress alerts, remote signature capture capability and a job assignment accept/reject option.
4) Chalk Mobile chalkboard
The Mobile chalkboard from Chalk Media is an application suite that lets corporations and organizations quickly create and distribute media-rich “pushcasts,” to staffers’ or customers’ BlackBerry devices. Such pushcasts can include PowerPoint slides, surveys, call or e-mail requests, video and more. Media chalkboard also enables IT administrators to secure and track the delivery of content. And Chalk’s
pushcasts are accessible without wireless connectivity, because they’re pushed onto users’ devices whenever there’s network coverage and stored until the content is needed.
When I spoke with Jeff McDowell, RIM VP of global alliances, at WES about the future of mobile enterprise applications, he cited the Mobile chalkboard app as a good example of how more and more future business applications will take advantage of BlackBerry smartphones’ media functionality. As an example of how the Mobile chalkboard can be put to use in an enterprise environment, McDowell described how a Chalk customer used the application to create and push short training videos to users on how to operate new photocopiers that had been deployed.
The newest edition of Mobile chalkboard, version 5.0, is currently available, and more information about Chalk Media and the product can be found on the company’s website.
3) Viigo – Project Tango
I’ve written about Viigo
frequently on CIO.com, and I was pleased to see the company showing off its wares at WES. In fact, all WES attendees were given a free download of an early version of Viigo’s
upcoming Project Tango application, which builds on the RSS feed and information delivery services of
the company’s existing app. And from what I could gather from the preview, I’m going to love Project Tango as much—or more—than the company’s current offering.
Viigo provides instant access to any RSS feed available on the Web via an easy-to-read interface that’s tailored to the BlackBerry screen, and the application works with any BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device. To collect more content from other Web sources, users simply add feeds or “channels” by pasting in the feed’s Web address. And like the Mobile chalkboard, Viigo pushes feed updates to users’ handhelds and stores them on the devices, so content can be accessed without cellular connectivity. (To see Viigo in action, check out our “How To Video.”)
An enterprise version of Viigo enables corporations to distribute content to BlackBerry users handhelds in real-time to ensure they receive important updates.
Project Tango takes this information delivery to the next level with the inclusion of weather forecasts, sports standings, information on local businesses and establishments, audio and podcasts and even flight status updates. The new version of the application’s not yet available to the public, but it’s expected in the coming months. You can also sign up to test the beta version of the app when it becomes available.
I also blogged about Bayalink Liberty when I first heard of it, and right away I knew it was something I’d want to watch. The product itself looks just like a USB key and functions like one, as well. After downloading the associated software to your handheld, you simple plug the key into a USB port, click the Bayalink icon on your BlackBerry home screen, and your mail application becomes accessible using your desktop or laptop PC’s larger display and keyboard. Bye-bye BlackBerry thumb.
Seeing this thing in action was very cool, and I couldn’t help but think how much more efficient Bayalink Liberty is than Bluetooth keyboards I’ve dabbled with in the past. You not only get a full-sized keyboard but also much more screen real estate—though access to a desktop or notebook PC is obviously required to use the Liberty key.
1) PaperIQ Digital Pen and MyScript InkSearch for BlackBerry
Finally, the products that really caught my eye: The PaperIQ Digital Pen and My Script InkSearch for BlackBerry. (The pen’s not new, but the ability to search notes via BlackBerry is.)
This is truly cool stuff; one of the first things RIM’s co-CEO Mike Lazaridis asked me when I sat down with him for an interview was whether or not I’d seen the PaperIQ product. At the time, I hadn’t, but I ran down to the vendor showcase shortly after our chat concluded, and I’m glad I did.
The Digital Pen can be used to enter information into enterprise forms or applications via Bluetooth-enabled BlackBerrys and can even capture handwritten notes as you write them when used with digital stationary. You can read through notes in digital format using your BlackBerry, send them to friends or colleagues via PDF, and even search them using the MyScript InkSearch technology. According to James Shannon, PaperIQ technical director, the product is like
“Google for your handwriting.”
The most recent edition of the subscription-based service enables users to create custom personal dictionaries to add unrecognized words or tweak character sets. And organizations that deploy the company’s PaperIQ Enterprise Server for Enterprise Notes can also create organization-wide custom dictionaries to ensure that commonly used products, industry terms or company names are always recognized. The PaperIQ Digital Pen for BlackBerry is available now. (It’s also worth noting that the newest version is optimized for RIM’s upcoming BlackBerry Bold smartphone.)
As a reporter and writer, I take LOTS of notes, and having a digital copy of everything I wrote—that could be searched, no less—would truly be invaluable to me. That’s why I can’t stop thinking about PaperIQ’s new products and functionality, and why they’re number one on my list of great products I saw at WES this year.
If you were lucky enough to make it to Orlando for the event, do you agree that these five products were the most impressive on the Solutions Showcase floor? If not, what did I miss?
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.