Why Wireless Will Do Wonders for Our Workforces

One day about seven years ago, three events led to an epiphany that changed my daily thinking forever. That day, I set up a printer with built-in WiFi and took delivery of my first iPhone. Prior to the iPhone’s delivery, I anxiously tracked its whereabouts using the carrier’s Web site. Wireless technology was at the forefront of each of those three events. Later that day I wrote, “We are becoming a wireless world” across the top of the white board in my office.

While that was just stating the obvious with respect to consumer products, the wireless revolution had not yet had a significant impact on the physical security industry. Sure, we used cellular for signal transmission to a monitoring center, mostly as back-up, and wireless sensors were in widespread use in the residential market, but real innovation was yet to come. I read that phrase at least once every day and took it to heart. It was a constant reminder for me to keep wireless functionality in mind for all future product offerings. Wireless was no longer just a black art for niche applications.

Flash forward to 2013. Before leaving home yesterday, I used a spread-spectrum house phone as well as my smartphone to make calls. I used WiFi to check personal E-mail on my home PC. I connected to an airline Web site using my smartphone’s LTE connectivity to check in for my flight the next day and downloaded a 2D barcode that would be the only boarding pass needed. I stopped to get gas and used a short-range RFID fob to save 10 seconds in payment processing time, and a short time later long-range RFID collected the toll as I cruised past the crowded toll gates at 55 miles per hour.

Those routine daily tasks show how wireless innovation has impacted our personal lives. But as any knowledgeable security practitioner knows, each of those routine daily events utilized a wireless technology that is now prevalent in physical security products. Our core product offerings have joined the wireless revolution.

It gets better. The wireless revolution will not end with product innovation. Increased operational efficiency is a constant goal for every business. To that end, let’s look at how the previously mentioned technologies will soon impact service delivery.

Monday morning, a technician is ready to start the day. Her first few service tickets were downloaded to her phone hours before. Her first stop was a maintenance call for a malfunctioning video camera. Since the technician had been in the office the preceding Friday, a routine RFID scan of the truck’s inventory assured the material management database was accurate and that the correct spare camera was on her truck if it was needed. The technician’s arrival time at the customer location was documented by GPS-enabled fleet management, which was important given this was a time and material work order.

Once on site it was confirmed that the camera needed to be replaced. Prior to installing the new camera, the technician scanned the 2D barcode on the camera to update inventory management, as well as to feed the part number into the billing system. The same 2D barcode gave her the option to download the installation manual and option settings to her phone. When finished, the technician closed the work order.

The time she spent onsite was calculated, an invoice for material and labor was created and instantly E-mailed to the customer. Since this customer preferred to pay by credit card, the technician scanned the card with a smartphone application and recorded the customer’s signature using the smartphone touch screen. With the customer signoff properly recorded, the work order was closed and the technician is on her way to the next work order.

Wireless functionality is leading to great new products, but as one can see, products are only the beginning. The next great wave of innovation will be around workforce optimization. Real-time interaction with back-office infrastructure will not only improve customer satisfaction, it will drive real bottom-line improvement.

Jay Hauhn, Vice President, Product Management and Industry Relations at Tyco Integrated Security, has more than 30 years’ industry experience and is a member of SSI’s Hall of Fame.

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