Repairs by Return is a successful company and offers a repair service for various electrical appliances including washing machines, dishwashers etc. The business is expanding, meaning taking on additional engineers who might need on-the-job training.
The aim of our group is to advise the owner of Repairs by Return on the new technology and research on how well the technology can make the company more efficient and the communication between the staff and owner better. We will also recommend an appropriate solution.
Mobile tools and technologies have the capacity facilitate communication, keep employees informed in real-time and reduce hours once spent bound to a desk. However, along with the liberating aspects of an increasingly versatile workplace, mobility presents challenges for today’s workers. Below are short descriptions of mobile technologies currently available.
Short Message Service (SMS) is a service available on most digital mobile phones that allows the sending of short messages, also known as text messages, or more commonly as SMS, texts or even txts) between mobile phones, other handheld devices and even landline telephones. Messages must be no longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and contain no images or graphics.
Picture Messaging is a service, which allows users to send and receive messages that combine pictures with text and sounds from their phones.
Wireless Application Protocol is an open international standard for applications that use wireless communication allowing users to access information instantly via handheld wireless device e.g. internet access from a mobile phone, smart phones, two way radios etc.
Multimedia Message Service is the evolution of SMS. With MMS, a mobile device is no longer restricted to text-only messages. It can send and receive multimedia messages such as graphics, sound files, video clips or any combination of the above, within certain size limits.
General Packet Radio Service is a protocol for passing data over a mobile phone network. With GPRS connection, the phone is “always on” and can transfer data immediately, and at higher speeds.
3G is the generic term for third generation mobile phone technologies. It offers high speed connections enabling video conference and other applications which require broadband connectivity to the Internet.
Personal Digital Assistants are handheld devices that combine computing, telephone/fax, Internet and networking features. Originally designed as personal organisers but have now become much more versatile over the years.
The feasibility study is aimed at viewing the ideas given to us by the owner and assessing whether they will help the company communicate effectively.
We will also look at the limitations of the ideas.
* Apprentice engineers asking for help silently to senior engineers
GPRS allows instant connectivity (as long as there is radio coverage), meaning information can be sent/received immediately. Engineers can take picture(s) of the problem they cannot fix, write a little note with it, send it as an MMS to senior engineers, and receive an immediate reply without the customers realising.
The problem with this will be that the engineer on the other side might be with a client and therefore, will not be able to reply immediately. Another problem could be that the reply received from the engineer may be inaccurate and unclear.
Drawback of GPRS is the limited bandwidth and is particularly suited for sending and receiving small bursts of data. So when engineers do send pictures, the size of the message and picture will be limited.
* Web access to manuals and diagrams
GPRS also aims to deliver remote access type applications via a mobile network for businesses including data uploads and synchronisation, document sharing and collaboration, email and web browsing. Ideally, a wide variety of information can be delivered via a mobile device, overcoming the 160 character limitations of SMS.
It is usually impossible to directly port a desktop application to a wireless to a handheld device; therefore, directly access most websites using a handheld device is difficult.
Another problem the engineers might face is that typing on a cell phone’s tiny keys can be difficult and time consuming and the size of the screen is limited too. This could be a problem when an engineer is trying to download diagrams, as there will be problems with its clarity.
* FAQs facility stored on mobiles
One of the drawbacks on using GPRS is that it has slow data transfer rates.
Although rates of 115 kbs (or more) have been quoted, the realistic speeds are 20 to 30 kbs can be expected.
Applications can be used in a shared environment, and data sharing is made easier – effectively like being connected to a Local Area Network (LAN).
An important functionality of PDAs is the possibility of synchronising data with a contact database, such as MS Outlook hosted on corporate servers or a personal computer.
The synchronised data ensures that the PDA has an accurate list of contacts, appointments and email. Critical to shared data access, synchronisation allows multiple clients to access, edit, and remove data records that a particular group of users may regularly use.
As well as that, data input is a lot quicker on a personal computer. Therefore, transferring data to a PDA via the computer is a lot quicker than having to manually input it all on the handheld device.
POTENTIAL USEFULNESS OF COMBINED MOBILE PHONES/PDAS, IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS BUSINESS
We will now discuss the benefits of mobilisation to the business.
* PDA from for capturing progress made
A form can be created for the use on the PDA which will enable the engineers to capture progress while they are with clients, which could then be distributed over the network, noting the problems that they could not fix or if any additional parts are required. Each time the engineer collects heir PDA, it is pre-loaded with week’s progress form.
Once the form is completed, the engineer can synchronise it when they get back to the office or using GPRS whilst out with the clients. The data can then be fed into a progress database, collecting the data from all the engineers. This will enable you to generate a project progress report automatically.
The potential usefulness with mobile phones and PDA
There are various other ways the business can use the technology to help their staff. As the workers are apprentices, they can use the technology by using i.e. the intranet to access the help guide. This is a good idea as the staff can learn while on duty and in their free time. It is also a good cost saver as they will not need to pay for a teacher and a class room, and it is also less time consuming.
The PDA or some mobiles phones have a satellite navigation system built in to help the staff if they are travelling to any location which they have difficulty finding. It will give them clear directions and pinpoint the location to save time.
Having considered the ideas that have been brought forward by you, the technology would help to build a better relationship with the staff and also improved customer service.
Before purchasing new technology, Repairs by Return will need to invest in training the staff to use the hand held device.
We recommend using a mobile phone called the Treo 650 Smart phone; this is a combined technology of some of the features of a PDA and also most of the features of a mobile phone. Of the three ideas, we think that the best idea would be having a server or the intranet to access the manuals and diagrams from the mobile phone. This will give the staff the knowledge to solve any problems and also gives some secrecy as the customer will not realise that the engineer is asking for help.
The idea of using the mobile phone to contact other experienced engineers is a good idea but may distract the other staff that may also be with a customer.
The idea of having a FAQ database maybe a bad idea as the staff may not always find the most accurate answers to there questions. The database will have answers of the problems that have arose in the past but may not have new problems, this will mean that the information would have to be updated frequently so that it is up to date.
The information will have to be stored so will take up the hard drive space which the staff may need to use for other information. This will mean that the business would need to purchase higher mega byte memory cards. This is an additional cost for the business.
The intranet would be a good idea as the all the information is there; you do not need to store the information as it is on the intranet saving memory space. Although the information maybe hard to find as the staff would need to go through the manual to find what they are looking for. The technology of the smart phone will help the staff as the phone has the features of browser to search for any words or phrases on the web to located information much faster and have less time consumed looking through the whole manual.
1) Panko. R., Business Data Communications and Networking, Prentice Hall, 3rd Edition (2000)
* 21 February 2006
ALLOCATION OF GROUPS
1) Manik Maih
2) Bijal Pandit
3) Ime Udoh
All members exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses. We allocated tasks and said that we should research on mobile phones and PDA.
Time allocated for research only
Manik Miah 7 days
Bijal Pandit 7 days
Ime Udoh 7 days
* 28 February 2006
All the group members conducted sufficient research needed to write the report, within the time given. There were plenty of books and internet print outs.
All members looked and read through the research found and divided into files. We divided 3 ideas between us.
Manik idea 1
Bijal idea 2
Ime idea 3
We then allocated the tasks of the report and the internet website.
Bijal Part 1 and 2
Manik Part 3 and 4
Ime website, contents page, group log
We met up every 3 days to check the progress of the report and to help any group members that are having difficulties.
* 7 March 2006
All group members attended, and arrived on time. At this stage majority of the work was completed. Each member rotated the work around to ensure there were no more mistakes. We all contributed equally and suggested that the work was fine and additional work that needs to be done should.
* 13 March 2006
The group had finished off all there tasks and got together to check over all the work. We then edited the website. Once the final touches were made, we printed out the work.
GROUP AGREEMENT 4BIM504 Data Communications
We, the undersigned members of this group, undertake to be bound by the following agreement:
1. to attend all group meetings on time, except when agreed by other group members in advance, or where a documented excuse is provided
2. to be well prepared for each meeting, ensuring that all relevant material is adequately researched and presented
3. to be actively involved in the work of the group, by contributing to the best of our abilities
4. to participate in the editing and preparation of the final report
We agree that if a group member breaches these undertakings, then the group has the right to recommend a reduced mark for the individual concerned of up to 30% below the group grade. In this eventuality the group would submit reasons in writing to the seminar leader.
We accept that the seminar tutor may require further information before making any penalty mark adjustments. We accept that the seminar tutor’s decision is final in these matters.