IBM (NYSE: IBM) wondered the same thing, leading to an extension of its Maximo asset management software, called Maximo Everyplace, designed specifically for mobile devices. The new browser-based edition works on Android devices or the iPhone as well as the iPod Touch (which includes Wi-Fi connectivity).
"It's all browser-based so there's no learning curve and there's nothing to install or store and forward," Dave Gasdia, IBM's manager of Maximo product architecture, told InternetNews.com.
One early customer, the University of Texas Medical Branch, was already in the process of rolling out new mobile phones to staffers, so including Maximo as part of the distribution was easy. The real-time access to information and updates will come in handy for workers at UTMB who have to cover over 100 buildings on campus.
"Improving patient care is our top priority. Working with IBM enables us to gain insight to ensure our medical equipment is optimized and that all of our assets are accounted for," David Reynolds, director of Fixed Assets and Reliability Systems at UTMB, said in a statement. "This service enables us to log and respond to requests throughout the campus and provides us more visibility into the lifecycle of our most important assets, in turn improving the work environment and quality of care at our facilities."
It's not like most facility and factory workers don't usually have some kind of mobile device, but Don Busiek, IBM's director of Maximo strategy and product management, said the new generation of smartphones are easy to use and cost less.
"You can get iPhone or iPod Touch relatively cheaply and even if one breaks that's still a lot cheaper than buying the ruggedized phones sometimes deployed to maintenance workers and others," said Busiek.
With Maximo's Application Designer feature administrators can customize the mobile screens to match particular user's needs. "For example, for someone inspecting equipment, it's easy to tailor the app as a checklist for recording approval or noting problems," said Busiek.
While the benefits of reduced paperwork and speedier reporting of and access to information can justify the expense of distributing new mobile devices, Busiek said in many instances it's also seen as a reward.
"Our first prototypes were on the iPhone and some of the mechanics who got those were very excited," he said. "And even training them on how to use the device was easy because they'd take them home and their kids would show them how to use them."
An introductory video on how Maximo Everyplace works, is available here.