Numerous announcements were made during 2000, many coming during the PCIA 2000 conference. There are starting to emerge many content and value services that until now have been well developed for those who access the Web through a wired connection. In addition, another new application that will be coming along with WAP-based applications will be location services utilizing GPS. While GPS services have been around for some time, they will now be embedded in mobile phones. These new services will allow the end user to access a Web site that will provide directions to a specific location or service. This is very similar to the very same services that are available to a wired user accessing the Web with a browser. For example, GeePS announced that it has agreed with Advanced Internet, a creator of community-based Web sites, to provide a wireless version of its product. This new product will merge WAP and GPS technologies and will allow consumers to surf the Web to locate local merchants.
Visa and BT Cellnet, a U.K. service provider have announced a new WAP location service for Visa card holders who have WAP-enabled handsets. This new location service will allow card holders to use their WAP telephones to locate the nearest Visa ATM by entering the postal code for the area where they are located. BT Cellnet will extend this service to locate over 531,000 Visa ATMs located throughout the world. Future versions of this service will support mobile handsets equipped with GPS so that the service can locate the nearest ATM automatically without regard to a postal code.
There have been a number of WAP utility packages developed to search the Web for a specific information stream. MobileWAP.com is a good example of a search engine dedicated to finding WAP content on the Internet. A built-in electronic agent continuously searches the Web, seeking and indexing relevant Internet pages written for WAP-enabled devices using WML and adding these to its range of listings. MobileWAP.com can be accessed wirelessly with any WAP-enabled device or through the Internet using wired access.
Sheffield Dialogue Communications recently demonstrated in Europe a Windows e-mail attachment to a WAP-enabled device. Using the latest version of their Dialogue Expressway 2000 E-Mailconnector, users can read any document from the Microsoft Office Suite of software using their WAP-enabled telephone. In this system, documents using MS Word or Powerpoint are translated into simplified text that can be read on a mobile handset screen. This connector allows the user to read, reply, forward, or delete messages, as well as view attachments and have access to address books.
The Expressway 2000 acts as a broker for WAP-enabled devices providing a fully functional e-mail client on a phone. Access to personal or global address books is provided through LDAP support. Expressway 2000 employs advanced session handling and e-mail session spoofing to ensure that the user's e-mail remains intact even if the WAP device drops the connection to the network.
There have been a number of initiatives undertaken in the banking industry. This effort has been reinforced with the introduction of PKI systems to ensure customer security. In Germany, Savings Bank Dortman has introduced WAP-based services using MATERNA Information & Communication's WAP-based software and their Anny Way WAP gateway. This system allows any user with a WAP-enabled mobile telephone to request account balances as well as view the financial status of all their accounts and deposits. End users can make transfers and payments through their WAP brokerage service. Customers can request stock exchange indices and stock values, as well as buy and sell securities. All of these services are available through any WAP-enabled telephone.
Memorex Telex Ireland's field sales force is using WAP technology to update its customer management database using WAP-enabled handsets. The system uses the Esat Digifone network and software designed by eWARE Limited. This system allows the user to access content and then update relevant information to the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The Memorex system is isolated from the rest of the Memorex network and users must sign on through a separate firewall. The eWARE has its own separate application-level security that serves to secure the entire application.
The Memorex sales staff are now able to dial up current customer histories, pricing, or any other information that they may have had access to back at the home office that is necessary to service their customers. This new WAP-based CRM system allows the Memorex salespeople to concentrate on selling without the burden of administrative details because all of the information needed is available to them via their WAP-enabled telephone.
Phone.com, a developer of WAP-based software, has announced a software package for service providers: Mobile Management Server (MMS) version 1.0. This WAP-based system will enable service operators to provision their WAP gateways, applications, and handsets "over the air." MMS uses WAP's WTLS secure protocol to communicate with a handset; also, it uses a trusted provisioning domain mechanism to authenticate MMS to a handset. This version of MMS allows the service operator to remotely alter specific software settings and configurations of handsets once they have been placed in service.
Landstar Systems (a transportation services company) and PhoneOnline.com (a wireless software development company) have launched a WAP-based vehicle location and intermodal transportation service for over 8000 independent trucking operators. Three applications were put online via a WAP-based solution using a WAP-enabled handset (Nokia 7190). The first application was the Balance Inquiry application. This application allows a driver to access his account to determine the balance in his debit account. The amount can be read on his handset screen. The next application is the Check Call application, in which a driver can call the Landstar system to update his arrival at a customer location. The driver can enter arrival information, tractor number, trailer number, freight bill, current date, time, and location using his Nokia 7190 WAP mobile telephone. The third application is the Available Load application. This allows the driver to access the Landstar system to identify available loads that the driver can elect to pick up for his return trip back to his point of origin. This is a very valuable service because it allows the driver to gain revenue from a return trip rather than driving back home "empty" or "dead heading" as it is known in the industry.
While some observers have felt that mobile handset manufacturers would continue to produce voice-only handsets, particularly for Third World users, this has not been the case. The PCIA 2000 show seemed to indicate that manufacturers are moving ahead with WAP-enabled phones, some equipped with Bluetooth chip sets. For some manufacturers, China has proven to be their best customer with major purchases of WAP-enabled phones. Perhaps the feeling among some developing nations is that while every village cannot be equipped with PCs, at least one mobile handset might be available for Internet access.
Some observers estimate that there are over four million WAP-enabled phones in the United States alone, and 12 million in Japan. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo's WAP-based i-mode service has proven to be very successful, due to the fact that i-mode uses a cut-down version of HTML (compact "cHTML") and employs an "always-on" link to the Internet.
To keep pace with this rapidly evolving future, mobile service providers are rapidly upgrading their networks to support future foolproof methods for delivering wireless data services while overcoming bandwidth and ergonomic obstacles associated with mobile communications.