Attachmate Extends Handheld Device Capabilities

Despite the technological advances made in the past few years, handheld devices have basically remained a non-factor for corporations, little more than a personal device for mobile workers to use. Now, Attachmate Corp. (Bellevue, Wash.) is changing the face of handheld devices with the introduction of PalmFrame System-a tool that bridges the gap between mobile workers and information that resides on mainframe, AS/400 or other hosts.

PalmFrame system allows users of PalmPilot or Windows CE devices to access and enter enterprise information into host computers. "In the past, people used handheld devices for personal reasons," says Mike Wilk, technical marketing manager for business solutions at Attachmate. "Now, we're taking data from an AS/400 an extending it to handheld devices."

Enabling mobile workers to access enterprise information will enhance the role they can play in a corporation and also solve data redundancy and accuracy problems. In the past, mobile workers often used paper forms to gather information while in the field. Upon returning to the office, the data had to be entered into the system. Besides being costly and time consuming, the manual data entry could result in mistakes, misinterpretations and duplicate entries. "PalmFrame eliminates the need to fill out paperwork and then have to manually put in the system," says Wilk.

Besides eliminating paperwork, PalmFrame also increase the capabilities of mobile workers. Insurance adjuster will be able to give customer's coverage information right from their handheld. By being able to access information from the host, mobile workers will be able to answer questions on the spot, giving a higher level of customer service.

"PalmFrame came from customer requests, we just combined different technologies to make it work," says Wilk.

PalmFrame System requires the following components: an e-Vantage HostPublishing System (or other Web-to-host servers) and AvantGo server, consulting services to write the custom server and Web applications, and a handheld device compatible with the AvantGo client.

The Business Group, Attachmate's consulting organization, configures the services and technology required to customize the PalmFrame system for their environment. The Web-to-host product converts host data into an HTML-based Web application. The application is then optimized for the screen size of the handheld device using AvantGo Enterprise, which extends the Web-based application to the handheld device.

Once configured, the PalmFrame system requires little effort from the mobile worker. Prior to their fieldwork, the worker places the handheld in a cradle attached to a PC and clicks the synchronization button. Once in the field, the Web-based forms application drives data input and retrieval throughout the user's workday. After return to the office, the mobile worker repeats the synchronization process-the information on the handheld is entered into the host application, and new information from the host is transferred to the handheld.

PalmFrame's target market is organizations with mobile workgroups-such as healthcare workers, salespeople, insurance claim adjusters-- that need improved operational efficiency and better customer service. "It's more of a service offering than a product," says Wilk. "It gives companies the ability to do many things."

A relatively new concept for AS/400 users, Wilk says he expects the growth of PalmFrame to be gradual at first. "Companies will test pilot it, but as they begin to see the benefits, they'll expand it into other organizations," he says.