What's your smartphone's IQ?

Mike Bacidore explains why industrial plant personnel access more than just enterprise software remotely.

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

You think your phone is so smart. Can it tell you the proper pressure to set an R-410A refrigerant for 10° F?

What? It can?

Well, can it calculate net positive suction head available (NPSHa) in a flooded suction system?

Oh. Really? Wow.

But can you access your enterprise software, namely your ERP software, from your smartphone?

I’m not surprised.

According to a recent North American study completed by IFS (www.ifsworld.com), about half of manufacturing executives don't have access to enterprise software from their mobile devices. Plant-operations data and asset-health data continue to increase in availability, but few participants in the study rated access to enterprise software from a mobile device very highly and many don’t have access at all.

Those individuals who typically work during their personal time rate a mobile interface more important than those who work primarily during business hours rate it, according to the study of more than 281 manufacturing executives conducted with analyst firm Mint Jutras (www.mintjutras.com).

As the lines between work and personal time continue to blur, mobile access to critical data increases in importance. In fact, two-thirds of the survey participants said they work between 4 and 20 hours remotely each week, and almost as many indicated they work during personal time at least one day each week.

Love it. Hate it. Mobile access has made work data a part of personal life. And smartphones are the critical enablers.

Love it or hate it, but mobile access to has made critical work data a part of personal life.

More than half of the participants indicated BlackBerry is their preferred mobile device, while 29% specified the iPhone and 20% chose the Android. But 42% of respondents said their next device would be an iPhone, which outpaced BlackBerry (37%).

For those of you interested in those apps for your smartphone, our executive editor, Russ Kratowicz recently hunted down a few pertinent ones.

There are Android apps for everything from calculating NEMA standard motor dimensions and sizing HVAC ducts to simulating a Modbus/TCP client and using your phone’s camera and accelerometer as an inclinometer/level gauge.

If you’re a member of Cupidtino (www.cupidtino.com) and hence only date other people who are as in love with Apple products as you are, then you’ll appreciate the plethora of available iPhone apps. Everything from a machine-shaft-alignment calculator and a digital altimeter to an HVAC-pipe-system sizer and an NEC-Amp-load table for connecting electric motors is included.

In the study, only 27% of respondents were performing any functions in enterprise software using a mobile device. Respondents also shared their thoughts on the importance of the mobile interface in the selection process of ERP and other enterprise software.

For tablet computers, the iPad dominated, but with still a relatively small percentage carrying them for business use, according to the study. While the iPad appears to be poised for significant growth, its small initial share among this sample means even its projected 114% gain still means it lags smart phones in terms of actual use.

Where people are working outside the office has an impact on the importance of mobile access. While 59% said they’re working from home, either in a home office or another room, but in public places such as taxicabs, restaurants and airplanes, where flat surfaces aren’t readily available and wireless connections can be iffy, mobile devices can offer an alternative.

As the lines between work and personal time continue to blur, mobile access to critical data becomes more important. In fact, 64% of respondents said they work between 4 and 20 hours remotely each week, and almost as many indicated they work during personal time one or more days each week. And 82% of the participants also said the mobile interface of enterprise software was either the most important feature or as important as other features.

Love it or hate it, but mobile access to has made critical work data a part of personal life.

And if you’re interested in the complete IFS study results on ERP and mobility, you can download it here.

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