Openstream – Raj Tumuluri

As mobile technology continues to grow in popularity, enterprises and wnd-users are seeking devices that are feature-rich but do not compromise on security. Openstream president Raj Tumuluri explains to Rod James how paying careful attention to the context of a user's consumption and mode of interaction can result in flexible, highly integrated yet safe mobile solutions.

Mobile technology is playing an increasingly significant role in the day-to-day operations of many enterprises. Tablets, cellular phones and smartphones have all allowed employees in the financial sector to approach their work in increasingly varied and flexible ways.

Open mobile platform leader Openstream specialises in smart wireless communications for the financial, healthcare, media, utility and transport industries. It operates under the maxim that everything that can be made mobile will be. The company's focus is context-aware computing, which recognises the fundamental differences between deskbound and mobile solutions. It also takes into account that the way end-users relate to their work has an impact on their technological needs. Contexts such as a user's location, identity, device-type, activity and the time of day all shape what is needed from mobile technology.

Openstream president Raj Tumuluri explains how the finance segment can benefit from this context-specific approach.

Openstream has developed some of the most innovative products on the market; what changes did you witness within the business community to prompt you to create such solutions?

Our focus has always been information capture, access and consumption any time, anywhere. All our products and solutions target mobile users, both enterprise and consumer. There used to be the so-called blue-collar and white-collar devices and applications, but over time the distinction has blurred, making the promise of a ubiquitous mobile device possible.

"In the US alone, the smartphone market share is predicted to be 50% by late 2011."

To take full advantage of what mobility can do for a business, one needs to consider mobile strategies that not only provide access to business information across the enterprise, but also capture valuable business data at its source as accurately and conveniently as possible, and manage those applications and users across the enterprise. Capturing valuable business data often involves rich information such as images, video, GPS location or product IDs, for example.

Functionally, we focus on usability while on the move, and leave the choice of device and mode of interaction - voice commands, touch controls, and so on - up to users from the get-go. This has set us apart from conventional mobile application/platform software vendors.

Our software products address the actual business needs of our customers, such as the ability to work without a network connection; robust data security; real-time access to device-peripherals; remote application management; and the ability to capture rich field-data and information.

Employees being able to work more efficiently while they are on the move is a concern for all enterprises. Globally, what are the benefits of using a smart assistant/smart mail?

The key benefits of mobility do not stop at having access to email on a mobile device. Users quickly realise the need for a flexible and convenient interaction with several other applications, such as calendar, phone, SMS messaging, news, camera, maps, social media and other services. These often need to be integrated with the enterprise's other productivity applications.

The SmartAssistant & Application Framework provides enterprises with an application that they can deploy on a variety of popular mobile devices out of the box, as well as one that can be seamlessly integrated into productivity applications that are appropriate for their use. Furthermore, it allows end-users the choice of their mobile device and allows them to interact with the applications using speech commands and touch/gestures that are most convenient while they are on the move. For example, a user could just listen to an email, schedule an appointment or conference a colleague using natural voice commands in a car, all without the hassle of using a keypad.

How do you see this communication and technology evolving in the years to come?

There are 5.3 billion mobile phones in use today. In the US alone, the smartphone market share is predicted to be 50% by late 2011. As mobile broadband network speeds and battery life increase, very soon we can expect to see a connected device that acts as our business, entertainment, ID, bank card and communication device all rolled into one.

"Very soon we can expect to see a connected device that acts as our business, entertainment, ID, bank card and communication device all rolled into one."

With ever increasing consumerisation in the mobility space, enterprises will need to cope with the issue of allowing employees to use personal mobile devices that provides the required portability and usability without compromising security and data management needs.

How do you see context-aware multimodal technology affecting the next-generation mobile enablement strategy?

Early enterprise mobile solutions were, by and large, custom applications developed for mobile devices that suited a section of mobile users in an enterprise with specific needs. But there was little or no ability to enhance or run them on newer devices without incurring the cost of a major rewrite of applications.

The evolution of feature-rich mobile devices has accelerated the adoption of new devices by enterprise-users. In many cases they rendered the archaic non-portable mobile solutions useless, stressing the need for the development of an enterprise-wide strategy for mobile application deployment.

The success of any deployed mobile solution largely depends on how usable it is. Users on the move often need hands-free access, particularly if they need to use the device while driving or performing other job functions in the field. Therefore, a good enterprise mobile platform must allow for the easy incorporation of speech and multimodal interaction in mobile applications, without compromising portability.

Enterprises can protect their investments in mobile enablement by choosing a platform based on open standards. This enables the development of highly usable multimodal applications, which can be easily deployed and managed on a variety of mobile devices and networks, ensuring a greater return on investment and reduced total cost of ownership.

How important is it for enterprises to ensure their workforce is fully mobile, and what will the implications be if they do not meet the demands of the market?

The importance of business mobility has come into focus recently because it gives workers an edge. In order to achieve true scalability and interoperability, enterprises must consider enabling the collection of all data captured using open data formats and allowing applications to share data across several back-end systems. The open data format lets enterprises choose from a range of data adaptors or transformations as their needs evolve over time.

How secure are these platforms and what steps do enterprises need to take to ensure their workforce and products are safe?

Providing data or application access outside of the four walls of an enterprise has always been a cause for concern for people in charge of security. The conventional user ID and password mechanism does not adequately establish users' identity when they are mobile; therefore, enterprises should seek to augment that method with a platform that supports two or more factors of authentication - as would be the case if the employee were to gain physical access to the systems within the four walls of the enterprise - such as security certificates or tokens on the device, biometric verification, and so on.

Furthermore, the platform must also keep any temporary data stored on the device encrypted in accordance with enterprise policies for such data storage, with an ability to lock or destroy the data should the device be lost or stolen.