Mobile business intelligence technology is making its presence than in the BI world. More and more individuals have started adopting mobile phones to access analytics and metrics. This enables them to respond to critical issues faster and helps managers to handle projects and people while away from office. The latest release of mobiles (such as smartphones and PDAs) have screens and keyboards that make access and display of rich Web content easier. As the mobile workforce is getting a taste of the capabilities of these devices, they are requesting access to BI applications on mobiles. A Gartner analyst Hick Jones stated in his presentation “The Mobile Scenario” that by 2011, half of the world’s population will have mobile phones, 50 percent of which will be smartphones. 
In order to gain competitive edge in the marketplace, BI tool vendors are extending applications to support mobiles.

Is Mobile BI a New Concept?


Usage of mobiles for BI is not new! In the past, alerts, notifications and messages were pushed to end users via mobiles, pagers or PDAs. Messages were sent out either in a scheduled manner or via triggered events. But end users had no control are the schedule of these messages and had restriction on the degree of analytics. Content of only a limited size could be sent over the network. These limitations were not due to lack of development of BI technology but rather to immaturity of network infrastructure. Mobile infrastructure was also not mature enough to support multimedia, Web browsing, email and fax. Success of mobile BI is largely dependent on the maturity of the network and mobile infrastructure.
Today, network infrastructure has matured to overcome many limitations. Third generation mobile telephone networks are the latest stage in the development of wireless communications technology. Significant features of 3G systems are that they support much higher data transmission rates and offer increased capacity, which makes them suitable for high-speed data applications as well as for traditional voice calls. The browser technologies on these devices support rich Internet applications and highly interactive experiences.
Many BI tools are now extending their services to enable mobile users for accessing BI data and reports on their handsets. Some of the BI tool vendors already have made their market presence by supporting BI deployment on various mobile devices e.g., Cognos, Business Objects, Information Builders and MicroStrategy. In the ideal scenario, mobile BI applications shouldn’t require users to install any extra software on their mobile devices other than a standard Web browser.

Challenges 


With the increased usage of mobile BI certain challenges need to be met, including:
Availability: There are countless mobile models available in market. Mobile BI deployments are not guaranteed to work on all devices and operating systems. Some organizations are struggling with device standardization to mitigate this challenge. 
Limitations of size of the data set: Content containing large data sets can consume memory available on mobile devices which restricts accessibility to large data sets.  Also, most of the BI applications that are designed for desktop/laptop users cannot be easily navigated on mobiles due to their size. To minimize this limitation, applications with smaller report views need to be designed for easy navigation for mobile users. 
Data security: The adoption of mobile devices makes data security an increasing concern. The loss of one mobile compromises privacy and exposes organizations to compliance risks. Applications should be encrypted at both ends for secure transmission.
Network infrastructure: Network bandwidth, latency and connectivity are some of the key factors in the success of mobile BI. Bandwidth defines the capacity of carrying information through communication channel. A wide bandwidth will allow higher data rates; conversely, a narrow bandwidth will restrict the data rate. Latency is described as time taken for a packet of data to transmit from one designated to point to another. 3G systems support much higher data transmission, which enables high speed data applications.
With more and more workforce traveling and working remotely, there is a dire need of mobile BI technology. Organizations that can meet the demand of mobile BI will see an increase in productivity and hence increase in ROI in mobile devices and BI applications. With 3G and 4G network telephone networks, developers can harness and provide increased features of BI applications to ends users on mobiles.

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