I’ve been working on a CRM/GPS/Mobile demo app as an example of how to leverage your Windows Mobile 6 device as a field tool when dealing with customers.
Like most field based agents, I spend quite a bit of time moving around. I’m either walking or driving, and generally I’m on my way to see a customer or just leaving.
Now, my imagination immediately went to work. See, one of the major issues I have about using all my favorite online tools, such as CRM Live, Flickr or Twitter, is that I can’t really do any of these things in the car. Not only because it’s kinda unsafe to be rummaging around with my phone while driving, but the experience isn’t the type of experience I expect when inside a car.
I was thinking specifically of a customer I worked with last year who was trying to develop a field support tool using CRM and Windows Mobile. The main part of the system was to take information from Exchange and CRM (mainly the upcoming appointment and task info for customers), then mash that with Virtual Earth to create a map based appointment schedule. But also to allow the field agent to attach photos and video files to the contact after the visit (it was a property maintenance application).
Now, the solution we pitched was based on using the Windows Mobile device as the main device, however, the only way to solve the in-car problem was to simply mount the phone on the dashboard using an inexpensive plastic holder.
Ideally, having some kind of in-car platform would have been the way to go. Imagine getting into your car, your Windows Mobile establishes a BT connection to your in-car computer platform running Vista (or something), the phone kicks of Internet Sharing so the car now has Internet access, then the in-car screen kick in with a digital dashboard of widgets, showing not only email info, customer and next appointment info, but also other data like latest Twitter info or Flickr feeds.
Or event better, why not have your car just be Internet connected, using your existing 3G account, and have it use a similar system to the Vista SideShow so that when the car is in low power mode, it’s sync’ing your emails and contacts and such. That’s were I imagine the Ford Sync platform going.
Either way, the opportunity for developers to start targeting in-car platforms is getting to be a reality, as no matter what you think about Microsoft, the one awesome thing we do well is making it easier for developers to spread into new areas, and personally, I would love nothing more than to start developing cool widgets for in-car computing. I mean, the thought of being productive and connected within my car definitely spins my rims 😉