Overview of Mobile Computing

What do we mean when we use the term mobile computing? Is it sending a short text message via a mobile phone? Having wireless access to the Internet from a PDA? Connecting to the office computer system from a hotel room using a laptop? Using a barcode reader to collect data in the field? Mobile computing is all these things, and more. The exact definition varies with individual needs.

We can consider the concept of mobile computing as computers on the road: a device/system combination that you use to conduct business at a location removed from your office desktop machine. The remote location can be a hotel room or branch office, or it can be your office at home. Your computing needs can range from a simple query or "look-up" function from a handheld device to obtain important information, to a portable office system with real-time communication with the home office. For example, a field worker might use a handheld device to collect data, such as water or power usage or the current inventory level for a particular item. Or after finishing one job, a plumber might use a handheld device to identify his or her next service stop.

It's also possible that "mobile" employees aren't leaving your office building at all. So-called "campus workers" can use a notebook or tablet to continue working when they are not actually sitting at their desks. They can, for example, be working in the lunch room or taking notes in a meeting.

We see that mobile computing comprises an array of activities and devices. This chapter explores some of the concepts you'll need to know about as you consider how to take advantage of mobile systems. We'll start with definitions of some basic mobile technology terms and a description of the existing infrastructure. Then we'll discuss current trends in mobile platforms and some mobile system design issues. Finally, we describe a sample mobile system and some helpful methods for achieving mobile computing.