Push-to-talk comes to enterprise PDAs
Pangean Technologies last month launched Y-Talk, a session initiation protocol-based software application that brings push-to-talk functionality to any personal digital assistant, or PDA, that operates on the Windows Mobile operating system. The application is targeted primarily to campus environments in the hospital, warehouse and retail sectors and currently is available on Symbol Technologies’ MC50 and MC70 enterprise digital assistants.
Y-Talk, which utilizes voice-over-Wi-Fi technology, first was developed for PCs about two years ago to provide enhanced internal communications for enterprises, specifically by allowing them to create an ongoing talk group for each project team and/or department within the organization, said Pangean CEO Tarun Kapoor.
“They’re always there, as long as you’re logged onto the system,” he said. “You don’t have to set up a conference, or anything like that.”
Kapoor added that the company had the wireless piece in mind from the very beginning.
“We wanted to build up the market by doing the desktop piece, to get people used to the concept of always-on communications ability within the enterprise,” Kapoor said. “We also wanted to make sure the wireless market was ready. Two years ago, people wouldn’t have been clamoring for this technology because Wi-Fi was such a new thing. Now, it makes a lot more sense to take the same product we created for the desktop and bring it over to the PDA.”
But Pangean’s engineers encountered a few challenges along the way, Kapoor said.
“It’s a different ballgame,” he said. “You have to be much more efficient and really see how the application performs because in a mobile device, you just don’t have the resources that you have on a laptop or desktop. … There are some technical hurdles to overcome because you’re building for a much smaller platform.”
Complicating matters, according to Kapoor, is that mobile devices require a unique installer for every platform and device being targeted. “It’s a configuration-management nightmare just making sure you keep up with all of these things.”
Although most of the hurdles have been cleared, there is one more that is keeping Pangean’s engineers busy.
“With some PDAs that are operating on Windows, the battery dies after four to five hours,” Kapoor said. “If you’re using push-to-talk all the time, you might get a very low battery after just a couple of hours.”
The Y-Talk platform offers presence capability, which Kapoor believes will prove to be a major value-added proposition for enterprise customers. “You can actually see who’s online. Wouldn’t it be great, when you need to discuss an idea, to hit the push-to-talk button and communicate instantaneously,” Kapoor said. “A lot of time is wasted tracking people down.”
By hitting a button next to an individual’s name, a user can engage in a one-to-one side conversation while still maintaining the group chat. Future versions will include the capability to connect to the public-switched telephone network, Kapoor said.
John Jackson, wireless analyst for Yankee Group, described the introduction of Y-Talk as “compelling,” given the increasing deployment of PDAs in “campus-based, workgroup-centric environments.”
But Jackson cautioned that although there is “tremendous interest in and investment going into” voice over wireless local area networks (LANs) in the enterprise, there still exists barriers to deployment and adoption.
“Most existing wireless LANs in enterprises are not optimized for voice in the traditional sense … of a circuit-switched call,” Jackson said. “So these networks require considerable optimization and, in many cases, wholesale equipment upgrades to handle the resource intensity of multiple simultaneous data users.”
The good news for Pangean, according to Jackson, is that P2T applications are far less resource-intensive. “That’s the beauty,” he said. “They are short and bursty by nature, and you can probably build in some quality-of-service intelligence into the application itself.”