need to send to keep costs down? What are all the things that can happen, such as running out of range?"
The performance issue regarding wireless is expected to remain for some time, according to the experts. Even spread spectrum service, which can transmit data at rates up to 77K per second, is far slower than today's landlines and local area network speeds. In fact, the hostile environment Rysavy mentioned can reduce the listed performance of a wireless service significantly.
"The main obstacle today is the performance of the wireless networks," said Brodsky. He compared today's wireless performance to that of a telex service. "People who have powerful notebook computers are not interested in sending and receiving data at 300 bits per second."
Another issue concerns the lack of standards in the wireless world. "Right now, there are too many of them," said Kobielus. Their impact has been felt on the equipment makers, who have to come up with modems and radio transceivers that can handle the proprietary protocols and interfaces. The result is few choices for the less popular wireless services and higher customer prices for hardware and software.
But Brodsky sees the standards problem as just the natural evolution of technology. "There's a major fallacy in pursuing standards early on," he said. "The first thing you want to do with this technology is not set a standard and lower the price, but to find out what people want. The best way to find that out is through real time experimentation in the marketplace."
WHERE TO BEGIN
With experimentation still happening and standards fluctuating, should state and local governments tap into the wireless world, and if so, how should they do it? Brodsky, for one, believes that wireless is the kind of technology that today's state and local governments need to incorporate into their operations. "If government is going to operate more like a business, then it needs to focus on opportunities," he said.
If they pass up wireless, Brodsky feels that state and local governments are ignoring what will become the next generation technology for service delivery. "Government should no longer take a wait-and-see approach to the technology. There are more options than ever."
Brodsky recommends that governments look for solutions, not the best technology. They should also put pressure on vendors to meet their expectations, rather than lower their own.
For specific advice, Rysavy recommends that agencies start by making sure they have wireless coverage where they want it. They need to look at the amount of data that would be transmitted over the wireless network and make sure they can justify it based on cost.
He cautions that an existing application will have to be reengineered and restructured so that it uses the available bandwidth efficiently. "The cost and throughput of wireless networks is not as good or as cheap as a wired connection," he said.
Going one step further, Rysavy said that using wireless networks will force government agencies to rethink how they work. "The application's mobility itself will allow people to work in fundamentally new ways. When you design a wireless application, you end up redefining how people do their jobs," he pointed out. As a result, work redesign must be taken into consideration during the planning stage.
To compensate for these and other changes, Rysavy recommends that agencies deploy a wireless application first in a pilot test and evaluate its effectiveness using a small number of users. "Allow your agency time to go up the learning curve before instituting wireless with a large number of users," he said.
For those who still doubt that wireless will prevail, they need to listen to Kobielus, who has worked in the wireless business for a number of years. "The