Siemens launched a $20 iPad app for product lifecycle management in early April, and since then, at least two large companies have deployed the app on iPads to help their workers maintain large pieces of equipment and to perform field service calls.
Siemens PLM Software, a unit of Siemens, created the Teamcenter Mobility app, which is on sale in the App Store. It works as a client app that connects to a company's Teamcenter software and retrieves data about company products and work processes, said Dave Taylor, senior director of portfolio solutions for the Siemens unit. The PLM unit has 70,000 customers and nearly 7 million licensed seats for its software, making it a global leader.
Since the April launch, there have been a "few thousand" downloads of the app, Taylor said, with many more companies experimenting with how to use it. In the two examples of customers deploying it, one is based in the U.S. and the other in Europe, although Taylor didn't name either.
In one case, a manufacturer has provided iPads running the Teamcenter Mobility app to technicians who service enormous plant-based machines. They carry the iPads with the app loaded and can consult Teamcenter data to find out information on a particular machine, consult engineering specs or view an installation or maintenance training video, Taylor said.
The advantage to carrying the lightweight iPad, which is connected to the Teamcenter data wirelessly, is that technicians can stay in place on the large machines being serviced, rather than having to climb down a ladder and find a workstation to call up the information, Taylor said.
In the other case, service technicians use the iPad app in the field, checking equipment information over a cellular connection, Taylor said.
Once a technician begins a service call, he can supplement information in the app by opening a FaceTime video chat session over Wi-Fi to consult with a senior technician or an expert, Taylor said. Siemens has considered adding a quick link to create a video chat from inside the Teamcenter Mobility app.
For the most part, customers haven't been concerned that the iPads are not rugged enough for carrying in the field, Taylor said. However, customers are concerned about keeping corporate data secure on the iPads.
"We don't hear a lot of dialog on ruggedness of the iPads," Taylor said, "Instead, customers wonder what happens it a user loses an iPad or it is stolen, since there's company stuff cached on them," he said.
Basic protections include encryption on the Teamcenter data, with a Teamcenter password required on the iPad to reach that data, he said. Also, the iPad's data can be wiped off if the device is lost or stolen, he said.
The app will work on a single iPad to connect the tablet to a company's Teamcenter server. A free version is available for customers to try out the software by making a connection to a Teamcenter server operated by Siemens.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
Read more about mobile apps and services in Computerworld's Mobile Apps and Services Topic Center.