Being wireless no longer a luxury

An increasing number of companies are finding employees equipped with cell phones and other wireless devices are becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity when it comes to doing business.

Filing reports instantly using wireless devices means no more handwritten files for Provident Security and Event Management Corp. (

Mike Jagger, 25-year-old owner and president of the Kerrisdale-based security guard company, has outfitted his entire 70-person staff with Mike cell phones made by Toronto-based Clearnet Communications Inc. (> and handheld Palm Pilots made by California-based Palm Inc. ( Provident did this to guarantee its five-minute alarm response for its customer base of more than 1,000 Vancouver businesses and residences. Jagger estimates the company paid about $2,500 per person for each staff member to go totally wireless, but the investment pays off through increased productivity.

“It helps us bring on more customers without spreading our service too thin,” he said.

Provident started out filing handwritten reports in 1996, but after Jagger started personally using a Palm Pilot in 1997, he began buying a few wireless devices for the company. His entire staff went completely wireless about nine months ago.

Provident’s staff members use their cell phones and a digital wireless modem kit to connect with their PCs, Palm Pilots and the Internet. This allows the company to wirelessly manage its incident reporting system with current information and avoid the cumbersome task of filing reports on paper.

“We know exactly what’s going on and where our staff is,” said Jagger. “There are fewer opportunities for information to get lost.”

When patrolling security guards file their reports using the modem, information is transferred directly to the company’s central database and a password-protected report is posted for customers on Provident’s Web site within a few minutes.

Security guards do not have to check into the office for updates and can send and receive wireless reports on the job site.

Security staff members also send and receive e-mail with their cell phones, allowing for descriptions of suspicious activities and reports to be sent immediately. Provident guards use the Direct Connect, or two-way radio feature, on the cell phones to connect with each other.

Jagger said this combination of wireless devices has saved the company both time and money, and enhanced client service. He said while his business is to provide 24-hour security, information exchange is what Provident is really about.

Peter Saunders, founder and chief executive officer of Impress Digital Corp. ( href=””> has also made his company virtually wireless when it comes to communication. Saunders said he anticipates the day when the company cuts the cord on its telephone landlines once all data can be transmitted wirelessly. The company currently handles all its voice communications through the use of cell phones, while telephone wires are still used to transmit data. When callers phone Impress Digital on
a landline they are forwarded to a cell phone.

“We like to have our people as mobile as possible,” said Saunders, who bought his first wireless device, a pager, about 10 years ago.

The Vancouver-based company, which provides laser printing, document management and other services for banks and brokerage firms, uses wireless e-mail and connects to the Internet and company intranet with cell phones and a modem kit. Saunders also uses a Hewlett Packard Jornada ( href=””>, a pocket PC which costs about $800.

Clearnet gave free Mike handsets to Impress Digital about five months ago through a trade-in program to replace existing cell phones and pagers. Saunders said it costs the company about $540 monthly for the use of the phones, about half the cost of the separate charges for both cell phones and pagers.

Saunders, who started the company in 1996 with two staff members, now employs 15 people and pulls in annual revenues of about $3 million. He said using cell phones has increased his staff members’ productivity and accountability. Phone features include a two-way radio, paging and e-mail. Clients have 24-hour access to the company’s operations managers with the help of wireless devices, in case of emergency. Staff members can also use their cell phones after work for personal reasons.

Saunders said the two-way radio feature allows employees to contact each other quickly. Impress Digital even gave one of its biggest clients, a Vancouver-based financial services computing house, a cell phone to allow for direct communication with the company’s operations centre.

“It’s an intercom system right from their business to ours,” said Saunders.

Clearnet plans to launch wireless Internet services this summer which will allow Mike cell phone users to access the Internet without a wireless modem kit which is currently used. Once this is available, Saunders plans to cut most of his company’s phone landlines.

“We’ll maintain two or three landlines,” he explained. “There are still some conventional purposes when we’re doing a conference call in the boardroom.”

Published July 18, 2000 · Business In Vancouver · Written by Brigitte Petersen

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