If you’re an entrepreneur, one of the reasons you went into business in the first place was to have more freedom — the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want, and with whom you want. Ironically, not too long after you’re in business, you have less freedom than if you were an employee for someone else.
Couple that with communications technology — we’re getting so connected that even when we’re home or out of the office, we’re always connected to the business. Technology that was supposed to help us become more productive and provide some additional freedom has simply tied us down more!
My goal in writing this article is to share how I use my iPhone and iPad to improve my productivity and hopefully provide a little more freedom. While I will cite specific examples, it is not intended to be a guide to implement the technologies — rather a means to show you what is possible.
The thrust of innovation in the vending industry is focused around route operations — cashless, DEX, pre-kitting, dynamic scheduling, vending management software (VMS), and the like. This is rightfully so because route operations are our core activity. But route operations are just a part of our overall work and effort.
Consumer technology advances
The technology in the consumer marketplace has evolved at an incredibly fast pace. Five years ago, very few people had smart phones; there was no iPhone, no iPad, no Netbook, and mobile Internet was not widely used. These technologies are economical and can provide a huge value in the vending company if properly utilized.
If you already have an iPhone, you are probably using it at minimum for email, calendar, contacts, pictures, and directions. Those are the most basic uses for the device (in addition to making calls.).
At my company, we use MEI Easitrax for our VMS. I don’t know of any VMS that has an iPad or iPhone app — wouldn’t that be useful if they did? But look at the picture on the opposite page below – I am running the full version of MEI Easitrax on my iPad. How’s this possible?
One of the absolutely essential applications on my iPad is Jump Desktop — it is a remote desktop client (there are many others). With Jump Desktop, I can remotely connect to my desktop computer (or any computer in my company, including servers) from anywhere.
When connected to my computer, I can use it like I was in front of it and run any application, including my MEI Easitrax.
Remote desktop protocol
The remote desktop protocol is available for both the iPad and the iPhone. The iPhone screen is small, but it still allows me to do critical things like reschedule an account, look up a service call, change the handheld download date, etc. With the iPad, the Easitrax experience is almost the same as if it were on a desktop.
With Jump Desktop I can run any other application too. About 99 percent of my server maintenance is done through remote desktop because it typically has to be done when no one is at the office. Remote desktop allows me the freedom to work on the server at 10 p.m. at night from home. It is one of the biggest time savers for me and allows me to multi-task. I have literally fixed a handheld download date or other issues from bed at 4 a.m. when a driver has called about a problem, saving me a trip in.
Change electronic locks
We have electronic locks on all our machines and all our facility doors. CyberAudit is a critical component to our business. While CyberAudit does not have an iPhone app, I access it more on my iPhone than on my desktop computer because inevitably I need to make permission changes when I’m not in the office. For security reasons, only two people in my company have access to the CyberAudit database, and this works well because I can do almost everything I need to do remotely.
To connect to CyberAudit Web, we don’t need to use remote desktop software (although you could do it that way, too). I simply connect to my work network through a virtual private network (VPN) connection and in Safari navigate to the same address I would if I were on my computer.