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Companies Trialing NFC With Workflow-Management Application

Flowfinity is offering Near Field Communication as part of its enterprise mobile application software, so that companies can more automatically collect data about their field staff and activities at sites worldwide.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 19, 2017

As Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality becomes more ubiquitous in mobile devices, workflow applications provider Flowfinity Wireless Inc. has added NFC to its enterprise mobile application software to enable users to capture and store information faster. The technology is now being tested by several of the company's consumer goods manufacturing customers.

Flowfinity, located in Vancouver, B.C., offers software for companies to build mobile applications to manage and customize their workflow, especially those with a complex network of field personnel and remote workers. The solutions provider's customers include international brands, such as Kellogg's, McCormick and Bacardi. Each uses the Flowfinity solution to manage field staff effectiveness, streamline field sales and partner management, and reduce the cost of national retail surveys, among other functions.

Recently, the company decided to offer NFC technology as an option in its enterprise software, in order to enable digital information to be captured and stored more automatically, says Dmitry Mikhailov, Flowfinity's president and CEO. The planned release of iOS devices with NFC capability, he explains, made that decision much more timely.

Many of the companies using Flowfinity's solutions are capturing data regarding a location, assets or inventory using bar codes or QR code scans, which can then be accessed and managed at a corporate level. Manually inputting data or scanning bar cards, however, can be cumbersome for employees, Mikhailov notes. For instance, individuals could scan the vehicle identification number (VIN) of a car in a vehicle storage yard, or confirm their presence by scanning a QR code affixed to an area's wall or infrastructure. But industrial bar-code scanners are difficult to carry and handle, while inputting data can be time-consuming and prone to human error. "When a process is slow," Mikhailov states, "user experience suffers."

NFC makes the process of collecting location-specific data more automatic and flexible, Mikhailov explains. "We've been having discussions with customers for a couple of years," he adds, about deploying NFC technology as an alternative, or in parallel with bar-code scanning. The technology would allow users to employ a mobile phone rather than a scanner, and the tag reads would be faster and simpler than most bar-code scans. Additionally, customers had indicated to Flowfinity that NFC technology would not only enable them to capture data more easily, but allow them to accomplish more in the field when it came to data collection.

Mikhailov cites managing workflow at a tree-trimming service. In such an application, he says, field supervisors could be equipped with an NFC-enabled phone running a Flowfinity app. They could then use the mobile phone to collect data about the individuals reporting to work at the site, simply by reading the NFC tag built into each employee badge. Without NFC technology, a manager might need to input the names or ID numbers of all employees who are present, and they still might not have ready access to information regarding each individual's training or certification—which is necessary to help ensure that they are authorized to work in a specific area.

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