A software house develops an application for a 7″ tablet computer. The users want a cheap reliable tablet and a tablet is sourced. The problem lies in the word “cheap”. A cheap tablet can still be somewhat reliable depending on use and with the hundreds of budget tablets flooding the market there will be some.
A cheap tablet means a consumer grade tablet, and with consumer grade items means a limited product life span. Technology is quickly progressing in the tablet and smartphone markets. Upgraded processors are regularly released and internal parts like cameras, NFC, storage, speakers frequently upgraded.
How Long Will My Device Be Available ?
Manufacturers of consumer devices make no commitment to the lifespan of a product. Take for iPhone 6 & 6s for example. Images and specs of the iPhone 7 were leaked soon after the 6 was released. A manufacturer will deem the product a viable option in the consumer marketplace until competition means the unit will need to upgraded or replaced. This could be a 1 year cycle, sometime more, sometimes less.
Enterprise grade mobile devices look at this issue from the other side. Devices are built for a purpose be it warehouse scanning, field service or another vertical. Maintenance contracts can be bought for the units extending their lifespan, plus spares will be available for several years afterwards.
Whereas consumer units are usually on break and replace pair, enterprise units are based on a break fix repair. And that cycle is getting shorter and shorter.
Touching on the software briefly, if a device is changed it is possible the software will need to be altered. Customers are less likely to remain loyal should they need to buy a new tablet each year to continue using the software.
Selecting a cheap tablet has its advantages for cost, there are better alternatives to ensure long term solutions.
To learn more get in touch with us to arrange a webinar or meeting about your project. The key point being, do not recycle – fix it!
In vehicle mobile computing is a key element of many deployments we get involved with. This interesting article has an number of tips to ensure your mobile environment is safe.
One of the key points is to ensure that the device is mounted in such a way that it is effective but not distracting for the user. Consider how often the user will be docking and un-docking the device from the cradle what apps are loaded and how they can be locked down during a journey. Read the whole article in Electricity Today
We can help you get this important element right to ensure that your installation fits your mobile business processes.
What Everybody Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility
Guest Post by Timothy C B Cox. I always have said the mobile computer like the smart phone is not much use without applications, and it’s true for all enterprise solutions which makes identifying a mobile computing platform for enterprise mobility such an important task.
But the platform does play an important part in the solution and should not be overlooked as just an easy decision because of our familiarity with smart consumer devices. Recently Apple reported a drop in product margin’s, but their pricing has not really changed. It shows smart phones are not going to get any cheaper anytime soon.
If anything consumer choice will be between the high margin expensive full featured hand-sets and the lower cost feature limited devices. Or putting it another way, choosing between high margin devices and low margin devices. Of course it’s in the interests of the vendor to urge the consumer to purchase the high margin product.
So future options are limited, I see them trying to protect existing product margins by releasing a new product with lower cost base. I cannot see them compromising flagship products in terms of quality or features being a route for established brands when they battling with each other for market share.
Samsung is currently being probed by the Taiwanese authorities for possibly paying people to post bad reviews and poor readability reports for the HTC One in Taiwan. The HTC One uses higher quality materials in its case design and Samsung is concerned they may get into a new battle where their material costs increase to defend against other products, and this would be an unwanted downward pressure on their product margins.
The Apple iPhone is generally accepted to be of high quality design and build. What Samsung fears is having to compete with another Android handset where the only real difference is quality of materials used in it’s industrial design.
Everyone selling is under pressure from falling margins!
Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility
Rugged devices, though initially more expensive do last longer before being replaced, they are more stable in design and feature sets. Typical customers do not like unpleasant surprises, because their investment is larger and the time to reach their ROI is longer.
You shouldn’t expect rugged device makers to jump onto latest OS releases or design features their customer base has a predefined expectation of their products. If you look at Conical responsible for the open source Ubuntu Linux distribution, they have a two track release solution, a LTS or Long Term Support release and a general release. Think of their LTS release as the enterprise edition (stable) with the general release aimed directly at the consumer (with latest features).
Rugged device manufactures also work to the LTS concept but all their products adhere to the LTS concept! Where they commit to a number of years of support, service and updates for their platform.
Enterprise customers must get a stable platform to build their business; not to be distracted by worrisome and unimportant support and life cycling of the product. It allows customer’s to manage their mobility system over a known period of stability in terms of the platform, allowing them to build and plan their applications and solutions with very low risk along with favorable Total Cost of Ownership TCO numbers.
Buy a consumer device for use in the mobile workforce and you will be going through some sort of product and/or software refresh every year. Because consumer devices change with annoyingly regularity, to the delight of the vendors and retail stores, as it drains consumers wallets regularly.
In short, it’s not in best interests for consumer products to have a LTS approach, they rely on phones being replaced regularly to maintain revenues. Google likes to tell the market they have 1.5 million phone activations every day, but they don’t let on if these are existing users upgrading or new customers.
In April 2013 Google changed from reporting new hand-set activations to only reporting device visits to their on-line app store called ‘Play Store’!
So a LTS products may not have all the latest features and leading edge (or bleeding edge) options like consumer products. But they are what is called ‘stable’ releases, nothing is included that may have a negative affect on smooth running of the device. Be assured the LTS designed products do not suffer like some iPhone batteries have after a recent iOS update from Apple, and solved by two subsequent updates.
Imagine (as an enterprise user) having to manage, push and pay for (if pushed over 3G) an update to your mobile workforce. Not to mention dealing with users suffering from shorter than expected battery life, this happen recently with Apples iOS devices. Just because the vendor pushed an update to hand-sets automatically.
Get a new Windows Phone device, and even if you to use it in the enterprise, be ready to create a new Hotmail (Microsoft Live) account for each device. Use Bing to find out more! Something else to manage and filter and control and lock down and…
It’s not the incorrect decision to purchase a consumer device, all companies are at different stages in their cooperate life. Some have more important projects with bigger positive impact on their operations commanding a larger percentage of the available budgets. Some may not be able to afford the initial costs of rugged mobile devices.
No matter how you look at it, there is someone who will supply a product to fit your financial requirements, guaranteed! So I would go as far as to suggest that companies who can only afford consumer devices or think they are stretched too much to get into rugged devices should wait until they have the budget or consider leasing, because maybe they are spending their cash on the wrong kind of project and its better spent elsewhere!!
So don’t dismiss those who tell you ‘you’re making a huge/massive mistake by looking at consumer products’. Help them understand where your company is today and what resources and projects you are working with. It will save everyone a whole lot of wasted time and money!
Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand why a company would choose what looks to be an inferior product. I would like to be driving a Range Rover and I could if I wanted, but I drive a cheaper 4×4 because my children are still young and make a complete mess of the interior. So choosing the cheaper car fits my situation today and I live with that decision and my car delivers exactly what I expect!
Timothy C B Cox Mobile Workforce Strategy Consultant based in Dubai. Get in touch with Tim through Linkedin
Call us to discuss how we can help you identify the right opertaing system for your enterprise mobility project.
We covered the basics of Android for Enterprise Mobility in part one. This was not meant as a rant against Android but to point out that in the enterprise market stability and longevity are important features of an OS that underpin the supportablity of a deployment. In this post – Revisited Android in Enterprise Mobility we will look into this a little further.
Whilst Android is getting there with many enterprise mobility issues it is coming from the mass adoption by indivuals and carries some interesting baggage. Bottom line is that a device with an Android OS can be an excellent unit when used for the in the right circumstances.
Fragmentation of the many various versions of the Android OS each with different capabilities has come about by the very open source nature of the platform and its incrediable popularity in the consumer market. Open Signal studied this in some detail and the results are quite revealing.
Most people with an Android phone are at least on OS 2.1 – Eclair or greater. Versions of above 2.1:
2.2 – Froyo
2.3 – Gingerbread
3.0 – Honeycomb
4.0 – Ice-cream Sandwich
4.1 – Jelly Bean
4,2 – Jelly Bean
As with just about any OS the later the version the greater improved are the features but which one do you choose for your app? Things are further complicated when consumer hardware providers add their own custom layer to differentiate between the competitors. Differing OS versions will require different APIs. If you can access the camera on a Samsung unit, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to do the same on your HTC. Even the most experienced device estate managers have found upgrading from one version to a later one can be a tough task. And that’s before you get to BYOD.
Do you make your application native or use a web browser? are all your devices using the same web browser with the same HTML standard?
Screen Size and Keyboard
In a recent tweet Derek Kessler listed all 27 of the screen sizes currently available in the Samsung range. Interestingly Apple iOS screen sizes numbered only 4.
Data input is usually an area most people overlook. Android devices generally use a capacitive screen meaning finger touch only. The obviously causes problems if the user is wearing gloves or has dirty hands. Where a stylus can be used to pinpoint a drop down list, highlight damage on a photo or enter a signature this all becomes difficult when using finger touch.
Android devices have differing screen resoultions and maximize screen estate using an on screen keyboard. But this means application space is reduced on screen when the keyboard is present. Text input can be slow with misspellings common. Windows Mobile Devices designed for the blue collar market can come with a physical keyboard for rapid data entry.
Barcode scanning in another issue. On Windows Mobile units scanners are built into the unit. On Android units you can buy additional handheld scanner connected via Bluetooth. or use the camera. A camera’s primary function is to take photos/video so asking it to scan barcodes in higher volume applications can be painfully slow…..
On a side note – How many games/apps are there for a Windows Mobile device that user can download? Maybe a handful is the answer and the user has to search the internet to find the cab file install. How many games/apps are there Android that a user can download? Thousands! Of course you can lock down an Android device using SOTI device management but this is one factor to consider.
If you have an application which is basic to use with lots of drop downs and limited text input it may work very well on Android. For more complex applications I’d strongly recommend considering your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) options before buying am inexpensive consumer device for your roll-out.
Do not let the fragmentation of the Android OS put you off using it for your enterprise mobility project. Get in touch to discuss.
A continual question we get asked at MobileWorxs is “Since I can buy several Android devices for enterprise mobility for the cost of a single Windows based rugged mobile surely to do so is a no brainer?”
Well maybe it is but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as I’ll explain in this first of 2 posts about Android devices for Enterprise Mobility.
Not to dismiss Android units from the start they are extremely popular in the consumer world and becoming more so in the Enterprise market due to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Units are well priced which is attracting a wider business audience. As a consumer smart phone they are excellent with thousands of app’s available to do 101 useful and 1101 pointless things. The open nature of Android means users can take full control of the OS and user all the device features.
If you drop and damage an Android smartphone you can just buy another and it will still be cheaper then a rugged PDA. This is true but over how many times? and it is somewhat dependent on the environment and the availability of the same model you just smashed up.
Everyone has dropped there own mobile phone and it bounces and continues to work. Generally your mobile phone spends most of its life in your pocket or on your desk. When used in real world blue collar applications the device is use for the task in hand, thrown into the van foot well, carried on a shoulder strap or shoved into a vehicle cradle. This means the device could get knocked or dropped easily 20 times a day.
When using your mobile device throughout the day you are far more likely to accidentally knock or drop the unit as opposed to your personal mobile phone safe in your pocket or held to your ear. Battery life of personal mobile phones isn’t what it used to be, battery technology although advancing hasn’t kept up with the demands of 3G Wi-Fi and Bluetooth all being switched on all the time. If you use a device continually throughout the day you’ll need to charge it more often.
This means you’ll need a robust charger or in vehicle dock when driving from job to job. Unfortunately these accessories are only consumer grade. Plugging and unplugging leads will reduce life span or the charger and device. This is why enterprise devices have numerous rugged accessories so devices can be jammed into a cradle and pulled out without damaging either part.
Damage is one issue, theft is another. You don’t see many people with an MC9500 down the pub texting a friend. This is because they are not desirable they are tools for work. Revert to an Ipad or the latest Samsung Galaxy 4 – everybody wants one because they look cool the latest gadget to have. This is a sad state of affairs but unfortunately it does happen.
This isn’t to say the current crop of Android devices are not good. They are more then capable if used in the correct way. A manager/merchandiser/salesman etc can all use an Android device or even Ipad/Iphone without too many issues. They are not in an environment where the device is very likely to get knocked or dropped.
Manufacturers that have traditionally built Windows Mobile equipment for the line of business market are starting to bring out Android based devices. In the past these companies have used Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as a reason why users should buy rugged devices and they may well end up using the sales argument here. After all it’s just another OS and if you are deploying thousands of the same unit it does actually pay to be able to fix it rather than scrap it. However what they are not used to combating is the functionality and price point of a smartphone so watch this space.
Of course the key point is that there is no point buying any sort of mobile technology without having thought through how it will resolve an issue with a business problem. So do this first !
In the short term expect to see more Android devices for enterprise mobility like the Mini Tablet Motorola ET1 and more traditional smartphone shape Handheld x1. Both are fine units and run Android but each has different versions of the OS…more of that next time.
Guest Blog from Kirsty Rostron our resident leasing guru.
Business moves fast especially if you are a organisation looking at mobile technology to solve business problems. So when it comes to acquiring equipment of any size shape or form that will enable your organisation to grow and become more profitable there is little time to ponder over critical decisions.
None more so than those of a financial nature, which if made on a whim – or based on the premise that it’s the way things have always been done in the past – could end up having an adverse affect on the business in both the short and long term.
With many businesses looking to convert Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) to Operational Expenditure (OPEX), there is most certainly more of a noticeable trend for these financially astute and progressive organisations to move away from the total and outright purchase of ever changing technology. Rather electing to acquire them via a lease agreement instead.
So why choose to go down this road? Other than the obvious one of keeping expenditure off the bottom line and more money in the bank for those unforeseen rainy days leasing has so many other benefits. All of which you simply can’t afford to ignore. Especially when there is a growing awareness among senior managers that since putting leasing to the test and experiencing the benefits first hand, they would never consider returning to what they did before.
So what exactly are the benefits of leasing?
Leasing delivers a great many financial benefits and the effects are long-term and secure. This helps to provide you and others in the organisation with a more favorable experience when using the newly acquired product. The other benefits may not seem as obvious at first as the financial ones but are no less important and impactful when you consider them in more detail. These are just a handful:
Choosing to lease means that you get your product straight away rather than when budgets allow. Enabling everyone to start using that much needed device or solution as soon as possible.
By leasing you are placed into a fixed agreement which remains secure throughout the lease period. You won’t have to worry about changes and unpredictability as the lease option is uncomplicated and safe. This allows you take more calculated risks in other areas of your business.
Leasing offers you the flexibility to be able to upgrade your enterprise mobility technology at any stage throughout the agreement by simply restructuring the payment schedule. Allowing you to react to rapidly changing market dynamics and steal the march on competitors.
Leasing is extremely cost efficient. You can offset 100% of the rentals against your tax liability to maximise tax efficiency. Learn More.
Leasing benefits the future of your business. Cash purchase only secures the fact that you have the product you need, but it doesn’t offer you the long-term benefits that leasing does. Leasing equipment releases valuable working capital for alternative projects within your business.
Key Point: To Lease or not to Lease that is the Question ? Over £30 billion of Capital equipment was financed in 2016 in the UK alone and it’s estimated that around 90% of The Times Top 100 companies use leasing as a means to acquire equipment and business solutions, so they must be onto a good thing. In fact now that you know a lot more about the benefits, it begs the question. What’s stopping you from experiencing the power of leasing?
For more information and to get approved for your lease Contact Kirsty via the link below.
Talk to us about how we can help you arrange finance to incorporate all the key elements of your enterprise mobility system including enterprise grade devices deployment and ongoing support.
Having covered the software side of enterprise mobile device security in Parts 1 & 2, this blog will cover the hardware options to make your device and data secure.
If you are thinking “adding an SSL or Mobile VPN and device management software seems expensive why not cut out the data over the air and just use local Wi-Fi or docked Ethernet when in the office”. Limiting data transfer to within the four walls makes it very difficult for “eavesdroppers” to listen in. Jobs for the day can be synchronized to the device over night, the user can complete the jobs throughout the day and then return the unit to a cradle when the shift has finished.
This obviously limits what the mobile system can do. No new jobs can be sent to the user, no changes to the jobs, jobs cannot be assigned to a different user, no remote support or monitoring no results sent back in real-time so orders cannot be processed until the next working day. Overall when going mobile the pro’s of using a secure connection and device management outweigh the con’s.
With hardware, how can a log in confirm the user is psychicaly present? Using a biometric finger print scanner is one option. The user can slide their finger over the scanner which will confirm it against the device or against the backend server. It makes the device very secure as only that specific user can login. Application can also asked for user name and password is the finger print scanner becomes damaged or too dirty. You will find a bio metric scanner on some laptops and rugged PDAs such as the Motorola ES400, or an attachment for the MC75a.
Instead of finger print sensors, an alternative option is a smart card. Just like a security card is using to access through a door, a user can touch a smart card to a sensor. The card can then be validated over the network and the user granted access. The issue with this is that a user can still lose the card. If available for your chosen device like a rugged handheld the initial purchase and card replacements will not be cheap though.
The last hardware piece to cover is a TPM (Trusted Platform Module). These chips are installed on the motherboard, which store certificates, passwords, but primarily encryption keys. Threat of hacking (software or accessible hardware) or physical device theft is reduced, and device authentication must pass via this chip. Currently these chips are only found in desktops, laptops like the XRW and tablets but could be installed to all devices.
So in three parts we have looked at device security out of the box, the potential problems if not secure and the options available to further secure you device, data and network.
Key point: Think about mobile device security in the planning stage and before your project gets off the ground!
Do not get spooked by potential enterprise mobile device security problems call us to discuss how we can help your project to address your key business issues.
Enterprise Mobile Device Security Part 1 covered the basics of locking down a device using the in built features. These are a good start to locking down a device/applications but more can be done to be ensure device and data integrity.
A mobile application normally always require a login ideally with an admin console back in the office where the passwords can be easily controlled by an administrator. Linking the password to Active Directory is another security feature some applications can use meaning the credentials will be confirmed against the business network.
This means password polices can be enforced, and user only needs one login to access the network from PC or mobile device.
Passing login data and and other sensitive data over the Internet in plain text is never a wise option. “Eavesdroppers” can essentially pick out the data travelling from device the server. The quickest and cheapest option is the add a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate on the server. This certificate provides encryption (usually 128-bit encryption and above) meaning only the device and server can de-crypt the data. An SSL certificate is also recommended when using web applications. You’ll commonly see an SSL certificate when entering payment details for online shopping.
A step above SSL is to use a Mobile VPN. There quite a few Mobile VPNs available from service providers but also available as software to purchase. An example is Mobility XE. Software such as this allows remote workers secure, and robust access to network resources. They offer FIPS 140-2 (Federal Information Processing Standard Publication 140-2) encryption which is a US government standard for non-classified information. Needless to say it is highly secure with very strong encryption levels. This level of encryption is becoming more and more popular with large organisations and local government.
When the communications is secure the next step is to lock down and control a device. There are a few different options for this. First is a simple lock down tool on the device, the master device is locked down, allowing access to specific applications and settings such as Bluetooth settings. This master file can then be deployed to rest of the device pool. The next level above this and a method of mass file deployment is a device management platform. SOTI MobiControl is a very popular product for just this.
MobiControl has lots of enterprise mobile device security features including configurable device lock down, remote control and help desk, location tracking, deploy files/software, allow/deny access for resources, enforce security policies and importantly manage a number of differing OS devices in the same pool, and kill the device if stolen. Killing device means the device will become inoperable by the thief.
Limiting and allowing access to specific websites can also increase productivity if the user cannot surf the web or access games on the device. There are other similar offerings, but SOTI is probably the most popular now, especially as Motorola now recommend SOTI as the remote management tool of choice.
Some application software can provide lockdown and remote control out of the box, but it very much depends on how many units the customer has and the level of remote support/control the customer wants to provide its users.
There are many software solutions for security, of which the more popular have been covered. Security of your data is down to the customer and the sensitivity of the data. The more sensitive the data, or desirable to a third party you feel it is, the more secure the data should be.
The final part in this series next week will look at security hardware for your mobile device.
Do not get spooked by potential enterprise mobile device security problems call us to discuss how we can help your project to address your key business issues.
If you are looking for a rugged handheld take a look at the Motorola MC45 for Enterprise Mobility.
MC45 joins Motorola’s packed line up of rugged devices that use Windows Mobile 6.5 as a platform for delivering line of businss applications to field based workers.
Sheldon Safir, Director of global solutions marketing at Motorola Solutions introduced the unit by describing it as having “aggressive pricing for full functionality”
MC45 ships with all the usual components you might expect from the major manufacturer in this sector. 3,080mAH Li-Ion battery a 600MHz chip with 256MB of RAM. Wi-Fi and WWAN along with a 1D scanner and numeric keypad.
What is it For ?
Provides the Motorola Solutions channel with a weapon to fight off the unending stream of no name brand product coming out of the far east.
Motorola have shifted huge quantities of their ES400 entry level EDA since it’s launch in 2010. They have no doubt noticed that this price/performance point is a real hit with enterprise users trying to justify buying a rugged handheld instead of a smartphone. MC45 is more of the same.
Most enterprise mobility deployments still use Windows Mobile so the MC45 will help keep users on side until Windows 8 shows up and Android becomes more popular in this sector.
Great total cost of ownership proposition especially when wound up with a no fault maintenace contract.
Size – Compared to the rugged stalwarts of the Motorola Solutions line up MC45 is larger than an ES400 but smaller than the MC67 and MC75 this will appeal to a large number of users.
Keyboard – Most line of business apps need numeric data entry, the unit comes with a numeric keyboard with shifted Alpha capability
Real 1D laser scanning. Still the best option for scan intensive applications.
The level of security required very much depends on the type of application you are running and the confidentiality of the data. So out of the box what enterprise mobile device security can you expect?
As standard a device can use a PIN code, password or pattern to unlock. Some require a simply swipe of the screen. But these are not set off the shelf. Users/Admin have to setup up the PIN/Password. If the device is lost/stolen the data can be accessed instantly.
Tablets PC’s with Windows 7/8 have the ability to easily add another PIN/password in the BIOS start-up.
If the user must set their own PIN this can create another issue for BYOD Bring Your Own Device deployments. What if the user hasn’t set a PIN and the phone is constantly unlocked? Does the application require a password? Does the application lock after X minutes on standby?
Using an application which can lock automatically after X minute standby is a very useful feature. Not only does it stop prying eyes and keeps confidential data safe, it also means if lost/stolen the thief can’t complete bogus work orders, delete/add/edit or steal customer data etc. It also stops application being opened accidentally, buttons tapped or emergency services accidentally dialed while in the users pocket.
Where is the data held, and is the data encrypted? A feature of Windows Mobile 6.5 is an application to quickly encrypt the SD card. This prevents data from being read if removed and inserted into a PC. This is not the case on Android.
If an application is accessed over the Internet this removes the need for some device security as long as the web application requires a log in each time it is accessed.
Key Point; These methods of locking down a device are VERY basic and there are still vulnerabilities to the device and data. Remember that it is the data your worker is carrying around that has the value not the unit itself. What happens when a device IS stolen? How to track a device or kill a device? What about the highly sensitive data being transferred over the Internet? Remote control of a device? Secure Logins using Active Directory or Smart Cards and Biometrics?
Tune in for Part 2 next week.
Do not get spooked by potential security problems call us to discuss how we can help your enterprise mobility project to address your key business issues.