Lowering the TCO of BYOD

Canadian businesses could be looking at a profit potential in the billions of dollars if they can master the so-called Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things, a broad-sweeping notion of ubiquitous connectivity where virtually everything is connected to the Web in some way, shape or form, is touted as being the life saver in terms of economic survival in the future.

According to Cisco Systems Inc., the Internet of Everything (as the company has coined it) will generate US$14.4 trillion in profits globally by 2020. Canada’s stake in that windfall is valued at more than $400 billion. Where that profitability will come from is the in the ability to leverage a hyper-connected world to improve all manner of functions, from asset management and production to customer service and transportation.

With that however, comes the need to manage an unprecedented number of interconnected devices generating near-infinite amounts of data. A vast number of those devices will be in the hands (or on the bodies) of employees or integrated with machinery, equipment, vehicles and more.

“The number of devices coming online is staggering: 50 billion by the year 2020,” says Victor Woo, Canadian general manager, Internet of Things for Cisco, in Toronto. “The need for mobile device management platforms will be at a level we’ve never even dreamt of before.”

That may be a sticking point for organizations and mobile device management platforms today, says Krista Napier, manager for mobility and consumer research for IDC Canada in Toronto. “While MDM is the common term, it has really evolved into enterprise mobile management. It’s more than just devices. It’s also about managing applications, content and security.”

Enterprise mobile management has undergone a rapid evolution as the Internet of Things takes hold. Early iterations of MDM solutions were essentially platforms used to manage authentication, tracking and lockdown of handheld devices. As the enterprise moves beyond smartphones and tablets to eyewear and smart sensors of all stripes, the stakes have become much higher.

“It will matter less what device I have in front of me,” Ms. Napier says. “Getting information anytime, anywhere you need it is true productivity. That’s the level we need to get to so employees can be productive all the time.”

What’s lacking at this juncture is organizational support, Ms. Napier says. “There are certainly opportunities for businesses to do a better job of putting in boundaries and making employees more productive. You can totally see something like Google Glass being used in something like the telco or utility industry where installers can view the information they need hands-free while working on the job.”

Mr. Woo confirms that organizations will be challenged on the MDM front as they move beyond the realm of traditional devices. It needs to encompass a wide range of management activities, from application access and authentication to remote diagnostics/analytics and location-based tracking.

“Look at heavy industry for example,” Mr. Woo says. “Oil rigs are being connected to operations centres so business decision makers can collect data, perform analytics and make executive decisions in real time. That’s a practical example of what we’re looking at: turning data into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom to automate.”

The growth in demand for MDM and capabilities is accelerating in almost every vertical, reports Carl J. Rodrigues, president of SOTI Inc. in Toronto, an enterprise mobility management specialist.

“Now companies are recognizing the power of new devices that have to be managed and secured. Management used to be the IT guy configuring access to Wi-Fi, VPNs and documents to make sure everybody’s device followed company standards.  It’s way beyond that now.”

Properly managed mobile strategies can play a critical role in reducing labour requirements, eliminating travel and training costs, accelerating turnaround times, and reducing errors and response times, he adds.

For example, remote access to users’ screens or intelligent sensors at a production site miles away allow managers to remotely troubleshoot or deliver training to field workers in real-time.

“Imagine [the productivity gains] if a doctor or med student can connect to a surgeon’s Google Glass device to view of a complicated bypass surgery procedure,” Mr. Rodrigues says.

Insurance providers can save considerable travel and time by enabling adjusters to view a live video stream of an accident scene from their desk. Speed sensors can be used to track vehicle acceleration and fuel consumption to reduce fleet management costs and optimize routing. New Android-based automotive dashboards will enable proactive remote support for cars in the field by detecting potential problems before they happen.

Some management platforms also enable geofencing, where activities can be restricted within certain geographical boundaries (e.g. cameras or Facebook). This is becoming an increasingly important feature in environments such as schools and military bases, Rodrigues notes. “This is not in the future. This is happening now. There are literally hundreds of companies around the world working on this today.”

Ms. Napier believes as all this evolves, every industry is going to need enterprise mobile management. “It’s an important piece in helping business be more productive by enabling access to the information employees need.”