Big data has undoubtedly been one of the technology world’s best-known buzz phrases for many years. Organisations are finally realising that the intelligence derived from big data can significantly improve their business models and increase profit margins. With increasingly connected workplaces, employees can also now use data in real time to become more effective and efficient in their jobs and make their lives easier.
The right tools
Unfortunately, the volume of data that’s being collected goes to waste if employees are not able to access it when and where they need to. This is especially crucial in certain industries not limited to desk-bound office jobs like retail, manufacturing and healthcare, which require many employees to be constantly mobile across large campuses.
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The problem is that today, the term 'mobile technology' in business is often synonymous with the use of consumer-grade smartphones. However, consumer smartphones are not equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of large and complicated workplace environments.
In many sectors, consumer-grade smartphones simply do not equip employees with the ability to safely access data or analytics on the go. With the proliferation of consumer device use, many companies have resorted to strategies incorporating consumer devices and implementing BYOD strategies in an attempt to give employees efficient access to data. This brings with it a whole host of compliance, security, technology and accessibility issues.
Coping with compliance and security
In the retail, healthcare and manufacturing industries, access to data comes with heavy compliance challenges. In healthcare, for example, staff regularly need to access various aspects of patient data. Mobile use must take into account the confidentiality of protected health information as required by the Data Protection Act (DPA), proving a huge challenge for health organisations.
For retail employees, they must maintain Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards compliance if using personal smartphones. And for manufacturing workers, the loss or theft of a device can mean serious loss of intellectual property.
This echoes the wider security issue surrounding devices storing corporate data that are stolen or leave the organisation, and are then able to connect to open or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The volume of corporate data accessible through the device would be exposed via these unsecure networks. With employees taking their smartphones home with them, this means that sensitive business data is leaving the building.
Indeed, lost or stolen devices are one of the most common problems with the use of mobile devices. Furthermore, with consumer smartphone devices designed to access and share data in the cloud, a side effect is an increasing potential for data to be easily duplicated and moved between applications. This kind of risk has huge implications for all industries.
In addition to compliance and security challenges, for organisations willing to let employees select or bring their own devices, the IT department has to deal with a range of systems, products and platforms. IT teams may find maintaining and integrating these devices is a complicated – if not impossible – task.
Additionally, problems like insufficient battery life of consumer devices means they are unsuitable for long working days or use across shifts. Not only would this be an obstacle to data access, but can also lead to costly and potentially dangerous delays due to missed communications.
Similarly, consumer devices lack the durability required in demanding workplace environments. Dropped devices and various forms of impact can easily damage handsets that are not equipped to cope.
Built for a purpose
As such, we’re beginning to see bite back on the BYOD trend – especially as businesses in these industries begin to experience the costs associated with the short lifespan and physical delicacy of consumer devices.
Organisations are realising that there are alternatives to these devices when it comes to giving employees flexible access to big data and the associated analytics – while still remaining compliant and secure. A key contender for industries with demanding workplace environments is purpose-built wireless devices, particularly purpose-built smartphones that bridge the gap between an enterprise device and a consumer-grade one.
Such devices enable employees to truly gain value from the growing volumes of data being accumulated in any location, and at any time. To illustrate this, if you’re a nurse, in order to securely access the growing volume of big data around patient and medical information, you’re going to need a rugged device that you can disinfect with strong chemicals.
And if you work in retail, a device that allows for long battery life that can be shared between shifts will mean you can guarantee quick response to customer requests. In logistics, you’d need a device that can survive drops onto concrete floors and other surfaces, in order to access the data needed to immediately deal with emergency or supply chain issues.
> See also: Beneath big data: building the unbreakable
Furthermore, with such handsets, many smartphone security challenges are simply negated or easily avoided. For example, within a hospital environment, an in-building wireless handset provides private and reliable, secure wireless communication between caregivers and supporting staff while satisfying DPA concerns.
Confidential data can be accessed via the handsets within the building but not when the device leaves the wireless network, as there is no data stored on the device itself.
As the workplace becomes increasingly connected and technological advancements like the Internet of Things fuel further data growth, organisations that have not implemented mobile communications systems capable of providing employees with secure yet flexible data access will certainly lose out.
Ultimately, despite how much data is being produced and how beneficial analytics can be to organisations, all the value that could be garnered will be wasted if the data can be stolen or the device proves a barrier. Only by equipping employees with the right tools can the true benefits of big data be reaped.
Sourced from Simon Longhurst, Strategic Alliances Manager, Spectralink