When History Repeats Itself: Is Apple the new Microsoft?

By | Enterprise Mobility

Let me first start by saying I am one of the biggest Apple fanboys that you’ll ever meet. I have probably bought every Apple product they’ve offered more than once in the past decade.

As a developer, iOS is one of my favorite platforms to develop on. The consistency of the devices, paired with Apple’s focus on the user experience made the iPhone the go-to mobile platform for app proof of concepts and initial mobile releases for start-ups.

Although Apple makes awesome hardware, their software and service releases have been less than stellar. Do you remember Ping, mac.com or me.com? Me neither. Raise your hand if a failed time machine backup resulted in the loss of important information. <<hand raised>>

The Death of Windows Mobile

I have spent the last 15 years implementing enterprise mobile solutions for Fortune 500 companies. As part of this experience, I was very involved in the first major project where Microsoft tried to catch up to Apple and Android with Windows Mobile 7, followed shortly with Windows Mobile 8.

The requirements we gathered for this large retailer was to form the release of Windows Mobile 8 for embedded/rugged devices. What made this project fail was that Windows Mobile was controlled by Microsoft’s consumer mobile team. If this team did not agree with a requirement, then the requirement was not included in Windows Mobile.

This team was so hyper-focused on developing the next iOS that they did not care and had no industry experience with enterprise mobile scenarios. Below are some of the examples that were red flags for me.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team could not understand why an enterprise organization would want:

  • to programmatically connect to Bluetooth devices. A user should be presented with a screen from which they can then select the device they want to connect with.
  • to programmatically connect to an approved list of WIFI SSIDs
  • to have device-level information such as battery strength, temperature, WIFI signal strength, and installed applications
  • for installed applications to share data

These were the seeds that Microsoft planted that allowed Android to grow into the defacto standard for rugged/embedded mobile device market.

Patterns of Enterprise Neglect

I am seeing a similar pattern of specific enterprise mobile neglect from Apple. Although Apple’s market share of the enterprise mobile space is nowhere near what Microsoft historically controlled, Apple does have a considerable amount of influence with many enterprise companies choosing an iOS centered mobile strategy.

Almost anything was possible in the early days of iOS development. With the way Objective-C is constructed, resourceful developers were able to take advantage of private APIs which provided more control over the device and applications. This was great for enterprises because internal IT teams had some level of deep access to the device and did not need to worry about App Store approvals.

Ever since iOS 7, Apple has been removing the ability for private API access for developers. Removing these capabilities are a part of Apple’s strategy for being the more secure and consumer privacy-focused platform.

Apple’s enterprise strategy has focused on supporting office workers who sit at a desk and use iPhone and iPads as a BYOD (bring your own device) or COPE (company-owned personally enabled) device. Since iOS 8, Apple’s enterprise focus is supporting 3rd party software companies (such as Microsoft Office, Skype, Cisco VoIP), VPN access, and enabling MDM/EMMs adequate APIs for enrolling and managing devices.

Apple has not focused on supporting internal IT teams who are building applications on COBO (company-owned business only) devices that can be shared. Up until this point BlueFletch has been able to work around or through most of Apple’s changes in the name of consumer privacy…but iOS 13 is a tipping point.

iOS 13 Breaks Everything

Having more than 15 years of experience implementing mobile solutions, I know that with any Operating System (OS) update things will break. Typically breaks occur because an API changed, the underlining implementation is being handled differently and/or there is a device issue.

Apple’s iOS is probably the only mobile operating system that removed or significantly reduces features for developers.

What Apple giveth, Apple also taketh away…

  • Since iOS 7, private API access was removed
  • The ability for managed devices to indefinitely ignore OS updates
  • Increased application sandboxing, limiting how apps can share data

The iOS 13 update to notifications is the straw that breaks the proverbial back of iOS for enterprise applications. To save battery life Apple will throttle and batch notifications in order to squeeze more efficiency out of the battery. Apple is also closing the loophole for using VoIP notifications for a non-VoIP purpose, thus removing the ability to send a notification and guarantee it’s delivery on a device in near real-time. So for scenarios that require immediate delivery in order to support a process (BOPIS picking in retail, notifications for airline workers, tasking updates for warehouse workers, etc.) iOS 13 will randomly break your application.

Billions vs. Millions

Apple is focusing on its core customer: the consumer user. The install base of field end-users is very tiny (millions of devices) compared to the more than 2 billion iOS devices that have been sold to consumers (*1.4 billion active). Although the install base is smaller users in the field, they are just as important as the average customer.

Organizations that have a shared device or COBO strategies should not consider iOS at this time.

The lack of device access, the continued sandboxing of applications, and not having a guaranteed delivery of notifications are core features that are needed to manage enterprise devices at scale.

Apple is really good at including ideas and features that exist in other applications or platforms, such as pull to refresh, swipey keyboard, grouping notifications, etc. Unfortunately for enterprise mobile companies, the features we need to be successful are not added, but continually removed, with every new release of iOS.

My intent with this article is merely to shed light on the fact Apple has lost touch with the enterprise. With each iOS update, we’re seeing new restrictions that limit developers…which ultimately impacts end-users and customers.


If you have any questions about which platform is most suitable for your organization, feel free to reach out at info@bluefletch.com. We’d love to share our experiences and help you find a scalable solution that meets your business needs.

BlueFletch and Zebra Technologies: Integrating Launcher with Push To Talk

By | Product Updates

Efficiency. Cost savings. Security. Cloud-hosted. Scalability.

Buzz words? Sure. Popular Google search terms? Definitely. Available in practical application at the enterprise level? Yes. Where? The intersection of the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher and Workforce Connect PTT Pro by Zebra Technologies.

If you aren’t familiar with the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher, then give this article a quick read. For those who are well-versed in launchers such as AirWatch Launcher or SOTI Lockdown, you’ll know that we offer some key features that you can’t find in other launchers, including:

  • Single Sign-On
  • Device Accountability
  • Role-Based Permissions
  • Device Locating Technology

At BlueFletch, we constantly strive to move the needle forward. In our 11 years of building enterprise mobile solutions, we have aligned ourselves with strategic partners who are at the forefront of mobile technology. An example of this is the integration of the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher with Zebra Technologies’ PTT Pro.

PTT Pro is an invaluable tool that provides associates with Push to Talk capabilities over Wi-Fi and Cellular networks alike. Whether you are a small rapidly growing company or large enterprise, PTT Pro is a tool that scales well and drives workforce connectivity.

With other launchers on the market, users would have to log in twice; once into the launcher, and again into PTT Pro separately. By running the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher with PTT Pro, when users log into a device, they are automatically logged into PTT Pro and immediately made available to other PTT Pro users. This provides a more seamless experience while reducing login time which gives way to increased associate productivity.

Dynamic User Management

A new associate shows up on day one, ready to start delivering customer orders. Their van is loaded, purchase orders are in-hand, and their rugged Zebra device is fully charged. Everything is in place to ensure the deliveries arrive on time, except for one major roadblock: they have not been added into the PTT Pro system and are unreachable. <Record scratches> That’s a serious problem. Luckily, we have an easy solution.

The BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher provides dynamic user management that checks to see if the user is in the PTT system and automatically adds them if they aren’t. Yes I know, this sounds like magic. Through APIs and identity platform services, BlueFletch’s Enterprise Launcher has the power to validate and create users in the PTT Pro database. But wait, there’s more…

In addition to creating users, existing users can be reassigned on the fly. In a recent engagement with a national auto parts retailer, BlueFletch and Zebra were given the requirement to be able to move delivery drivers from store to store on demand. Within weeks, the team empowered the retailer to reassign associates to other stores within PTT Pro at the push of a button.

The challenges of executing on this integration were complex. The requirements dictated that temporarily reassigning associates to other stores could not involve making changes to the HR database. In other words, an employee’s HR record always needed to reflect their home store, yet PTT Pro needed to be able to show them assigned in the user pool for a temporary store. Our Enterprise Launcher exceeds those demands by signing users into a device securely and allowing them to join a different store without touching their HR record.

This is roughly the point where the host of a shopping show would roll into the “for 3-easy installments of” spiel. Don’t worry, I won’t… I will, however, leave you with a recitation of the valuable benefits and features of the BlueFletch Enterprise Launcher with Zebra Technologies’ PTT Pro:

  • Single Sign-On
  • Device Accountability
  • Role-Based Permissions
  • Device Locating Technology
  • Push to Talk over Wi-Fi or Cellular
  • Dynamic User Management

To learn more about the Enterprise Launcher or set up a demo of this package, shoot us an email at info@bluefletch.com.

The Value of Mobile Enterprise Communication Tools

By | Ideas For Your Business

Communication Tools Improve Business

Have you ever had the anxiety-inducing experience of being late for a flight and when you got to your seat there was no overhead space left for your bag? You had to make the awkward walk back to the front of the plane to gate check your bag. This is not only frustrating for you, but it also frustrates the airlines by potentially costing them millions of dollars. 

In 2018 it cost approximately $75 per minute to operate an aircraft.  Every minute spent waiting for your bag to be loaded costs airlines money. 

Delta Air Lines rolled out a set of applications called Flight Family Communication (FFC) in 2018 to help tackle flight delays by improving communication amongst employees. By building the FFC app that resides on employees’ existing devices, they were able to remove the reliance on antiquated tools like jetway phones, in-person conversations, or radio messages that could take employees away from their work stations.

This video from Delta provides an overview FFC:

As an output of this tool, they have been able to increase the efficiency and improve on-time departures on flights with less than needed ground time by 65%. Are there areas in your business where better communication tools such as FFC could improve associates’ jobs and the company’s bottom line? 

In addition to helping Delta implement FFC, BlueFletch has helped a number of other enterprises implement mobile communication tools that are focused on improving employee experience and productivity. 

Enterprise Communication Tools are valuable not because of massive one-time savings, but because of the myriad efficiencies gained over the course of a given process or workflow. Knowing when to roll or not roll a truck. Allowing a plane to start gate checking bags because overhead bins are full. Eliminating overtime while employees search for a product in the wrong place. 

Tips for Evaluating Enterprise Communication Tools

There are a number of off the shelf tools that help improve communication. You can also build a custom solution tailored precisely to your business similar to what Delta did. As you evaluate leveraging an existing tool or building your own, the following are key questions to consider: 

  • Role-Based Communication – Map out the roles within your organization. What are the common communications between different roles? Where are there areas where communication could be improved? An example of this would be in a retail scenario where your shoe salesperson has to call the stockroom on a walkie talkie to find out if a particular size is still available.
  • User-Based Communication/Presence – Where would it be helpful for your employees to know who is available or who is online?
  • Inter-Site Communication – Would an improved process to communicate between sites or locations improve your employee’s experience? A common example of this is a retail location calling another retail location to find out if a particular item is in stock.
  • Mediums Used for Communications – Review the mediums your employees are using for communication and understand what types of tooling would help them perform their roles in a more optimized way. Different mediums can be used for different purposes:
    • Text – Text messages are great for non-real time communication.
    • Audio – Being able to send audio snippets is a good replacement for walkie talkies. Tools like Voxer have popularized sending audio snippets between mobile devices.
    • Real-time Voice – Real-time voice is still a great medium for communicating complex items. Phone calls and VoIP are still predominant mediums between employees.
    • Images – Similar to voice, sending pictures from mobile devices can be used to clearly describe situations.
    • Video – With the advent of front-facing cameras on mobile devices, video has become a great option for communicating very complex topics between employees or even remote support employees.
  • Secure Messaging – Will your employees be relaying confidential (PII or HIPAA) or proprietary information? Having a modern communication tool that is properly secured and can audit these communications can lower your legal exposure.
 

Setting up Comms Tools to Drive Value

There are a few fundamental things you need to be successful at taking advantage of the above items:

  • Structure For Efficiency – If you are implementing a text-based component to your solution, take advantage of canned messages and support type-ahead/recommendations for free form messages.
  • Implement a Hierarchy Matched to your Business – One of the problems with walkie talkies and radios is that everyone has to hear every message. With modern communication tools, you can build a hierarchy that supports who sees and receives messages.
  • Support Message Acknowledge/Read Receipt – Implementing read/acknowledgment functionality reduces anxiety amongst employees and reduces over-communication fatigue.
  • Implement SSO/User Awareness  – If you have multiple employee tools on your mobile devices, build single sign-on into your communication tool.  BlueFletch has built an Enterprise Launcher that uses single sign-on with multiple communication tools (such as Zebra’s WFC). We have found that this SSO process helps prevent employees from “forgetting” to sign onto the communication tools.
  • Consider Archival Usage – If you are archiving messages and communications, you can start to take advantage of modern AI and Machine Learning to run message analytics and build a better understanding of the problems your employees are facing.

Small Savings Make Big Savings

Over time, operational wins like the ones described above add up to save lots of money. For example, in Retail:

  • Additional Customer Facing Time – If you could give each employee in your company an additional 10 minutes back per day to interact with customers it could add up to millions.
  • Improve Processes Like Out of StockBetter cross-store communications around stock lookups across locations could reduce failed sales due to out-of-stocks (a problem currently costing brick and mortar stores $1 trillion dollars).
  • More Efficient BOPIS Experiences – Improved communication around in-store pickup for online orders can allow for a seamless customer experience, the opportunity to cross-sell and save associates from searching for a product.
 

We Would Love Your Feedback

If you have questions on how to get messaging right for your business or enterprise, feel free to reach out to us at Info@BlueFletch.com

Why Rugged Android over iOS

By | Ideas For Your Business

Rugged Android is Not Sexy, but…

As a company, BlueFletch has done a fair amount of development on both Android and iOS and has experience with the pros and cons of each.   Personally, I love Apple mobile devices.  The hardware is always top notch for both phones and computers. But, despite my personal affinity for Apple,  we typically end up advising most clients to go with rugged Android devices after we run device evaluations and pilots for them.

We have done device selection and strategic mobile consulting with a large number of companies across different industries and I can speak to problems we have observed with iOS in enterprise roles. There is a reason that companies like Target, JCPenny, Lowes, and Kohls have all tried IOS and moved away from Apple after a single generation of devices.  Android rugged devices are designed to be used by employees in multiple shift environment over a 3-5 year lifespan…consumer devices are designed to be used for 13-18 months until the next awesome phone is released.

Rugged Android Scanner

Lessons from the Real World

The following are the iOS downsides we have experienced during our projects:

  • Device damage rate  – We have observed clients with a 20%+ monthly repair rate on fleets of iOS devices.  You don’t have to run a costs analysis on employee productivity to know that the hidden costs of the lack of ruggedization are much higher than the savings of buying consumer devices.
  • Battery Cycle – Most modern cell phones are rated between 400-600 charge cycles before the battery begins to have diminishing performance.  At most retailers we work with, we have observed battery degradation within a year.  We prefer devices with replaceable batteries. Additionally, for Android devices, you can typically get heavier duty batteries that will run a longer shift.
  • Inconsistent OS upgrade changes/support – Apple has been known to deprecate certain functionality between OS upgrades with limited input from enterprise users. We had one example where they shut down a set of APIs we were using because in the consumer world developers could use them for malicious purposes. More recently, with iOS 13, there are a number of major changes that are going to break lots of iOS functionality that our clients are using on their enterprise apps.
  • OS Upgrade for hardware – Apple has been known to drop OS upgrade support for older models of phones.  This left some retailers in a spot where they could no longer get support for their MDM (e.g., Airwatch).  Additionally, the OS upgrade process for Apple devices was a bit less controllable than for Android devices. We prefer to have tight control of when OS upgrades are deployed and installed on devices to allow for proper regression testing of LOB applications. I love Zebra’s Lifeguard Program where they provide monthly patches and will provide security patches for up to 5 years of a device’s release. Honeywell has a similar type of process with their Mobility Edge Program.
  • Device Theft – I visited a large retail chain 12-months post iOS device roll-out and was asking an associate about the iOS devices:  The response was that they had had a pretty large amount of them stolen or that had walked off.  I have observed device theft of rugged devices go up, but we have been able to put better software security controls in place on Android devices than on iOS.
  • Device Repair Support – Zebra and Honeywell do a pretty good job with their repair process for devices.  Apple repair and support has gotten better, but I perceive it is designed around consumer repairs (e.g. not focused on the typical enterprise depot experience). If may become problematic if you want OEM parts and repairs for an iOS phone 2-3 years after release.
  • Enterprise APIs and tooling – Zebra, Honeywell, Samsung, and Google all provide tooling for managing devices in the enterprise.  We have a single sign-on solution that allows our clients to customize the Login SSO experience on Android devices (https://bluefletch.com/blog/bluefletch-enterprise-launcher-vs-other-android-launchers/ ).  We are not able to build this type of functionality into kiosk iOS devices.
  • Enterprise Analytics – Apple restricts data that you can get from their iOS (to protect consumer),  we have built products and tooling around Android’s APIs that allow enterprises to get better visibility into their fleets of mobile devices.
  • Employee Familiarity with OS – I had one CIO indicate he felt iOS was the best decision since “everyone uses it.”  I did a walk of their primary Distribution Center and only found 2 employees who had an iPhone (out of the 90 I talked with).  The rest of the people in the DC used Android devices. It is worth reviewing the device demographics of your Store employees to analyze what they are actually familiar with.
  • Developer Build Ecosystem – If you want to use iOS devices, prepare to buy all of your development team Apple computers.  Android development IDE is well supported across all platforms Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Where iOS works the Best in Enterprise

The following are the uses cases where I typically recommend looking at IOS devices for your employees:

  • Replacing devices less than 24mo – If you are fine replacing hardware every 24 months, it reduces the number of concerns identified in the above section.  If you are looking at minimizing costs, Samsung and Nokia devices are what we typically see clients go with.
  • Higher Economic Salaried Employees – Based on our research, we found that iOS users skewed toward higher economic stature.  If you are deploying devices to Doctors or Salespeople, iOS might be a better choice.
  • Specific Apps Designed for the iOS ecosystem – If there are specific Apps designed explicitly for the iOS ecosystem that your employees need (e.g. Stylebook, some photo apps)
  • Tablet Interactions – For employees designers and associates interacting with clients, iPads show better as a platform. We have run POCs with Android and iOS tablets, and salespeople typically preferred the Apple tablets.
  • Single Assigned Carry Device –  If someone is carrying the device as their personal and carry devices,  iOS is a good platform. Examples of this include Pilots and Flight Attendants for Delta Air Lines.

Source: news.delta.com

If you have additional questions or are interested in hearing more about our experiences with different mobile devices in the enterprise you can reach out to us at Info@BlueFletch.com

 

-Brett Cooper

Challenges to Consider with Enterprise Android OS Upgrades

By | Enterprise Mobility

OS Upgrades and Security Patches in the enterprise hardly ever consist of just a simple step. Apps need to be targeted for a new Android SDK, newly introduced settings must be decided on, and mobility extensions may need to be updated. On top of that, there are considerations for the varying environments and device states that must be accounted for. This post will highlight some of the challenges BlueFletch has encountered managing OS Upgrades in hopes to get your team thinking about hurdles that you may experience along the way.

BlueFletch has been tasked with developing a process and deploying OS Upgrades for many large fleets of enterprise Android devices numerous times over the years. Some of the problems are common across the board, and some are unique. In any case, we can group these challenges into three core areas: Network, Device Behavior, and Store Operations.

Networks

  • Poor networks: It’s 2019 and we still see sites with slow network connections resulting in unreliable downloads from limited bandwidth. This is especially true and problematic in rural areas, as we experienced when upgrading devices from inland Australia.
  • Unreliable downloads: Downloading large files from a remote server occasionally leads to partial or corrupted downloads. We have seen multiple retries needed to successfully and completely download the update package. Ensuring that remote servers are scaled properly or using local servers instead reduces the frequency.
  • Network over-utilization: After business hours, systems like POS’s run backup that impact bandwidth during OS Upgrade service windows. It is important to find these windows of limited network utilization and deploy during them to ensure you have reliable download performance. OS Patches can easily exceed 100Mb and when 40 devices concurrently attempt to download, networks quickly go pear-shaped.

Device Behavior

  • Persistence storage: An OS Upgrade will wipe everything from the device unless it is designated as persistent and stored in a secure folder. Unfortunately, some clients overuse this folder and the resulting lack of memory will cause nothing to persist. Ensuring only critical applications and settings are included in Persistence will provide a higher likelihood of success. At a minimum, the WiFi settings and MDM Agent must be persisted to apply to all other desired images.
  • Loss of proxy: When migrating devices from Jellybean (4.1) to KitKat (4.4), we found that the WiFi profile would remain on the device but wouldn’t carry over the proxy settings. The client required proxied traffic to reach the cloud-based MDM, thus all control over the device was lost.
  • AirWatch unenrollment after Upgrade: After an Upgrade, the AirWatch Agent reinstalls and validates enrollment. During a large deployment, we found a bug that affects about 5% of devices. Instead of re-enrolling, the Agent unenrolls the device and the link to the MDM is lost. The device becomes nearly a stock Android device that must be reconnected and enrolled.
  • Battery levels: Android requires at least 30% battery level to apply any patches or OS Upgrades. Ensuring the device is in a cradle increases upgrade success rates, but we have seen clients with not enough cradles to house all of their devices. One client didn’t even have cradles at all!
  • Non-compliant devices: Devices that are not fully compliant will always be an issue with a large enterprise fleet. How will these handle upgrade flow if they are missing a critical component like Zebra Power Manager? We separate these devices off into a different remediation path and clean them up periodically.

Operational

  • Non-business hours: Deploying during non-operating hours becomes tricky when dealing with stores across multiple time zones. Having the ability to phase deployments across local times will maximize service windows and give the most runway for Upgrades. Ideally, sites and devices are already grouped for the waves.
  • User interaction (barcode scan): We’ve experienced some scenarios where a process cannot be completed entirely over-the-air. For example, a client needed to connect to a proxied network to receive download and install commands so a StageNow barcode scan was required to add to the network. Barcodes should also be on-hand for remediation activities when a device does not re-enroll correctly or WiFi does not connect.
  • End of shift process: Stores should already be cradling their devices on close of business, but if they are not a huge opportunity to service devices in an ideal state is being missed. Enforcing proper device check-in ensures they are charging, close to WiFi, and most importantly – accounted for. Extra communications should be broadcast to cradle during the OS upgrade service window.
  • Automation in MDM: An OS Upgrade is rarely composed of just one .zip file to update the operating system. Many times there are driver updates, application updates required, and new settings that must be applied. Being able to automate these through triggers and inclusion rules will reduce breakpoints and minimize service time. A device should be able to have a “one-click” process that is thoroughly tested and escape proof.
  • Cleanup of old files: Devices may have gone through upgrades in the past already. Legacy files from prior OS upgrade activities sometimes are not cleared off and space needs to be made for the download of new packages. Surveying device storage ahead of time indicates if files need to be deleted early in the process.

Many of these challenges we’ve experienced can be overcome in a variety of creative ways. However, some required us to write code to handle them programmatically. We decided to combine all the solutions into a single OS Update Tool for Zebra. In my next blog post, I will address how our tooling solves these problems in detail. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to visit our microsite for our OS Update Tool or contact us at info@bluefletch.com

Richard Makerson Selected to Join Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020

By | Ideas For Your Business

ATLANTA – (May 1, 2019) – Leadership Atlanta, one of the oldest sustained community leadership programs in the nation, today announced BlueFletch CEO & Managing Partner, Richard Makerson, will join the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020.

The Leadership Atlanta Class of 2020 program includes 84 established leaders from areas such as education, law, nonprofit, technology, media, healthcare, politics and government and are chosen to participate in a nine-month, executive-level series. Through retreats, full-day seminars, service projects, discussion groups and community tours, members explore critical community issues, examine themselves as leaders and build relationships of trust and mutual understanding.  The year’s class program is created and executed by a dedicated team of hundreds of Leadership Atlanta alumni volunteers, under the direction of the organization’s staff.  Each of these volunteers donates his/her time, experience, and expertise in order to create the best possible experience for class members.

“We are thrilled to welcome our 50th Class,” said Pat Upshaw-Monteith, Leadership Atlanta president and CEO, in a news release. “We are proud to continue Leadership Atlanta’s tradition of bringing together the region’s most influential, engaged, and creative leaders dedicated to working together for the greater good.”

This year’s Leadership Atlanta class consists of 84 individuals selected from more than 400 applicants across a variety of businesses and backgrounds around Atlanta. See the entire 2020 class here.

About BlueFletch
BlueFletch is team of mobile development experts dedicated to helping our enterprise clients solve business problems using mobility. Clients come to us to build mobile solutions when their IT teams lack bandwidth or available skills. Our team of 40+ experienced consultants, all based out of Atlanta, Georgia, help our clients move fast and deliver results for mobility projects that are critical to the business.

About Leadership Atlanta
A group of concerned citizens at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce formed Leadership Atlanta as a formal initiative to address the growing need for a well-informed cadre of committed leaders. The first class was selected in the summer of 1969. It is the mission of Leadership Atlanta to build a better community for everyone in the Atlanta region through education about the key issues facing the region and inspiring members and others to take on and exercise real leadership committed to serving the common good. Since 1969, a diverse group of over 3,000 men and women from metro Atlanta counties has completed this program.

Best Practices for Mitigating Device Loss

By | Enterprise Mobility

As enterprises decide to invest in purchasing modern rugged devices, they should also be taking steps to mitigate devices from being lost or stolen. The true cost of losing a mobile device (including laptops, tablets, and smartphones) goes far beyond the price of replacement and poses many dangers to an organization if the right measures aren’t in place.

Device loss happens in a variety of ways. Some of the most common include:

  • Employees misplacing them in the store (e.g. left in a box, behind items on a shelf, in a locker or drawer)
  • Employee theft
  • Public theft

It’s important to understand and communicate to stakeholders that device loss is not 100% preventable. Occasionally devices get misplaced by an employee or stolen by a curious customer wanting to resell the hardware on eBay; point being, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. You can, however, put measures in place that mitigate device loss and protect you from security risks. 

Device Accountability

Putting device accountability measures in place is a great way to mitigate device loss for companies of all sizes. Let’s walk through a few measures that can help your organization begin mitigating device loss.

Device Level Single Sign-On

Single sign-on involves users logging in and logging out of whichever device they are using during their shift. Each time a user logs in and logs out of the device an auditable trail, known as check-in and check-out, is created. Having an auditable trail in place often helps reshape employee behavior by improving the level of care they put into handling and securing devices throughout the workday.

Device Telemetry Data

Telemetry data captured on devices can be used as breadcrumbs to hone in on a device’s current or last-known location. It’s especially useful for the warehouse use-case, where finding a misplaced device is difficult due to the large space and noisy environment. Let’s say a device has not checked in since the previous night and an employee during the morning shift needs the device to do their tasking. If the device administrator has access to battery information and network information, along with the check-in/check-out data, they would be able to see who had the device last, when the device was last seen on the network, which network access point the device was pinging and it’s signal strength. With those data points, the admin could begin a more informed search for the device.

Device Tracking

In an age where consumers are accustomed to being able to “find” their devices by simply logging into a portal and clicking a button, it should come as no surprise that Enterprises would want the same level of convenience. Device tracking in real or near real-time is another great way to mitigate device loss and as a result, becoming standard requirements for more and more enterprises.

Audible Alerts

If you own an iPhone or Android smartphone, then you are likely familiar with their respective “Find My iPhone/Device” features. When a device goes missing, the user logs into a portal and sends a command to the phone to force it to play an audible sound, usually at a high volume to make it easier to locate.

Some top-tier solutions, such as BlueFletch EMS, take this feature a step farther by utilizing automatic alerts. Automatic alerts can be leveraged through baked-in configurations that cause devices to play an audible sound whenever certain criteria are met, such as:

  • Predetermined battery threshold is reached (e.g. 15%), the device has not detected movement, and it’s not charging.

We’ve heard the stories before – an employee leaves a device on a shelf in the stock room, accidentally misplaced on top of a box, or left inside a locker with no eyes on it. Automatic alerts to the rescue right? Well, just like the tree falling in the woods, if no one is around to hear it, then…you see where I’m going here? Luckily, there’s a solution for that, and it’s a concept known as broadcasting.

Broadcasts

In a similar vein to the configured automatic alerts, broadcasts occur when certain criteria are met. But instead of dispatching an audible noise, the device sends a notification in a number of different formats, such as:

  • Email
  • Text
  • Notifications to dashboard

Broadcasts are especially advantageous for supply chain, warehouse-centric, or other industries that have large outdoor spaces where hearing an audible alert may not be possible.

Visual Tracking

Arguably the most complex form of device tracking is visual. Visual tracking usually involves a real or near real-time visual representation of devices overlayed on a map or diagram of the site where the devices are deployed. There are a number of factors that need to be considered in order to make visual tracking successful, such as:

  • Sites need to be mapped and recorded, including updates and changes to the layout
  • Strong network infrastructure to support triangulation via access points
  • Define the level of precision that is required
  • Impact study how items stored in a location may affect signal strength (e.g. walking through an aisle of packaged liquids will affect signal strength at certain frequencies
  • Availability of GPS

Device-to-device locating is a more recent development of Visual Tracking. Think of it as using one device as a homing beacon or metal detector to locate another. Solutions can be innovative by leveraging augmented reality (AR) to guide the user towards the missing devices, or as simple as displaying a map or diagram of the site on the screen, which is more in line with the traditional method of visual device tracking.

Final Thoughts

Although there are a number of valuable solutions currently available to help mitigate the loss of enterprise devices, protecting against the loss of enterprise devices starts with employee training around device use best practices. Employees should be responsible for taking simple actions such as:

  • Putting devices on their cradles/chargers whenever an employee finishes their shift
  • Using holsters or lanyards for devices when carrying devices on their person
  • Avoid putting devices down in random places throughout the day
  • Avoid placing devices in drawers or lockers

Rugged enterprise devices are not only expensive to replace, they may be carrying valuable and sensitive data which, if breached, can be costly to the organization in ways that money alone cannot cover.

If you’d like to learn how BlueFletch can help you mitigate device loss, please contact info@bluefletch.com.

Device Loss and Potential Threats to Your Organization

By | Enterprise Mobility

Rugged devices from Zebra Technologies, Honeywell and Samsung are closing the gap in performance to their consumer counterparts, which is allowing enterprises to gain operational efficiencies and provide better customer experiences. However, with the continued adoption and replacement of legacy mobile devices, the security threat that lost devices create should not be ignored.

A recent study from Kensington reveals 4.5% of company-issued smartphones are lost or stolen every year. To put that in perspective, some of your favorite brands managing over 100k devices could be losing nearly 5k devices each year if the organization is not properly protected. IT systems are vulnerable to threats if they don’t facilitate a comprehensive security strategy that includes protocols for lost or stolen devices. 

Below are 3 critical impacts from a lost or stolen device that all organizations with shared devices should prepare against:  

1. Exposure of Company Data

Data should be encrypted at rest and encrypted in motion. Period. Having a device within your 4 walls or only on your network is not enough protection. Data encryption at rest prevents the visibility of business-critical information in the event of its unauthorized access or theft. Many applications, especially on cellular devices used in the field, will need to collect, store and transmit data once a connection is available. Is your data currently protected?

Data encryption in motion has become very commonplace. All the major cloud providers by default support HTTPS connections to ensure that consumers are securely accessing data. However, many enterprises are still hosting APIs on-premise on self-managed infrastructure. Are all connections over HTTPS for your organization?

Questions to consider:

-Are all data connections for the organization over a secure protocol? e.g. HTTP
-When is the last time the organization has conducted an audit of how, where, and what type of data is stored on device?
-If a data breach did occur, how nervous would the organization be?

2. Financial Impact

Lost or stolen devices can also be a financial drain on an organization. Replacing a lost rugged device is not cheap. Many of the rugged devices from Honeywell and Zebra Technologies have a list price north of $1,000 per device. Gartner also estimates that the cost of an unrecovered mobile phone is at least $2,500 per device. These costs are based on the value of the data on the device – the loss of intellectual property and the impact of potentially compromised proprietary data.

When you consider the cost implications of employee downtime, the financial impact rises even further. Lastly, device loss drains IT resources for large organizations, as they would typically have to outsource the break/fix support functions to resellers like Stratix. These additional costs can be saved with the right solutions in place.

Questions to consider:

-What is the ROI for reducing lost and stolen devices by half the organization?
-Does your organization have the correct tools to support lost or stolen device scenarios?

3. Network Vulnerabilities

Back to my earlier point that data must also be encrypted in motion. Why? Not encrypting data in motion gives a bad actor the opportunity to reverse engineer how data is transmitted to APIs and possibly see how devices are connected to your network or access points.

Many software developers use reverse engineering to improve their own code or to improve interoperability between programs. However, a bad actor looking to gain business intelligence or inject malware into a system could begin the reverse engineering of an organization’s infrastructure with a lost or stolen device.

A lost or stolen device can become the key to your network if left unprotected. In December of last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan had to inform nearly 15,000 members of its Medicare Advantage health care plan that their personal data was at risk due to the theft of a device containing their data.

Questions to consider:

-If a rogue device gained access to the network, would that intrusion be detected?
-How often is the network’s firm and access updated?

Enterprise mobility is at the core of what we do at BlueFletch. Typically when organizations bring us in for mobility transformation engagements, preventing lost or stolen devices are not at the top of the priority list. Having the correct processes, procedures and solutions in place are key to protecting IT systems and your mobile investment.

Device Accountability vs. Device Tracking – How They Differ

By | Enterprise Mobility

Rugged devices enable employees to streamline daily tasks and deliver excellent customer service in more efficient ways than ever before. As a result, companies are making wise investments in rugged devices and mobile strategy. 

But what happens when those investments disappear? Well, when they disappear for good, we call that device loss. If they happen to reappear, we call that luck…unless you have good tools in place to mitigate the loss. We won’t go in depth about how to mitigate device loss in this article, but instead, I’d like to set a baseline for two key concepts: Device Accountability and Device Tracking, which together are part of what we will call Device Visibility.

Device Accountability and Device Tracking are often used interchangeably, and understandably so. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a meeting where I was talking to some clients about Device Accountability and how our EMS product can help mitigate their device loss. During the Q&A session after my presentation, I was asked about the various features of how our product could help “track” their devices. It was in that moment when I realized that technology and solutions around understanding the whereabouts of rugged devices in enterprises is still emerging, and so are the concepts behind them. That said, let’s dive into the differences between Device Accountability and Device Tracking.

Device Accountability

Think of accountability as an auditable trail of who, what, when, and where the device has been. The “accountability” helps to reinforce associate behavior in how they handle and maintain the devices. Here are some example questions that may be raised during an audit trail of Device of Accountability:

  • Who had it?
  • When did they have it?
  • How long did they have it?
  • Was it returned to its charger/cradle?
  • Where was it last seen (AP, SSID, cell tower)?

Device Tracking

Tracking is pretty much exactly how it sounds. “Tracking” devices focuses on seeing a device’s movements or history of movements through some form of visual representation or through actions that cause the device’s location to be known. Here are some ways tracking devices occurs:

  • Ping the device
  • See the device on a map (from a terminal or another rugged device)
  • Automatic defensive measures on the device itself
    • Device plays audible tones set to configured thresholds and events
    • Device broadcasts an alert or notification set to configured thresholds

Now that you’re well-versed on the differences between the concepts of Device Accountability and Device Tracking, be on the lookout for my next post discussing best practices for how to mitigate device loss.

BlueFletch Named as a Top 40 Innovative Technology Company

By | BlueFletch Culture & News

Technology Association of Georgia Honors 40 Companies for Innovation and Contributions to the State’s Technology Community

ATLANTA — (Jan. 23, 2019) — The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), the state’s leading association dedicated to the promotion and economic advancement of Georgia’s technology industry, today announced BlueFletch as one of its Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies in Georgia. TAG will recognize honorees at The Summit 2019 event on February 11-12, 2019, at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

TAG’S Top 40 Awards recognize Georgia-based technology companies for their innovation, financial impact, and their efforts at spreading awareness of Georgia’s technology initiatives throughout the U.S. and globally. Read More