As with all technology in the enterprise, uptime is critical for handheld devices. To ensure this, mobile software deployments for thousands of devices requires careful planning, testing and attention to detail. I’ve outlined some best practices and tips learned from assisting many companies with their rugged Android deployments via Mobile Device Management tools (MDMs). These are the key areas that I typically will provide guidance to companies on.
When rugged devices first were deployed into the wild, the modern MDM solutions we know today did not exist. The pioneers of enterprise mobility had to create solutions for the problems they faced. Early in my career at Accenture we essentially built a platform on top of Windows CE that allowed applications to shared common components in order for us to rapidly build mobile applications. However, so many of the legacy devices that have served in warehouses, grocery stores, airports, etc., need to be replaced and so should the old way of managing rugged devices.
Near field communications (NFC) is an interesting technology that is built into most modern smartphones. Recently I read an article outlining how to read NFC tags on Android. The article did a good job at giving a basic overview of the implementation, but using the steps described left me with some questions and for my use case it did not work.
Each organization will have a unique approach to staging devices; however, there are overarching principles that should be considered by all organizations. Ensuring the topics below have been addressed should help shape a reliable and scalable process for provisioning ruggedized Android devices. These concepts and recommendations are based on BlueFletch’s experience of designing and piloting staging processes for many clients, from a few hundred devices to over forty thousand.
Lots of buttons means it’s awesome… right?
I had a recent Uber ride in a Ford Explorer and was incredibly overwhelmed by the quantity of buttons on the dashboard. It occurred to me that there must have been dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the design and review cycles for this product before it went to market. I wondered if at any point in time someone stopped the meeting to ask: “Is this the best design for our average user”
By contrast, the picture below is of the steering wheel of a Formula one car. The design is by no means simple. But, every one of the buttons is designed for a specific use case that the driver needs to perform during the race. Nothing in the car is there because a designer said to themselves “I guess they might need a button to do XYZ… lets throw it in so the marketing guys stop bugging us about innovative features.”
Upon further analysis of my preferences, I realized I have a bit of crush on things that are very useful but are also simple. The trick is to figure out how to balance these two sides of the simple/useful equation… It’s harder than you think.
With most companies focusing on mobile strategies and investing heavily in software, tools and devices, there is a natural need to kick the tires before pulling the trigger on their next mobile-related investment. A proof of concept (POC) is an excellent way to test the feasibility of an idea or demonstrate a theoretical concept in practice.
My career path to Chief Executive Officer at BlueFletch was built on years of mobile proof of concepts. Many of these POCs have been in large enterprises and governmental organizations with a key focus on replacing legacy devices. Usually these companies require devices that are ruggedized and can survive in the end-user’s workplace environment.
We are entering another era of ruggedized device replacement for enterprises. The current fleet of devices in service are well past their service lifetime and are running Microsoft Windows CE, with an operating system that is effectively 10+ years old. Others, are running terminal emulation applications that should have been replaced in the late 1990s.
Editors note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Are you suffering from any of the following symptoms: panic setting in when your phone’s battery is dying, frustration from not being able to find an open outlet at the airport, or being tangled in a web of charging cables? You just might be one of the billions experiencing inadequate battery life in smartphones.
Lithium-ion has dominated consumer electronics as the rechargeable battery of choice for years. These batteries are chosen by device manufactures for their high energy capacity and high cycle life, meaning they can be charged and discharged many times without degrading. However, lithium-ion technology hasn’t changed much in 20 years despite the shrinking and thinning form factor of mobile devices and the increase in complexity of software. There have been only marginal improvements to capacity, but manufacturers leverage it to power advanced chip and graphic specs instead of increasing device uptime.
Simply put, if you want more battery life out of a lithium-ion battery, you are going to have to purchase a larger device to house a larger battery. As long as the current materials for Li-ion batteries are used, there will not be a substantial improvement to battery life. The ceiling for battery life is only so high due to size/efficiency constraints of lithium-ion.
Looking towards the future, I will highlight emerging battery and charging advancements that will revolutionize battery efficiency.
Sulfur has long been used as an electrolyte in batteries due to its natural abundance on earth, but sulfur is not a great conductor and deteriorates easily. Researchers at both UT-Dallas and Penn State are now experimenting with adding molybdenum to the sulfur, which has shown to increase stability and conductivity to a point where it could be commercially viable.
These advanced compounds overcome the capacity ceiling of lithium-ion and are less expensive to make, weigh less, and are better for the environment. Initial testing has demonstrated 3x to 5x improvement in capacity as compared to Li-ion, and therefore 3x to 5x battery life in your smartphone. Coin batteries have been used for lab testing, however the compounds could be applied to smartphone batteries in the same manner.
Currently, issues with stability over many charge cycles need to be proven but the rising cost of materials to create traditional lithium-ion batteries and the high environmental impact will push for the advancement of Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) sooner than later.
Researchers at Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) have created a battery made of graphene “balls”. The synthesized graphene and silica, in the shape of spherical structures, are used as the anode and cathode in lithium-ion batteries. Lab testing has shown these batteries can be fully charged in as little as 12 minutes (5x faster) without risk of overheating.
While recharging batteries quicker is desired by consumers, this material does not yet increase the capacity of the Li-Ion battery and therefore does not affect battery life. Samsung has filed for a patent in both the US and Korea and we could see this rapid charging tech added to their consumer devices first.
OS Migrations Made Simple
Over the last 6 years, BlueFletch has been assisting enterprises in their migration from their legacy windows CE devices to Rugged Android Zebra devices.
BlueFletch typically helps organizations with:
- Proof of Concept
- Mobile Strategy
- Application Conversion
- MDM Structure / Setup
- Deployment Management
In the attached PDF, we cover the highlights of our approach and how we can assist organizations with moving to modern rugged Android devices.
Download Here: BlueFletch OS Migration
Elephant Zebra in the Room
Editors note: This post was originally published in August 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Enterprise mobility’s elephant in the room is that Android security patches are rarely applied to the corporate-owned mobile fleet. The mobile operating system is a proven vehicle for attack via vulnerabilities in the OS, and yet companies struggle to apply patches in a timely manner.
Google proactively (and sometimes reactively) releases monthly patches for Android via the Security Bulletin. The same patches are provided to device manufacturers, like Zebra, for inclusion in their custom Android OSs. Those builds, called LifeGuard™ by Zebra, provide security and support beyond the standard 3-year support window for Android. Extending support with security patches extends the life of rugged devices in the enterprise and lowers the cost of ownership.
Are you scheduling OS patches into your mobility release schedule? If a critical patch is required (e.g. Spectre), how quickly can your organization test, schedule and deploy across hundreds–or thousands–of corporate devices?
Workshops are an easy way to get projects off to the right start, which is one of the many reasons why BlueFletch encourages these engagements.
If setup and run correctly, these sessions can reveal the client’s needs, business goals, and written assumptions, while also allowing your team to better determine the cost, effort, and risks of a project. Ultimately, the goal of a workshop is to define the project roadmap and help stakeholders move from uncertainty to certainty.
Sure, there are some scenarios where a workshop may not be necessary; for example, if you have worked with a client before, know their working style and have clear documentation of the project goals, a workshop session may not be the best use of everyone’s time. However, if you’re working with a prospective or new client, workshops should strongly be encouraged. If a workshop doesn’t take place, you run the risk of misconstruing project objectives, scope and deliverables, slowing down a project (you can cover in one workshop what you might cover in 5 shorter meetings), missing an opportunity to showcase your team’s expertise and thought leadership, and most importantly – getting into business with a client that doesn’t jibe with your company’s principles and culture.
If conducted properly, workshops can bring a high level of clarity into the conversation, enabling you to understand the project requirements, functional specifications, content modeling, solution architecture, and so on. But to run an effective workshop, a degree of preparation and strategy is required beforehand.
Here’s some key points to consider leading up, during, and after the workshop: