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.
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.
Editors note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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.
Jeffrey Wongo – Android Developer
Relaxed but Professional
As an intern at BlueFletch, I could not have asked for a better environment to gain professional exposure and hone my skills as a software developer. The days leading up to to my first day on job were hopeful and nerve wracking; however, upon starting I quickly came to realize that what little nerves I had were completely negated by the combination of my friendly, approachable coworkers and a work environment that promotes open communication and collaboration. With weekly company-wide standups, frequent code reviews, and lunch-and-learn presentations, BlueFletch makes it clear that learning and open interaction are key foundations to a successful organization.
The first project I worked on was the Enterprise Launcher for BlueFletch’s Enterprise Mobility System (EMS). Similar in function to the home screen on a regular Android device, the Enterprise Launcher, designed for rugged devices, adds a layer of control and meets the needs of any organization with multiple shared android devices. Specifically, I was tasked with updating and consolidating the different ways an associate could log into the Launcher (currently LDAP, Google Sign In, and Office 365). The end result would be that an organization would have the ability to select from these options without any external support. While working on this project some of the things I learned about included oAuth2 authentication, API calls using Retrofit, android navigation control, and much more.
After wrapping up the previous project I was tasked with replacing the backing local database for the Support Analytics android app. This app, also part of the EMS system, was responsible for displaying and sending information about the device (battery percentage, network status, temperature, etc) to a server. The issue was that the local database it used to store the data was not only difficult to test, but also unnecessarily inflated the app’s file size. While migrating the database to a different, more lightweight implementation, I had a first-hand experience of how external libraries interact and sometimes conflict with each other. I was also introduced to the idea of mocking when testing an application.
For the remainder of my internship I worked on two projects as part of an agile-driven team. I worked on bug fixes and implemented new features on several android apps. Unlike EMS, these projects involved active sprints and high client interaction. In addition to improving my skills and knowledge of android development, working on these projects gave me the valuable experience of collaborating with a team where each person had a specific role. From daily team standups to tracking progress with task management software, I was able to witness the SCRUM methodology in a real world context.
Having the opportunity to work on multiple relevant products was an invaluable aspect of this experience. I was able to witness the different design patterns and architectures I learned and heard of in school being implemented in projects with actual value. As someone kicking off their career as a developer, BlueFletch was the perfect environment to advance my knowledge while working on interesting, challenging problems.
Years ago when I worked at Accenture, I participated in an innovation contest sponsored by the United States Postal Service (USPS) account that I was on. The goal was to cultivate innovative ideas that USPS could leverage (or Accenture could use to sell additional work).
The A-10 Warthog – Useful is Beautiful
Back when it was first introduced in the early 80s, the A-10 Thunderbolt was cited by the Washington Post as the ugliest and slowest jet in the Air Force. Due to it’s awkward looks, it was giving the name “Warthog” and the name stuck. If you are not familiar with the A-10 it is essentially a giant machine gun the size of a Volkswagen that fires 70 rounds of 7 inch armor piercing bullets per second, with two engines tacked on, some wings, and a carbon fiber bathtub for the pilot to sit in…. That’s about it.
Over the last 40 years it has continuously proved itself to be incredibly useful in the role that it was built for (tank killer and close air support of troops on the ground). During the initial Gulf War, the Warthogs destroyed over 4000 ground targets with the loss of only 4 aircraft. The Warthog has continued to operate successfully in campaigns against ISIS and other conflicts all over the globe.
In the early 2000’s, the US Government decided that it was going to replace the A-10 with the next generation “Swiss Army Knife” jet known as the F-35. The F-35 was designed to do everything: Air-to-Air Fighter… check, Bomber… check, Ground Support… check, Can opener.. check. Due to the complexity of building a one size fits all multi-role air platform, the program is hundreds of billions over budget and aircraft are just now entering active service roles. As a result of these delays and the uncertainty around the F-35, it was decided in 2016 that the Warthog would continue to remain in service for the foreseeable future.
One of the key lessons I take away from the success of the A-10: designing individual tools to solve a specific key mission can be better and more cost effective than building a single tool that solves every mission.
We Built Ourselves the Warthog of Android Launchers
Atlanta, GA – August 13, 2018 BlueFletch, award-winning leader in innovative mobile technology solutions, is proud to announce CEO and Managing Partner, Richard Makerson, has been nominated for Small Business Person of the Year, Best Minority Entrepreneur Award. The annual Small Business Person of the Year Award is brought to you by Atlanta Business Chronicle in partnership with Metro Atlanta Chamber.
The annual Small Business Person of the Year Awards pays tribute to top entrepreneurs leading their companies to success and honors outstanding entrepreneurs in metro Atlanta. Judges evaluate the nominations and choose finalists to return for interviews with the judging panel to determine the winner.
General criteria for evaluating excellence in entrepreneurship includes achieving exceptional business results that may include developing and achieving projected revenue goals, increasing workforce significantly, creating effective market awareness, demonstrating business leadership and/or developing a solid business foundation with clear goals and future growth objectives.
Candidates show exemplary business achievement, customer growth, community leadership, industry influence and entrepreneurial success, as well as demonstrate extraordinary financial success, in the past year.
“Being nominated and recognized by the judges with the Atlanta Business Chronicle has been a great experience. As a small business owner to be nominated for your hard work and sacrifice is extremely special,” said Richard Makerson. “We spend so much of our time focused on our clients, team members and how to solve the next problem that experiences such as these remind us of how much we have accomplished in 10 years.”
Categories include Rising Star, Top Job Creator, Best Veteran Entrepreneur, Best Minority Entrepreneur, Experienced Entrepreneur 7+ Years, Emerging Entrepreneur 3-7 Years, Early-Stage Entrepreneur – 1-3 Years.
Nominees for Best Minority Entrepreneur include Richard Makerson, CEO & Managing Partner of BlueFletch, Liz Frayer, President, Intrepid and Lisa Williams, Chief Insight Executive, L Insight Group.
Award winners will be announced at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on Thursday September 20, 2018. Register here
Elephant Zebra in the Room
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 (or 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 Device OSs. Those builds, called LifeGuard™ by Zebra, provide security and support beyond the standard 3 year support window for Android. Extending support extends the life of rugged devices and lowers the cost of ownership.
Are you scheduling OS patches into your 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?