Enterprise Mobile Trends were a hot topic at the mPowerBusiness event hosted by Wavefront. The event was packed with more than 15 speakers in a single track. The range of experience and expertise amongst the speakers was a major highlight. From entrepreneurs building mobile solutions for consumers to titans from Samsung, RIM and the Executive Director of the Office of the CIO of BC (who had some very interesting details about the NFC chip being put into BC driver’s licenses in late 2012).
Almost all of the speakers preambled their session with why mobile is important. We’ve heard it all before – mobile is the biggest thing since sliced bread. Well it’s official and enterprises have taken notice. My favorite stats came from Jonathan Carrigan, Product Development manager at the CBC. He illustrated that mobile devices are being used for much more than quickly checking email and doing 30-second tasks. He explained that at the CBC they’ve seen a massive amount of mobile traffic hitting their websites and mobile apps to watch full length TV shows and spend hours interacting with their content.
Here are a few key stats from his speech:
- In 2007 (the year the iPhone launched), mobile traffic grew by 3000%
- In 2011, mobile traffic grew by 160%
- 1/4 of CBC’s total traffic online is from mobile devices
- By 2013, they expect mobile traffic to surpass desktop/laptop traffic
- 75-80% of their mobile traffic is from iOS devices
- In regards to tablets, a full 80% visitors are using an iPad
These kinds of numbers illustrate the rapid adoption; however, another common theme was the challenges faced by enterprises trying to manage mobile devices, security, and application deployment.
Bring-your-own-device is not a new trend in the enterprise space, it’s just becoming commonplace. It used to be the norm to be issued a Blackberry on your first day at the job, but now employees will often already have a high powered smartphone that they’re comfortable with. Enterprises can either resist employees using their own devices or empower them to use whichever device they like. If the employee already has a good phone, they’re likely to end up carrying both.
BYOD is a pain for enterprise IT because they need to support more platforms, devices, operating systems, and applications. The days of the one size fits all “Blackberry enterprise” are gone and have been quickly replaced by a slew of iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, and increasingly Windows Phones.
The challenge for IT is to make sure employees have access to the data they need; meanwhile, retaining the ability to remove that data when the device is lost or the employee leaves the company. This is handled by MDM.
Mobile device management handles the first challenge by managing the core business functions: email, calendars, and address books – all with reliable encryption and remote wipe capabilities. From a device perspective, Android (specifically Samsung devices) has taken this challenge head on by packing their OS with hardware encrypted interfaces with Microsoft Exchange Server. This enables Android users (much like myself) to link their default mail client to Exchange email servers while IT can remote wipe their device if it’s forgotten on the subway.
From a server perspective, I was really pleased to hear that Blackberry is improving their BES to support management of Android and iOS devices. This is a great move by Blackberry to incentivize their 275,000 BES customers to continue using RIM’s infrastructure even as users are diversifying their mobile devices.
CoIT and MAM
The consumerization-of-IT (aka CoIT), is the increasing expectations of employees to freely install applications from app stores such as the iTunes App Store or the Android Marketplace. That’s all fine and good, but how do employees get access to custom enterprise apps? That’s where mobile-application-management (MAM) solutions come in.
MAM solutions enable IT to create their own private app store where employees can select and install applications of their choosing. From there they can deploy off-the-shelf apps and apps built specifically for their company. A MAM, such as Partnerpedia‘s, will then handle all the details of deployment, licensing, and revoking access.
Another major advantage of a MAM is that it supports BYOD. Users can use their own device, install the custom app store and run both Angry Birds (from public app stores) and their company’s private apps side-by-side. Then when the employee leaves, the company can revoke access to corporate apps without destroying the employee’s coveted Angry Birds high scores.
HTML5 vs Native Apps
As the spirited J. Joly hit the stage, I thought the crowd was going to erupt in a debate about the native VS web-based app mobile development approaches. J and his team at dimeRocker have been killing it on the HTML5 side and demonstrating how powerful web-based applications can be. Between him and Carrington, from CBC, they had some pretty convincing arguments about the benefits of starting with a web-based approach.
I’ve spoken at length of the benefits of starting with an HTML5 development strategy, so you know where I stand and almost all speakers echoed the same sentiment. With a mobile strategy start small, pick a few easy wins, and get it out the door. Pick one user and solve their problem, then expand. Often this approach is well suited to a HTML5 (read: web-based) solution. If the application is mainly there to display data and interact with forms, then web-based is the most efficient approach from both a cost and timeline perspective, especially if you want to target a broad array of devices.
From there, if the web-app picks up and proves useful for the company – it may be time to consider more powerful native applications.
LBS and NFC
The last two common themes at this year’s mPowerBusiness was location-based-services (LBS) and near-field-communication (NFC). Now that we’re all walking around with GPS enabled smartphones in our pockets, there are a lot of location based services taking off. Rob Goerhring from Contigo (cleverly named after the Spanish word for “with me”), spoke of the powerful (and sometimes privacy invading) opportunities to track shipments, equipment, and even people. His service enables companies to track what’s important to their business and he shared lots of interesting case studies.
Tracking shipments and vehicles is an obvious application, but how about tracking remote or isolated workers? By using LBS, companies are able to make sure their workers are safe – in the event a worker is in peril, they have a location enabled panic button that can trigger emergency services. The key concerns when using LBS is that the business is using it to improve efficiency and safety as oppose to employee monitoring.
NFC is our little tech darling that is yet to be – in Canada at least. Only a fraction of smartphones in the market are NFC enabled, but that will rapidly change. We’re all on 1-3 year hardware refresh cycles and our next devices will likely be NFC enabled. These devices will power a plethora of previously pocket packing products: key cards, transit passes, driver’s licenses, care cards, payment methods, to name only a few. While we’re stuck scanning QR codes, they’re already using NFC regularly in Japan.
Optimus provides mobile application development services in Vancouver, Canada. We develop cross-platform mobile applications using both HTML5 and native languages. We specialize in HTML5, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. If you’d like to learn more about the mobile application development process and what it would take to get a mobile app made for your company, give us a call. We’d be glad to sit down and discuss your needs.
(image credit: Wavefront)