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Is your smartphone more reliable than your desktop?

I have encountered an interesting prejudice. Some people have confidently informed me that the smaller the form factor, the more reliable it is.  Laptops are more reliable than desktops, but less reliable than tablets, which aren’t as rugged as handhelds.

To be clear, whatever rugged platform AMREL sells you – tablet, laptop, or handheld – it has been built for the utmost reliability.   We build our computing solutions as if lives depend on them, because a lot of the times lives do depend on them.

If you have never heard of the “smaller is more dependable” myth, don’t worry about it; most of the experts that I talked to never heard of it either.  In fact, for reasons, which will be explained, it doesn’t make sense on multiple levels.

Still, I wondered why some people might think their smaller platforms are more dependable. Here are few theories.

The problem is not the hardware, but the operating system (OS). Most desktops still use Windows, while many smaller form factors do not.  Some point to Windows as the culprit behind the “bigger is more unreliable” myth. Windows has a number of issues which could contribute to more frequent breakdowns.

For one thing, the Windows OS on your desktop has a lot of updates, whereas the Android OS on your smartphone may be frozen.  Frequent updates create more points of failure and more “bloated” software. Furthermore, Windows seeks updates during the boot process, which can overload the CPU, leading to a significantly slower starting time.

Legacy issues are another cause of “bloated” software.  Your brand new Windows OS has to accommodate programs that were written when floppy discs were still considered an exciting new innovation. This leads to complications, more resources being used, and just more problems. Also, developers for the newer Android OS can learn from the mistakes that Windows has made previously.

Some claim that Windows is more susceptible to malware and viruses than the OS typically used on smartphones.  This makes sense considering how much older and widespread Windows OS are.

In addition to the Windows OS, some point the finger at poorly written applications. Apple is notoriously strict about the apps than can run on its equipment. Windows less so.

Nope, hardware is the problem. Supposedly, hardware used in laptops and desktops are much more varied than those found in tablets and smartphones. This is more challenging for their OS, and a more diverse supply chain contributes to quality issues.  I am not sure this is true, but some folks believe it.

More flexibility means less rigidity, which means less reliability. You have a lot more options on your desktop than your smartphone. A simpler, locked-in, frozen device has less ways of fouling up.  It is more likely that your machine gun will jam than your sword will break.

The simplicity of the smaller form factors means they’re easier to upgrade. All computer companies constantly improve their platforms. However, smartphone manufacturers have an easier time of fixing problems, because of the more limited nature of their solutions. Again, I am not sure I totally buy this explanation, but it is an argument that I have heard.

Actually, smartphones are not more reliable than desktops. We throw away broken smartphones. We repair desktops. We mentally compartmentalize the two tasks differently, so we think never think about debugging smartphones, whereas we remember the frequent annoying calls to tech support for our desktops.  Think of how often you buy a smartphone as compared to how often you buy a laptop or desktop.

The “smaller is more reliable” myth is really, stupid and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about technology. By far and away, this was the sentiment that I heard expressed the most by AMREL’s engineers.

“Compared to a smartphone, a desktop is a large truck,” explained Magnus Pyk, AMREL’s Director of Engineering. “It has more power, more torque, and just more room for more stuff. You can put an entire recording studio on a desktop, far more than what a tablet or smartphone is capable of. Smaller form factors are lowered powered, simpler systems. This is worse than comparing apples to oranges.”

In other words, you can’t compare the different platforms, because they are not comparable. They are built for entirely different range of capabilities. A compact car might get better gas mileage than a tank, but if I had to go into battle, I know which vehicle I would want.

Whatever form factor you do decide on, you may want to check out AMREL’s complete list of offerings.  No matter what size platform you choose, we have one that you will absolutely, positively be able to depend on.

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Windows 10 Tips & Tricks [VIDEO]

I looked at a number of videos that offer the best “tips and tricks” on the Microsoft’s latest operating system. I found that vast majority fell into 3 categories:

  • Ones that featured narrators who spoke with nearly indecipherable accents.
  • Ones that featured narrators that spoke so fast that I couldn’t figure out what they were saying.
  • My personal favorites: ones featured narrators who spoke too fast with nearly indecipherable accents.

After nearly loosing complete faith in the internet, I checked out my old standby CNET.  CNET has a number of videos with clear explanations for Windows 10 as well as narrators with spoke in an understandable manner.

The videos proclaim what you probably already have heard: Windows 10 fixes many of the problems found in earlier operating systems.  After hearing someone yell for the umpteenth time “The start menu is back!” with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for transcendent sports moments, I grew a little suspicious.

Is it possible that Microsoft has deliberately screwed up some features, so that when they fix them later, people feel even more bonded to this OS? This is a classic technique used by domestic abusers and other grand manipulators.  President Lyndon Johnson used to berate subordinates unmercifully and then give them a car.  Of course, for this to be true, we would have to believe Microsoft to be pure evil.  I leave this to your own judgment.

Below are three videos that I found helpful.  You can also find more CNET videos in their How to webpage.

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Windows 10 is here. Resistance is futile. [VIDEO]

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?  You should if:

  1. You don’t have enough anxiety in your life. Nothing like learning a new operating system to  raise dangerously low levels of stress.
  2. You really, really hate Windows 8. Microsoft set out to fix the mistakes of its earlier OS (The Start menu is back! Yay!).  This is why Windows 10’s unofficial slogan is “Now, 67% less annoying than Windows 8!”
  3. You absolutely, positively must play Xbox games on your laptop. There is an export feature that allows you to do this, and evidently it’s pretty cool.
  4. You have too much privacy and want to received personalized ads. Sure you can opt out of Microsoft’s snooping, but as Alec Meer of the gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun notes: “….  despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how ‘real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.’ There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency.’”

The consensus seems to be that Windows 10 is here to stay, possibly for a long time.  So, if you are a PC user, you will be using Windows 10. Before you upgrade, you  may want to wait for awhile until some of the bugs shake out.

For a more comprehensive review with considerably less snark, watch the video below.

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See you at SOFIC

SOFIC 2015 v2

 

Get a sneak peek!  AMREL will show off its new rugged Android tablets & handheld devices at this year’s SOFIC!

AMREL will feature a preview of some its newest, most advanced rugged computing solutions including:

  • Android/Windows solutions, such our new Android handhelds.
  • Super-slender laptops, such as  the ROCKY RV11 the thinnest, rugged laptop on the market that has a 15.6” display.
  • Powerful handheld & tablets, including our new Flexpedient Android tablet.

 We customize, design, prototype, and deliver solutions faster than anyone

 Learn more at: computers.amrel.com

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AMREL at MCB Camp Pendleton

AMREL will be displaying its latest and greatest at MCB Camp Pendleton on Tactical & Tech Day, Wednesday,  April 22, 2015. We will be showcasing our line of super-slim, ultra-rugged laptops, handhelds, and tablets.

Special sneak peak! Come and get a look at some of our special products before they’re released to the market, including:

  • AT80 Rugged Android Tablet
  • DS11, a tablet so thin you won’t believe it’s fully rugged
  • Many others

Also, on hand will be the RS11 and the RV11, the world’s thinnest, rugged laptops with 13.3″ and 15.6″ displays, respectively. And you won’t want to miss our Android APEX AH53 handheld, so tough it has an IP67 rating.

Learn more about our rugged mobile computing solutions at: computers.amrel.com

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Thinnest, Rugged Laptop with 15” Display is here!

RV11sliderclean1AMREL announced the launch of thinnest rugged laptop with a 15” display.  Leveraging 30+ years of experience of supplying rugged computers to warfighters as well as Public Safety officers, AMREL has developed a fully rugged laptop that is just 1.25 inch thick.

“Durable, rugged computers are traditionally regarded as heavy and cumbersome,” explained Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations.  “However, slimmed-down computers are becoming increasingly popular. At AMREL, we believe soldiers, police officers, and other end-users deserve the best of both worlds so we introduced our ‘Tough & Thin’ series.  This series is dedicated to reducing the size, weight, and power for their mission and application. The 15” ROCKY RV11 laptop is our latest addition.”

AMREL’s “Tough & Thin” series includes:

  • ROCKY DB6 – Atom-powered handheld that is the smallest rugged computer in the world with full Windows OS
  • ROCKY DF6 – ARM-based handheld which runs the Windows CE
  • ROCKY RS11 13” laptop – Only 1” thick
  • An Android handheld is expected to be released soon

“The ROCKY RV11 is an important member of this series,” states Mr. Chen, “because 15” is the size that most of our clients demand for laptop displays.”

Like all AMREL products, ROCKY RV11 is fully rugged.  Independently certified for MIL-STDs 810/ 461, and IP65, it comes standard with a durable Solid State Hard Drive.  Yet, it weighs only 8.16 pounds and is just 1.25 inches thick.

Despite its thinness, ROCKY RV11 doesn’t skimp on power. It has a powerful Intel® Core™ i7 Processor, well-suited for modern data-intensive applications.

Perfect for applications that require rigorous field work, heavy data input, and a large display, the ROCKY RV11can be used for:

  • Onsite Data Collection & Management
  • Front-Line Mapping & Situational Awareness
  • Oil & Gas, Mining, and Construction
  • Field Research & Surveying
  • Combat Control Solutions

To learn more about the RV11 click here.

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The Next Big Thing for Rugged Computers

Since AMREL customizes most of the products we sell, we pay pretty close attention to what our customers want. While we do not claim to be prophets, we have noticed certain trends when we discuss computing solutions with our clients. Here is what we think will be “The Next Big Things” for rugged computers.

Big displays/ Small form factors
We get a lot of inquires about the RF10, the only rugged laptop that has a 17” display. Same thing about our DK10 tablet that has a 12” display. Maybe it’s the popularity of mapping applications or maybe everyone is aging and getting poor eyesight. Whatever the reason, people want BIG screens.

At the same time, they want smaller form factors. People are using tablets for tasks that once required laptops, and are using handhelds for applications that once needed tablets. Please call us if you know how to put a 17” display on a smartphone.

ARM race
One key to the popularity of smaller from factors are ARM processors. While more limited in their ability to support full computer functions, they use less energy than traditional processors (such as Intel).

To get around the limitation of ARM processors, computing solutions have adopted “fat server/thin client” model. Computing functions are off-loaded to the cloud. You no longer need a powerful desktop computer to download your email. When your email is cloud based, a simple low powered smartphone can easily check it.

My smartphone, my trash
A consequence of the preference for ARM- based small form factors is that hardware is cheaper and more disposable. If your desktop computer is destroyed, you have not only lost an expensive piece of equipment, but also a lot of valuable data as well. If your smartphone gets trashed, it’s less expensive to replace, and your data lives on in the cloud.

Considering disposability is one of its main attractions, a smartphone that is also rugged may sound like a contradiction in terms. Even if it is relatively cheap to replace, a broken smartphone is still a time waster and a general pain in the rear end. So, we are getting many requests for durable handheld computers. In addition to the DB6, DF6 and our other established small platforms, we plan to soon launch a new line of super-tough handhelds.

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Android rules, but mobile Windows is not dead yet
Android OS is clearly on the rise. Interestingly, this has not slowed down inquires to AMREL for Windows CE-based platforms. Institutions with legacy applications haven’t jumped on the Android bandwagon yet. While continuing to support mobile Windows OS, we plan to dramatically expand our Android offerings in the near future.

Attack of the super-thin computers
As you probably noticed, thin is in. Leaf through any computer magazine, and you will see ads boasting of their slim platforms. While this is primarily a phenomenon of consumer electronics, even the rarefied world of rugged platforms has been affected by “computer anorexia.”

Never one to pass up a good trend, AMREL offers:
• RS11 – With a 13” display, it’s the thinnest rugged laptop in the world
• DB6 – The super lightweight handheld
• RV11 – It is the thinnest rugged laptop with a 15” display on the market

This year we plan to offer a rugged tablet so thin you can cut cheese with it. Well, maybe not that thin, but still…

COTS, COTS, and more COTS
Classify this trend as “more of the same.” One of the biggest consumers of rugged platforms is the US Department of Defense (DOD). They have been COTS obsessed for years, and there is no sign of this mania letting up. COTS products are supposedly cheaper, have better supply lines, and the DOD doesn’t have to worry about keeping their production capabilities alive in times of low demand.

Of course the DOD still hasn’t lost its taste for highly specific requirements. This has led to the phenomena of “Customized COTS,” i.e. off-the-shelf products that can be easily modified. For almost 30 years, AMREL has pioneered “Customized COTS” and continues to be a leader in this field.

Quick & inexpensive prototyping
Incorporating end-user feedback for rugged solutions has always been problematic. With the pace of technological change rapidly accelerating and the increasing uncertainty surrounding possible future wars, adaptability has become ever more critical. Rugged solutions must be designed to be easily and inexpensively modifiable. Since customization is one of AMREL’s core capabilities, we feel very confident in meeting this challenge.

What do you think?
The above list is not be meant to be exhaustive, but just an informal collection of our impressions. What is your vision of the future of rugged computers? Send your thoughts to editor@amrel.com.

Learn more about AMREL’s offerings at computers.amrel.com

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10 Things You Need to Know about Night Vision

Do you need a computer that is night vision compatible? Before you buy, you should know the answers to these 10 questions.

What is a night vision compatible computer?
Night vision compatible computers do NOT possess the capabilities of night vision goggles. They do NOT allow you to see in the dark. Instead they restrict their emission of light, in order to prevent interference with or detection by night vision goggles.

Who needs a night vision compatible computer?
Generally, there are two classes of people who need night vision compatible computers: aviation crews and military ground troops, especially Special Forces. Ground forces use computers with decreased light emissions to avoid detection by the enemy. Airplane crews need computers whose light emissions are restricted, so they don’t blind a nearby pilot who is using night vision goggles.

Are there differences between night vision compatible computers used by aviation crews and those used by Special Forces?
Yes. Filters used to suppress the transmission of light have different level of strength. AMREL’s off-the-shelf night vision solutions use filters that permit light transmission of 2.5%, which is a commonly requested level (alternative filter ranges are available by request). Special Forces requirements can go as low as 1%. Aviation standards (MIL-STD 3009) are not as strict and permit 20% transmission.

One reason there are differences between the two types of night vision compatible computers is that they are used differently. A pilot will use his night vision goggles to fly, but will switch to using his naked eye when viewing instrumentation within the cockpit. On the other hand, a soldier on the ground will use his night vision goggles to view nearby objects as well as ones in the distance.

Another difference is that aviators prefer their night vision to have an anti-glare surface. Ground troops on the other hand do not care.

Sometimes, the markets overlap; Special Forces in airplanes will use computers with night vision solutions to avoid blinding the pilot who is using goggles to fly.

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What is “black background”?
Some Naval applications demand that that night vision compatible equipment emit zero radiation when they are turned off. The requirement for this specification is called “black background.” This leads to stricter requirements than is found in aviation applications.

Can night vision compatible computers have a workable touch screen?
Yes. The filter can diminished the effectiveness of the touch screen slightly, but most people do not notice this.

Why is the suppression of infrared range emissions important?
Night visions goggles use infrared (IR) range. Therefore, night vision filters must suppress light transmitting in that range, so that an enemy using night visions goggles cannot see their computer. Sometimes, you will see phrases about night vision compatible computers, such as “…. reduces your infrared signature.”

Consider the following graph used by Cevians, LLC (formerly a division of Wamco Inc.), an industry leading supplier of filters, to illustrate the suppressive properties of one of their products. Infrared starts at about 700 nm, so this graph shows zero transmission in that range.


nightvision graph

 

What is “full color rendering” and do I need it?

Night vision filters can suppress the spectrum unevenly. Sometimes, the image on the display of a night vision compatible computer will look distorted, even monochromatic.

This is a problem for a variety of applications, especially mapping, which may use color to convey critical detail and information

Night vision filters can be constructed for “full color rendering.” Red looks red, yellow looks yellow and so on. For many applications, this is essential.

What the heck is U´ and V´?
Pronounced “U prime” and “V prime,” these coordinates describe color distortion caused by filters (even “full color” ones have some). An expert can look at u’ and v’ and know how whether or not the filters are appropriate for his application.

Why should I care if my filter is “polymeric”?
Filters made from polymeric materials are not flammable. Especially important for aviation applications.

Are night vision compatible computers “sunlight readable”?
Not with the filters on. Many night vision compatible computers have filters that are removable, so they can be used in the daytime. This leads to an important often unasked question, “Where the heck do I put my night vision filter when I am not using it?” This may seem to be a trivial detail, but when designing a night vision solution, it is an important consideration.

Click here to learn about AMREL’s night vision solutions.

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AMREL New Rugged Night Vision Computing Solutions  

AMREL now offers a full line of turn-key night vision solutions, fully compliant with MIL-STD 3009 and CECOM (CSLP) standards.

“AMREL’s rugged laptops, tablets, and handhelds are the perfect platforms for night vision solutions,” states Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations. “The durability and reliability of our computers makes them practical for both ground and aviation purposes.”

The widespread use of night vision goggles has necessitated the adoption of light restricting filters for mobile computers. Aviation crews must be careful that the light of their laptops and tablets do not blind pilots who use night vision goggles to fly in dark, dangerous areas. Military forces on the ground are keen that enemies cannot detect their presence by using night vision goggles to spot light emitting from their tactical computers.

“Special Forces have used AMREL’s rugged computers for years,” explains Mr. Chen. “We are especially pleased that we can offer them this feature, which enhances their safety by limiting their detectability. Of course, our night vision computing solutions also meet the less stringent aviation standards.”

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AMREL’s Night Vision Computing Solutions virtually eliminate all infrared emissions completely, which is important, since night vision goggles usually work in that part of the spectrum. Overall light transmissions are restricted to just 2.5%. Other levels of light suppression are available on request.

AMREL Night Vision Solutions use the industry-leading SafeNight™* filters. These polymeric filters are nonflammable and offer full color rendering, which is important for mapping applications.

AMREL Night Vision Computing Solutions are available for:

  • ROCKY RS11, the lightest, thinnest rugged laptop in the world (13.3” display)
  • ROCKY DK10 fully rugged tablet (12.1” display)
  • ROCKY DB6 handheld, the smallest, fully rugged handheld with full Windows OS (5” display)
  • Other computing platforms available upon request.

For more information, visit: http://computers.amrel.com/?p=7491

*“SafeNight” trademark is property of CEVIANS, LLC – Formerly a division of Wamco Inc.

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BYOD Pros & Cons [INFOGRAPHIC]

For years, “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) has been a dependable staple of top tech trend lists.  Originally started by employees demanding to use their own devices for business purposes, companies realized that they could boost productivity and decrease costs by adopting BYOD.

Should your enterprise adopt BYOD? Below is a summary of the pros and cons.

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Employees are happy to pay employers’ costs

To a certain extent, BYOD is part of a larger trend of employers shifting costs to employees. Some cost-conscious companies have declared long-time workers to be independent contractors. Workers are not only stripped of benefits, but also forced to pay for their own equipment.

The irony is that BYOD is often demanded by employees. The increased cost to them is usually negligible (they have personal smartphones anyway), and they are saved the hassle of dealing with a separate business device.

The first response by enterprises to BYOD is often negative. IT hates the nightmare of supporting apps for multi-platform use. More importantly, employers worry about securing proprietary information on the employees’ personal devices, which is by far the number one objection to BYOD.

A pretty good example of this is the military. When soldiers started bringing their own devices into theater (even into combat), the military was initially appalled.  How could they possibly keep information secure on consumer devices?

While the security issue is still not resolved, the military is actively exploring BYOD.  For one thing, they see it as a way of leveraging the leading edge of consumer technology.

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Work better by checking your personal email

Probably the single biggest benefit of BYOD is increased employee productivity.  Given the flexibility of choosing their own device, applications, and service plans, workers have been extremely innovative in increasing their efficiency. Another reason for increased productivity is that employees are more likely to work on business activities during their personal time if they can do so on their own devices. Counter-intuitively, according to an exhaustive international study by Cisco, performing personal tasks during business hours also increases employee productivity. Think about that the next time the boss yells at you for playing Clash of Clans.

BYOD = Mobility

It is no coincidence that BYOD emerged as smartphones and tablets conquered the world. Smartphones is the overwhelming device of choice for BYOD with tablets rapidly gaining ground.

Some enterprises have seen BYOD as an efficient way to “go mobile.” No longer anchored to the office, employees can work from home or on the road. Switching work activities from desktop to smartphones is also considered beneficial, because “smartphones are the wave of the future,” i.e. all the cool kids are doing it.

Indeed, mobile phone use is so closely tied to BYOD that their benefits have become blurred. People touting BYOD talk about the wonderfulness of networking employees as well as the importance of sharing and distributing information. When the negatives are discussed, increased use of corporate Wi-Fi is sometimes mentioned, a phenomena that would happen with business-issued smartphones as well.

Your mileage may vary

By any standard, BYOD has been successful. According to Cisco’s study, “….69 percent of IT decision makers (up to 88 percent in some countries) feel that BYOD is a positive development for their organization.”

You may read BYOD enthusiasts citing costs benefits of BYOD. Cisco’s report states that companies can save up to “$1,650 per mobile employee.” The problem with these claims is that benefits are far from uniform.

For one thing, local culture plays a big factor. I wasn’t surprise to learn, for example, that workers using BYOD in Germany had negligible productivity gains. This is just anecdotal evidence, but an inventive acquaintance of mine went nuts working in Germany. He performed every task efficiently, under budget, and before deadline, but his employers hated him.  In the US, employers tell workers to perform task X and will often let them decide how to do it. In fact, they will encourage them to come up with new ideas. In Germany, my friend was told to “perform task X by completing the following steps…” Despite the fact that he successfully did his job, his original approach upset his superiors.  If you live in a culture (or work in a company) that doesn’t value employee innovation, you are unlikely to benefit from BYOD.

Everybody is a winner! (Except for those who lose)

Some supporters will spout various numerous financial benefits of BYOD (“20 to 30% savings!”) without mentioning that these high numbers apply only to the small minority of companies that employ “comprehensive BYOD.” “Comprehensive BYOD” is a term used by Cisco to describe systematic preparation for enterprise-wide integration of BYOD. Unfortunately, it is far more common for enterprises to have a poorly thought-out ad hoc approach for BYOD adoption. See insert below for Cisco’s list of “comprehensive BYOD” capabilities.

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BYOD 2

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Some of the items in the above list illustrate a serious drawback to BYOD. If an enterprise adopts the “comprehensive BYOD” approach, employees may object to the loss of privacy. It is one thing to have monitoring software on a company desktop, but it is another to concede even partial control of your personal smartphone to an employer.

In conversation on a social website, a BYOD supporter claimed that some of these problems can be avoided through cloud applications. Say you’re a company with a highly prized list of clients. Your salesmen want access to this list on their personal smartphones.  Fine you say, as long as you can remote wipe the data on their phones. After all, you don’t want them quitting and taking the list to a competitor.

However, your salesmen are uncomfortable with their employer having any kind of control whatsoever over their personal devices. A solution is posting the list on the cloud (many Customer Relationship Management apps are cloud-based anyway). This solution doesn’t completely eliminate the problem of “data walking out the door,” but it does allow salesman to access to sensitive information, without feeling that their boss is snooping around their phone.

Look before you BYOD

Before adopting BYOD, you need to examine your specific situation. If you operate in a medical environment, how will you address the rather-strict rules on patient privacy? If you want your students to use their own devices for homework, what precautions do you need to curtail cheating? The benefits of BYOD are real, but as with any innovation, you should think carefully before adopting.