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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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.


The Big African Mobile Phone Market

Many of you probably know that Asia is the largest mobile market in the world. Did you know that Africa is the second largest? According to a posting in,

“Digital technology is fast becoming a part of everyday life in Sub-Saharan Africa: by the end of 2014 it is forecast that there will be over 635 million subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa (over 950 million inhabitants). This is predicted to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019.”

“The mobile phone is a leading communication device in the Sub-Saharan consumer market. Mobile users in the region have shown a preference for using their device for a variety of activities that are normally performed on laptops or desktops. Mobile banking is one such example where digital services, via the mobile phone, have moved beyond urban centers to peripheral surroundings and beyond, with significant uptake and usage in rural areas.”

africa mobile


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For more charts, information and lots of photos of Africans using their mobile phones, click here.

The Public Wants & Fears Wearable Computers [VIDEO]

PwC summarized a ton of research about the public’s attitude toward wearable computers. The video below gives a nice overview:

For even more data, visit their consumer intelligence series webpage.

Counter IED training & Mobile Devices

C-IED & Mobile devicesWhen I researched this article about Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) training, I couldn’t help thinking about communities near Tijuana in which the the homes are built out of discarded garage doors.  Garage doors aren’t the first thing anyone thinks of when building a house, but the people near the border didn’t have building materials.  So, they looked around and found what was available: discarded garage doors.

Similarly, the military has a problem: training.  As the land wars wind down in Asia (sort of), training domestically becomes more important.  Simultaneously, training budgets are being squeezed. Future operational goals are unpredictable, so training for diverse scenarios is necessary. Live training is expensive, so more has to be done with less.  Rapid technological change means rapid change in doctrine and tactics. It is important that feedback from ongoing missions be incorporated as soon as possible into training.

Just like the folks in Tijuana, the military looked around for available materials to solve their problems.  What they found were mobile devices.  Just like garage doors are not normally associated as the basic building materials for houses, nobody in boot camp ever told a soldier that their best friend is their smart phone.

So far, mobile devices have proven to be a pretty good fit. Mobile devices are excellent platforms for virtual programs, videos, interactive simulation systems, and smart books. Familiarity with specialized military apps allows the soldier to seamlessly transition to operations in which mobile devices are used as lightweight, mobile repositories for doctrinal manuals, as well as maintenance & technical manuals. They can even be used for educational games (in the past soldiers learned to identify soviet aircraft from specially designed playing cards).

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Their single most important quality of mobile devices is that they are dynamic.  No more paper manuals or books that are outdated by the time they are printed. Mobile devices can be updated instantly.

The embrace of mobile devices for training reflects a subtle, but meaningful change. The old model of attending a class where a teacher pours knowledge into a soldier’s empty heads is fading.  Instead, the soldier is trained to learn.  He is given personal responsibility for his education and he is expected to be disciplined about continuously improving his skill sets. He will carry this self-motivated attitude into the field, where he will need to constantly refresh his knowledge. The 24/7, anywhere, anytime nature of mobile devices fits this outlook perfectly.

The old formula to deal with the ever increasing burden of training soldiers was “train the trainer.” The new model may be described as “equip the learner.”

These trends are reflected in counter IED training. Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) is tasked with countering the “number one killer of Soldiers on the current battlefields worldwide.”  As they state on their training webpage, “Because the IED threat is constantly changing, the counter-IED fight is dynamic, and maintaining effectiveness remains an enduring requirement of training solution development.”  Just like the rest of the military, JIEDDO has embraced mobile devices as a solution for the need of continuous training.

For the purposes of C-IED training, JIEDDO’s Instructional Technology Development Team (ITDT) developed what it describes as “Digital Learning Content products.”  It is telling that these “products” support several types of learning: institutional, operational, and self-development.  Just offering these options conveys an important message; a warfighter’s training never ceases.

Through its Joint Center of Excellence, (JCOE), JIEDDO has a small team of personnel located in Afghanistan conducting an exhaustive lessons-learned program.   Brigade and regimental combat team staffs are debriefed at 90-day, mid-tour, and post-deployment milestones.  Training is updated with relevant information.

Let’s formulate a hypothetical example in which updated information could be critical. The enemy favors planting IEDs on roads a military vehicle has previously used. Currently, warfighters use a map application on their mobile devices to avoid routes that have been already traveled.  Suppose the enemy wises up to this tactic? Considering the flexibility and ingenuity they have shown in the past, this is certainly possible. A sudden switch in tactics could make the most-used road the safest one. Thanks to mobile devices, a warfighter can be informed of this life-saving information in real time.

In keeping with the military’s aversion to committing to any specific hardware, these Digital Learning Content products are available on multiple platforms. The Digital Learning Content products described above were deliberately designed to function within a “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” environment.

However, as the distinction between training and deployment becomes blurred, the military cannot ignore basic hardware issues.  If mobile devices are used for field training (and communication, situational awareness, and other purposes), how secure is it?  Is the information on it secure if a soldier is captured with his mobile device?   Is a password log-in good enough protection?   Is there a software solution that can thoroughly wipe the hard drive if the wrong key combination is pressed?   Or does it require a physical anti-tamper device that melts the whole thing down?  If it does have wireless and/or Bluetooth, how do you make it hack/virus/malware proof?

The military has focused on creating applications, specifically to avoid committing to one hardware device. Obviously, this is completely impractical for devices carried in theater.  Logistics for heterogeneous platforms would be a nightmare.

Which brings us to the critical issue of ruggedness. Commercial mobile devices, such as smartphones, are notoriously fragile. Obviously, fully rugged devices are needed in theater. If training is designed to seamlessly blend from stateside to areas of operations, doesn’t it make sense to use the same mobile device? Rugged mobile devices for domestic training would decrease the amount of downtime due to equipment failure and breakage.

JIEDDO has made significant progress in incorporating mobile devices into their training, and adjusting their doctrine to meet contemporary needs.  Still, more needs to be done.

For more information on rugged mobile devices, contact Rob Culver, AMREL’s Director of Business Development – DoD Programs. He can be reached at (603) 325 3376 or

Seven things you should know about FirstNet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe First Responder Network Authority, known as FirstNet, was established by Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  It is tasked with creating a single nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.  Vendors are hungrily eyeing its $7 billion budget, while many public safety officials hope that it will finally provide leadership and relief for the long standing problem of interoperability.

Here are seven things you should know about FirstNet: Read more

Do you need a rugged computer?

Do you need a rugged computer


When AMREL did its annual review, we were surprised by one finding: there was a marked uptick in the number of people buying rugged computers for personal use. While there has always a few folks who bought rugged platforms for themselves, our traditional customer base has been overwhelmingly enterprise oriented.

Why this sudden interest in rugged computers by consumers? Should you be considering a rugged computer for yourself or your organization?

Read more

What to look for in a rugged handheld device [Infographic]

Handheld infographicThis handy-dandy animated infographic gives tips for evaluating rugged handhelds.  View it here.

New! ROCKY DF6 Rugged Handheld – Small SWaP, Big Options

Filename_03AMREL announces the launch of ROCKY DF6, a fully rugged handheld that’s small on Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) requirements, but big on options.  This is AMREL’s fourth generation of embedded products.

“It’s amazing how many options we packed into such a small piece of real estate,” declared Richard Lane, AMREL’s Vice President for Strategic Business Development. “The whole platform weighs less than a pound, and is less than a inch thick, but there are three separate locations for antennas, as well as three different spots for connectors of your choice. Once again, AMREL has taken the lead in mobile computing.” Read more

New Android Interoperability Capability [FREE DOWNLOAD]

rightside_menu_5You may not have had a chance to see AMREL’s new interoperability capability at AUVSI, but you can read about it on your free download.  Just as our Flexpedient® technology revolutionized OCUs for UGVs, we think interoperable Small Lightweight Expansion Devices (SLED) will become standard for handheld applications.   Click here.

Big Brother, We are Watching You: An Opinion about PRISM, New Technology, and Privacy

Big Brother and Privacy

Privacy in the news

If you follow the news, it seems that many technological advances – computers, internet, emails, cell phones, and even unmanned systems – have turned against us.  Instead of tools that serve, they have become instruments that watch and track.

Leaked documents revealed widespread government intrusion into emails and telephone metadata. Senators have raised suspicions about intrusive FBI investigative techniques.  States fear Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and are restricting police access to them. Activists groups are agitating for privacy protections.

Even Superman is annoyed. In the movie Man of Steel, he trashes a UAV that was following him, while growling, “You can’t find out where I hang up my cape.”

Read more