Mobility: BYO computing has arrived

Smartphones are changing how users interact with the internet, though as Ulrika Hedquist discovers, there are major security concerns

One percent of Trade Me users are now accessing the website via smartphones. That doesn’t sound like much, but according to spokesperson Paul Ford, that equalled 1.5 million mobile visits in April. Breaking down that one percent, he says around 23 percent visited the company’s mobile site and 77 percent visited via the Trade Me iPhone app.

“Mobile has been talked about as being ‘up and coming’ for a long time – it looks like it might have arrived,” Ford says.

Mobile activity started to increase significantly after the app was launched six months ago he says. The app has had 110,000 downloads so far and is still being downloaded about 3000 times each week, with around 3000 items being sold on Trade Me via the iPhone app every week.

The most used functions are search and checking watchlists, says Ford. The biggest recent mobile sale was a motor home that sold for $140,000 via the iPhone app, he says.

These numbers give an indication that smartphones are on the rise, which is backed up by research firm IDC.

It is seeing a continued demand for mobility in New Zealand with a “real passion” for devices and mobile apps and solutions, says IDC’s research manager of telecommunications, Rosalie Nelson.

There are two main trends in this field – evolving user expectations and the maturity of disruptive IT technologies, such as cloud services, mobile devices and apps, broadband and social networking, she says which are moving into mainstream IT services.

Total mobile connections are predicted to grow from 5.26 million in 2010 to 5.9 million in 2015, according to Nelson. That is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.4 percent over the period.

Mobile data revenues are expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1 percent from $736 million to $1.08 billion in 2015, but mobile voice revenues are predicted to decline from $1.17 billion to $950 million through to 2015 – a CAGR decline of 4.2 percent. Driven by lower mobile termination rates and increased competition in the market, total mobile revenues are expected to grow at a slower pace, at a CAGR of 1.3 percent, from $1.91 billion to $2.03 billion.

The consumerisation of IT is still a strong trend with staff expecting the same tools and services at work as they use at home. The challenge for businesses is managing this wide range of consumer tools, she says.

Smartphone use at Trade Me

Trade Me supports Blackberry and iPhone devices for staff, on about a 70-30 percent split, says head of infrastructure, Matt van Deventer. The company is also trialling some support for Windows Phone 7 and Android.

The consumerisation of IT means businesses have a harder job working out the best way to support mobile devices in a secure way to make sure confidential data doesn’t go walkabout, says van Deventer. Trade Me is currently using encryption, as well as having password policies and protections in place. The company also has the ability to wipe devices remotely, he says.

“We treat our staff like adults, so we don’t lock any sites down,” he says. “We do have policies around the use of the internet and mobile, but it all boils down to trusting our people to be sensible.”

The company is also trialling iPads, says van Deventer.

“A couple of our teams have them to play with. We don’t see tablets replacing laptops in the foreseeable future, but they do some cool things easily so they could end up being complementary or a nice addition.”

Wi-fi-enabled devices, please!

At Christchurch-based Tait Radio Communications, staff who travel overseas and use roaming are asked to have a wi-fi-enabled device. This is simply to keep costs down, says company CIO George Elder. If they are not doing roaming, they can have any mobile phone, he says. Tait has the policy that staff own their own mobile phone.

“The company contributes a fixed amount to the cost of the phone, so if people want a phone with lots of features, that’s fine, but they will have to pay the difference,” says Elder.

The iPhone is currently the mobile device of choice at the company. Elder puts this down to the usability of the device, the ability to read attachments, the quality of browsing and its general “sexiness”.

The policy that staff own their phones means if someone leaves the company, they take the handset with them. Staff are also asked to pay for personal use of the phone. Managers have access to a tool to monitor usage, but it’s very rarely used as there is a lot of trust, says Elder. The company uses software from Vodafone, Spend Manager, to help analyse which calls were personal or business at the end of the month, he says.

While many smartphone manufacturers offer a capability to manage the phone and wipe it automatically, Tait hasn’t adopted that. Should a person lose his or her phone or leave the company, access to mail and calendar is turned off by changing the password.

“We haven’t adopted the opportunity to wipe all the data,” says Elder. “We haven’t seen that as an issue.”

There were some initial concerns about embracing the iPhone, he says. But when it was clear that security around the iPhone was improved, Tait opened the gate to let people have iPhones if that was what they wanted, he says.

“We haven’t had any issues so far. The biggest issue for us is around the cost of using the phone while roaming. It’s not uncommon that someone returns from a short period overseas and have a phone bill of thousands of dollars.”

In addition to smartphones, personal iPads have also started appearing in the business. Tait has solved the security problem by segmenting its network into an internal and guest element.

“The guest element can be used by staff for iPads, phones and other devices without actually coming in within the firewall,” says Elder. “They can get mail, calendar and anything that we decide to expose to the internet on their mobile device. That gives us a certain amount of security.”

He believes there will be a sharp increase of personal devices being used at work.

“More and more people will want to access the information they need for doing their job from any device they happen to have, from any location,” he says.

That trend will bring security challenges. How do we control the deployment of those devices without adding to complexity and cost, asks Elder. Businesses have two choices he believes – they can make a rule and say no to personal devices or they can look into how to adapt to the change.’

A dilemma for the CIO is that the requests to use personal devices instead of company ones, often come from the top of the organisation.

“It is not your average run-of-the-mill person who will turn up with a laptop and say: ‘I want to use this laptop’. It tends to be senior management and that is a little harder to turn down.”

The IT department has to figure out how to adapt and accommodate staff where it can, he says.

On the other hand, smartphones and mobile devices bring huge business benefits, says Elder. For example, being able to check information and email on the go or in the middle of a meeting is valuable.

With this accelerating market for mobile devices, there is a greater demand for cloud computing, he says. Tait has adopted Google Mail and Calendar, which lets staff access the information they need wherever and on whatever device, he says.

“I think we are looking at a future where devices will become a lot more personal and capable, and people will just expect to be able to access information at any point. They won’t be happy to have to go to a particular place to get their information.”

The cloud solution in combination with the mobile devices was helpful when the Christchurch earthquakes happened, says Elder. While some companies had their information kept in buildings that were inaccessible, Tait’s staff could access the applications and data they needed and keep working.

Two phones and two iPads

Craig Scroggie, vice president and managing director of Symantec in the Pacific region, has two mobile phones and two iPads – one of each for personal and business use. Symantec has unique security requirements because the company is one of the most attacked in the world, he says.

“Many people would like to prove their hacking skills – if they could break into Symantec, they can break into anyone,” he says. “Because of that, we have very strict rules when it comes to protecting the company’s brand.”

BYO computing is becoming common but the laws differ between countries, he says. In the US, corporations are required to own the devices if it’s used for business use and the organisation intends to catalogue the information on the device. “If it’s a personal device that would be a breach of privacy,” says Scroggie.

Securing mobile devices is not a technology problem, it is becoming a legislative one, he says. For example, in Australia and New Zealand companies are not allowed to store personal medical information that isn’t required or necessary in the course of the business. But an employee might just forward that information and keep it on their work computer, and in an effort to do the right thing, the company will back up and store all data.

“They don’t know that some of the information you happen to be storing on your laptop is not the company’s,” says Scroggie. “This becomes an issue of information management and information context.”

In the past, mobile phones weren’t a big target for attacks, as not a lot of information was actually stored on them. Now, mobile phones are not only feature-rich, they are being used for things like mobile banking, he says.

The iPhone was initially popular, but now workplaces are being flooded with the latest Android devices. On top of that, the iPad was universally adopted as breakthrough technology.

“The minute the iPad came out, everybody walked into the office with it, just like I did, and tried to connect it to the network. But my CIO said that wasn’t a good idea because it presented us with a security risk.”

He says the protocol that the Apple Store has in place for accepting applications and then downloading them onto the handset is quite secure, while Android is not “policing” its apps in the same way.

His company offers a range of security solutions for mobile including wipe capabilities, remote management of devices, two-factor authentication and encryption.

TRADE ME’S IPHONE APP STATS

Trade Me says the growth in users visiting the website via a mobile device has been driven by the iPhone app it launched last November.

Downloads – 110,000

User sessions via app per day – 42,000

User sessions per week – 275,000

User sessions per month – one million

People who have used app – 86,000

Items sold via iPhone app in a week – 3000

Most used functions - search, checking watchlists

The PC-centric era is over: analyst firm

IDC research predicts that the move to mobility will continue, with a wide range of devices being released and numerous mobile apps. IDC’s 2011 report, ‘Welcome to the New Mainstream’, predicts 330 million smartphones and more than 42 million media tablets will be sold this year.

The “PC-centric era is over”, states the report – within 18 months, more app-capable, non-PC devices will be sold than PCs.

The firm also believes half of the 2.1 billion people that go online regularly will access the internet via mobile devices. “Mobility is becoming the rule rather than the exception for online access — making mobile IT, commerce, payments, health, and so forth very strategic,”the report states.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags paul fordmatt van deventermobile computingSpecial IDTrade Megeorge eldertait radio communications

Show Comments

Market Place

[]