The Future Of Work: Risk And Reward In The Mobile Workplace As the future goes increasingly mobile, it's predicted that mobile devices will continue to transform the American workplace.

By David Wither

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According to a 2015 Pew Internet Research study, more than two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. 46% of smartphone users say they couldn't live without them. Smartphones keep us connected – to the latest news, to our friends and family, and for most users, to our job. They eliminate the need to be tied to your desk to access the information you need to be more productive.

Yet for many businesses, mobile phones and devices create almost as many challenges as they solve.Mobile security is a huge hurdle. In some industries like supply chain and logistics, there are questions about the durability of these devices. And as technology continues to advance, the devices themselves are evolving.

Mobile Security Risks

As workers increasingly use personal devices to access data on corporate networks, important business data becomes vulnerable to cybercriminals.

PC World recently reported that according to the Government Accounting Office, the number of malicious software hacks aimed at mobile devices rose about 185% in less than a year. Hackers target mobile devices as a means of entry into corporate networks due to their tendency to be poorly secured. Because mobile devices tend to be managed by users themselves rather than IT professionals, they also tend to operate outdated operating systems that are prime targets for hackers.

To understand and resolve these risks, businesses need a plan for managing the mobile devices on their networks. A "Bring Your Own Device" or BYOD plan, along with taking mobile device management seriously, are critical considerations in today's increasingly mobile world.

As part of this, businesses musteducate their mobile users about how to secure their mobile devices. Adding a secure password and using two step authentication can help protect business data from the physical risk of device theft. Updating software and operating systems, using encryption to protect data as it moves across wireless networks, and avoiding the use of unprotected WiFi networks can also help to minimize risk.

Mobile Moving Into More Workplaces

Other challenges with mobile devices exist, too. Consumer mobile devices are not generally intended for heavy industrial use, yet because of their convenience, even detractors admit that users tend to prefer them. To meet this user preference, app vendors are rushing into the market, developing barcode scanning, sales order and inventory management tools that can be downloaded to a smartphone with the convenience of an app.

These tools are growing in popularity among smaller businesses, but at the enterprise level, ruggedized industry-specific devices still rule the day.Proponents of ruggedized devices like the barcode scanners used track inventory in supply chain environments say that those devices are better suited for industrial environments because they are less expensive, last longer and require less maintenance repairs than consumer-grade devices.

One company that has been at the forefront of this debate is EMS Barcode Solutions, a Plano, Texas-based reseller of inventory and asset tracking software for manufacturing, transportation and logistics, health care and government. According to EMS Barcode Solutions Founder, Eric Sutter, "companies need to look at the total cost of ownership (TCO) before making a decision between industrial devices and consumer mobile.Durability and reliability drive TCO down, but as consumer devices become more reliable they are likely to become a more viable competitor in the enterprise supply chain space. EMS Barcode Solutions acquired Barcode Trading Post, which expanded their barcode repair business, which is another strong way to lower the TCO for enterprise customers.

Beyond Mobile – The Future Is Wearable

While the debate between ruggedized and consumer grade devices rages on, another category of mobile device may be set to change the face of the American workplace. Wearables – often limited in our imaginations to fun-to-use "toys" like the Apple Watch and FitBit – are being developed that can help in multiple industrial applications.

One such device, a wearable glass similar to Google Glass, was recently adopted by a subsidiary of logistics giant DHL. The glass helped the company reduce its packing and shipping time by an astounding 25 percent.

As the future goes increasingly mobile, it's predicted that mobile devices will continue to transform the American workplace. Businesses must understand the risks and rewards that these devices bring to the workplace environment, even as the technology itself continues to evolve.

David Wither

Team and Startup Management Coach, Wither Leadership Consulting

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