Bring Your Own Device
Addressing Device Flexibility in a Mobile Control Environment
Enterprise applications that empower the C-suite, customer interface and feld force have made the transition to mobile, driven by distributed work-forces, the value of connectivity and the ubiquity of capable
devices. However, industrial control applications have largely
remained locked in back rooms and attached to fxed equipment. They are static and often proprietary and unyielding
to creative application and data sharing. But that’s changing.
Inexpensive “black box” devices with a short-range Ethernet radio interface, WiFi compatibility and the capability to
handle many I/O points are broadening mobile applications
within industrial control system environments. These applications can provide improved data access, especially for preventive maintenance and troubleshooting; greater effciency
compared to manual data gathering; and less danger to employees from arc-fash hazards associated with live electrical
equipment. Accompanying this transition is the concept of
BYOD (bring your own device).
While the hardware required of a solution such as black
box is negligible in cost, the deployment of special-purpose
mobile devices can be cost-prohibitive for large and distributed organizations. An extremely fexible application interface
lends itself to the relatively new BYOD phenomenon, which
changes the economic paradigm of mobile deployment. A
$100 tablet can serve as the gateway to detailed, anywhere,
anytime equipment control and data access.
In simple terms, BYOD refers to the policy of permitting
employees to bring personally-owned mobile devices to the
workplace and to use them to access privileged company information and applications. In high-growth markets such as
Brazil, BYOD has become the de-facto standard. According
to research frm Ovum, upwards of 75 percent of corporations there have enabled enterprise mobility via BYOD policies. In developed markets where legacy IT investments prevail, that fgure approaches 50 percent.
BYOD begins with an application interface that’s device-agnostic. It’s built using SVG (scalable vector graphics) technology, which automatically scales to any device. Using a specifc manufacturer’s protocol typically
locks the enterprise into a specifc hardware platform,
often requiring an outlay of thousands of dollars. The
alternative — changing screen sizes to accommodate mobile
device users — requires expensive and manual code rewrites.
With new interface devices, any enterprise-authorized device,
from any manufacturer, will work out of the box.
For municipalities operating large industrial plants where
capital investment limitations exist, the cost savings enabled
by BYOD can mean the difference between project discussion and project launch. Allowing employees to bring their
own devices contributes to keeping project costs below capital investment limits. The cost avoidance enabled by preventive maintenance and improvements for mean time to failure
solidifes the ROI, typically resulting in cut maintenance budgets and end-of-year surpluses.
For many organizations, the concept of BYOD is new and
foreign. In IT departments, security is often the primary concern. What if an employee uses his or her smartphone to access the company network and then loses it? How can the
enterprise thwart access to unsecured data by untrusted par-ties? How can it avoid a security breach when an employee
leaves the company with his or her corporate device?
To alleviate these concerns, a security appliance between
the interface and the mobile devices secures data transmission, and dedicated WiFi access to monitoring and reporting
is username and password protected. Another password protocol is employed to enable remote access to control panels.
Redundant password protection mitigates the threat of unscrupulous users should a device go missing, and employees
who leave the company are simply locked out of applications
via password change and/or application removal.
Early adopters of BYOD policies also struggle with data-plan expense sharing. As less-expensive, cell-based, dynamic
IP becomes the norm for mobile Internet access and data plan
expenses fall, this is a fast-fading issue. In most cases, employees encourage BYOD: In a recent survey from Unisys, some 44
percent of job seekers viewed an organization more positively
if company applications were supported on their device.
As the control system industry moves inevitably to a more
mobile-accessible environment, BYOD will be front and center, and companies will need to fnd their own correct approach to the subject. If so, they can capitalize on the high-capacity processing of minute monitoring standards and the
benefts from improved access to control system data. WW
About the Author: Leelon Scott serves on the WWEMA Board of Directors and is
Director of OEM Business Development for Revere Control Systems, a Birmingham,
Ala.-based independent control system integrator offering turnkey automation, communication and control systems for water and wastewater equipment manufacturers.
Circle No. 247 on Reader Service Card
BY LEELON SCOTT