By Sue Poremba
David Goldschlag, chief strategist for Pulse Secure, is a master of the mobile office. The company he works for is based in California, but he lives and works on the East Coast, as well as spending time on the road. Even when at the home office, he has to find makeshift work spaces. To do his job, he has to rely on a variety of devices and applications that connect to the Internet — those that fall in the Internet of Things (IoT)
Goldschlag is one of a growing number of workers who isn't tied down to a desk in an office, instead using coffee shops, shared workspaces or even park benches as their “headquarters." Mobile workers are also out in the field, like construction workers, who finish paperwork from the front seat of a truck.
The advent of Wi-Fi made the concept of the mobile office possible. But the days of simply connecting a laptop to the Internet at a local café are long gone. The mobile workforce – Starbucks Warriors, if you will – requires much more tech power, including IoT devices.
IoT devices boost workflow
Goldschlag says his mobile office consists of a smartphone and laptop. But he also uses Google Voice, which rings on his computer as well as his phone, plus a smartwatch that connects to all of his devices without a lot of extra distraction. The best part of IoT in the mobile office space? The devices and apps are affordable and easily accessible from your favorite gadget store.
“Deskless workers are at an advantage when it comes to leveraging IoT technology," says Mike Karlskind, is vice president of product marketing with ClickSoftware, a workforce management tech provider. Wearables are especially useful for those who aren't sitting at a desk to work.
“For example," Karlskind continues, “for a utility repair person fixing a transformer or a technician fixing an ATM machine, hands-free communication makes a lot of sense, and wearable communication is a game changer. Granting them the ability to complete tasks via their wrist or with glasses means that they do not have to stop what they are doing to take a call, look up product specifications or acknowledge receipt of their next job from the back office. There are huge efficiency gains that come with this type of multitasking."
IoT also allows you to easily focus on the tasks at hand, says Walter Kuketz, CTO, Collaborative Consulting. He acts a mentor to startup companies, many of which are mobile. You can put more attention to details like sales, networking and product development because the platforms used in IoT are easy to use.
“The startup does not have to get printing going, work out video logistics or spend time on any non-value add activities," says Kuketz. “One less hour on infrastructure means another meeting with an investor, mentor, customer or potential employee."
IoT device options for the mobile worker are practically endless. Of course there are laptops, tablets, and smartphone. But wearables from smartwatches to fitness trackers (For sedentary independent workers, fitness trackers get you moving), and smart or WiFi-connected cars are also game-changers as well.
“Today's connected car is really nothing more than a very big mobile device," says Patrick Kehoe, chief marketing officer with Arxan Technologies. “Thanks to IoT, mobile workers can look at their vehicles as a mobile office. Sure, you can already hold a conference call on Bluetooth while driving down the highway. But how about video-conferencing business partners across the globe on your car console, as long as the sensor picks up that your car's gear shift is in park?"
Security still a big concern
And don't ignore the importance of security. In the traditional workplace, you have someone watching out for your security needs. There are firewalls, encryption, and AV software in place. The mobile worker, on the other hand, has to especially aware of privacy and security risks. IoT applications that are on devices can be susceptible to malicious code modifications which skilled hackers can use to bypass and tamper with controls or steal sensitive data, Kehoe warns.
So mobile workers will want to make sure they budget not just for a device or software, but for security concerns as well. (Although free apps like Google Docs or Dropbox help with finances.)
“You will want to budget for advanced protection for mobile applications that are used to control an IoT device (think an office lock system.), IoT device firmware and embedded applications, and applications running on an open IoT platform (such as Android Wear or Apple Watch)," Kehoe points out.
He adds: “Compromised or hacked IoT applications can result in a myriad of issues from intellectual property theft; confidential data theft; customer credentials (identity; bank; credit card data) stolen."
IoT can empower the mobile worker in ways we've never seen before. In the past, enterprise was at the forefront of technology advances, but as David Goldschlag points out, with the advent of IoT, that has shifted. Technology is now consumer driven and manipulated to fit into the business setting. Mobile workers are at the head of that movement.
“It's all about picking the platform that works best for you," says Goldschlag, and then running with the IoT tech that fits neatly into a backpack.
-Sue Marquette Poremba is a freelance writer who specializes in network security and new technologies.