BYOD is viable industrially

 Oliver Sturrock, CTO of Schad Automation explains why HTML5 and BYOD technology will be penetrating more industrial plants very soon.

BYOD ‘Bring Your Own Device’ has reshaped the way technology is purchased, managed and procured. What originated as a trend amongst white collar business workers has now grown to the point that 62% of companies either already have a BYOD policy in place, or plan to do so by the end of 2013. (This is based on research released by ZDNet/TechRepublic in their 2012/3 BYOD Business Strategy Survey)

In its basic form, BYOD refers to the practice of employees making use of personal technology devices – tablets, smartphones and laptops – in their workplace. Its practical definition varies from workers simply accessing work related emails on personal smartphones or tablets, to organizations subsidising the cost of their workers’ own mobile devices, in return for them using these devices during their working day to access business applications and data.

Consumerization of IT influences the adoption of BYOD

We all like to have the latest gadgets and technology has become a lifestyle statement. So much so, that the distinction between a worker using business technology and being a direct consumer of personal technology is eroding. The rapid pace at which consumer mobile technology continues to advance means there will be constant demand from the consumer/worker to be using up to the minute devices – whether at work or during leisure time. Maintenance engineers working with automated assets are no exception to this trend.

This introduces another major trend influencing the adoption of BYOD strategies within organisations – the so-called ‘consumerization of IT’. It refers to the tendency for employees to have more advanced technology to manage their personal lives than might be available for their use within the workplace. Businesses need to adapt to the challenges that consumerization of IT creates, particularly in terms of the expectations users may have of technology they are required to use within the workplace. Again, industrial and engineering users are not exceptions to this need.

How is technology accelerating BYOD within industrial environments?

Additional advances in application development technology – specifically in the form of HTML5 – have made BYOD a viable IT strategy in the short to medium term. HTML5 is a ubiquitous technology that allows software developers to create a single application which really can run on any device, and support offline working.

Support for offline working

The ability for HTML5 to support so called ‘disconnected working’ offers another specific benefit for automation users, especially in the context of mobile enterprise asset management – EAM. Maintenance engineers may experience extended periods within the working day when they need to continue working whilst disconnected from the main EAM system.  When breaks in coverage occur, data captured is stored locally on the device. At the end of the shift when they come back into coverage, all this is uploaded back into the EAM system.

Today, every worker is much more than an engineer or technician responsible for asset maintenance. They are consumers and users of up-to-the-minute technology: after a day’s work they consume media via iPads, Skype with friends on Android devices and communicate using Twitter and Facebook. Being surrounded by technology like this brings an expectation for the ability to extend the convenience mobility at this scale brings into the workplace too.

It is only a matter of time before the advent of HTML5 will make BYOD, and with it, the widespread adoption of mobile EAM solutions a daily reality.

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