How many mobile devices is too many mobile devices?
For Aaron Barthle, vice president of IT at Morning Pointe Senior Living, the answer was clear: The facility’s associates were switching between so many devices they might as well have added “juggling” to their resumes.
The 23-year-old company, based in Ooltewah, Tenn., owns 32 senior care communities spread across Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, all dedicated to assisted living, personal care and Alzheimer’s memory care.
“The role of technology in how we provide services to residents has continued to evolve over the years,” says Barthle. And by 2018, the technology that staff was using was becoming a burden.
“Going into a senior living community, you would notice that our care staff would be holding a number of devices: a two-way radio for communication throughout the community, a nurse-call pager and, in many cases, a cordless phone,” Barthle says. “To have a care individual who’s roaming the building and juggling two or three different devices became a problem we wanted to solve.”
Morning Pointe tried replacing the range of devices with consumer-grade smartphones, to no avail.
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Eventually, it discovered the Zebra Technologies TC20 mobile computer, a do-it-all device capable of replacing the radios, pagers and phones that staff relied on. The TC20, seen above, is roughly the size of a smartphone, but is far more rugged and durable.
“By using applications and enterprise mobility management software, we’re able to present the care staff with a single device that is industrial-grade and uses wireless internet,” says Barthle.
The launch meant evaluating the wireless infrastructure within each individual community. Barthle found that Cisco Meraki, which Morning Pointe uses for wireless infrastructure and network backbone, was up to the task.
SMBs Have Started Adopting Enterprise Mobility Management
Organizations are increasingly adopting enterprise mobility management solutions as they realize that the native security and management controls of individual mobile devices are inadequate in many business settings.
“EMM solution providers recognize that the trend is toward increasing complexity when it comes to employees and their mobile devices,” explains Jeanine Sterling, Frost & Sullivan’s mobile and wireless communications industry director.
While EMM vendors have typically targeted large enterprises in highly regulated industries, Sterling sees a burgeoning move toward capturing small and midsized businesses.
“The tiered nature of most EMM suites does allow smaller businesses to opt for more limited support and capabilities,” she says. “There are some excellent, affordable first-tier solutions that can meet their needs.”
Endpoint Management Is Getting Easier for Businesses
The Walsh Group, a construction services provider with offices across the U.S. and Canada, uses Microsoft Intune to manage its inventory of iOS endpoints, primarily a mix of iPad devices and iPhones. This allows The Walsh Group to track lost or stolen devices and remotely wipe them — important in construction, which often deals with confidential plans.
“Intune also lets us push our corporate apps over to the device,” such as one that cuts down on distracted driving by remotely switching devices to hands-free options when a vehicle is in transit, says Dan Smolilo, The Walsh Group’s director of process and innovation.
The company also has an internal app store and takes advantage of security features like multifactor authentication. Since piloting Intune with a group of 100 Apple devices in 2016, The Walsh Group has fully embraced the platform, using it to manage 3,450 devices.
The Walsh Group’s IT department appreciates the simple, security-focused management Intune provides. But the benefits to the firm’s employees are just as clear, says Smolilo.
“In the construction industry, for the longest time, it was walking outside with rolls and rolls of drawings, rolling them out, realizing, ‘Oh, I grabbed the wrong set of drawings. Now I’ve got to go back to the trailer and find the right set.’ It makes us a lot more mobile,” he says.
The EMM Features Every Business Should Seek
Beyond being able to easily carry construction drawings, site managers can have all the other documents associated with a build, such as product data and specifications, at their fingertips. And the devices incorporate management tools that allow for remote tracking of orders, deliveries and daily reports, says Smolilo.
“We can actually be out there, focused, in the field — not sitting in a trailer,” he adds. “It allows us to be really hands-on.”
There’s no single EMM solution that will fit every use case, but companies should consider several key features.
First, Sterling says, they should look for a solution that is ready to handle the full range of endpoints, from mobile devices to desktop computers and wearables.
She also emphasizes security, which EMM providers are doing more to prioritize. “Mobile threat defense used to be treated as a separate, nice-to-have service available from third-party specialists,” says Sterling. Increasingly, though, it’s considered integral, with some solutions incorporating machine learning techniques and predictive analytics for a truly proactive defense.
For companies on tight budgets or with limited IT staff, Sterling points to cloud-delivered EMM, with its flexible pricing and easy implementation. And, she says, the right EMM solution should be tightly integrated. Single-console visibility should be the goal.
Finally, though, it comes down to user experience.
“These solutions should make workers’ and administrators’ jobs easier, not impose management and security mechanisms that slow down productivity or narrow choice,” Sterling says.
For Morning Pointe, day-to-day management of the TC20 fleet is accomplished through the IBM MaaS360 mobile device management solution. “That allows us the ability to push out application updates, to lock down the device and to present the user with a clean interface,” explains Barthle.
They call the configured TC20s “OnPointe smartphones.” The staff response has been completely positive.
“It’s intuitive, and they just fell in love with it,” says Barthle. “The intersection of people, technology and care is really where I like to see us thrive. The IT department’s internal motto is ‘Caring for the caregivers,’ and that’s something we’ve really been able to accomplish here.”