Mar 24 2020

Steps Utilities Can Take to Ensure Devices Stay Healthy

As utilities grow more dependent on mobile technology, maintaining devices properly is crucial.

Utilities have grown increasingly dependent on mobile technology over the past several years, and that’s not expected to change. Employees in the energy and utilities industry work in expansive fields, large power plants and wide service areas — all circumstances where mobility is critical. 

“2020 Vision: The Future of Field Operations,” a report from Zebra Technologies, found that 73 percent of respondents working in the industry considered their company to be a mobile-first organization. They say mobility is driving productivity, with 75 percent agreeing that mobility is leading to increased satisfaction at work.

These positive results, both for productivity and morale, will push more organizations to adopt mobile devices more widely, according to Zebra. Right now, only about 26 percent of energy and utilities companies have equipped at least half their workforce with mobile devices. By 2025, that’s expected to increase to 43 percent.

As utilities continue to expand their use of devices to mission-critical operations, it’s crucial that they’re taken care of. Security and maintenance will be key to making sure everything continues to run smoothly.

Why Mobile Devices are Critical to Utilities

In order to know the best ways to keep mobile devices healthy and operational, it’s important to look at how they’re being used. Organizations have been expanding their use of mobile devices for years as a key tool to keep employees up to date with the latest data and mapping. One of the most popular uses is for technicians in the field.

“The expectations businesses and customers have for the energy and utilities sector have never been higher,” the report notes. “They demand uninterrupted service and won’t tolerate outages, which makes the ability to connect from anywhere, at any time, a critical component for field technicians’ success.”

While response times, withstanding weather conditions, and ensuring safety of workers were ranked as the top challenges facing the industry, organizations see the benefits mobility can provide in these areas. Reduced operating costs, increased worker satisfaction and decreased liability exposure were ranked as the top three benefits of mobility, according to respondents. Improvements to wireless technology, such as the emergence of 5G, power stronger connections, allowing technicians and other workers to have real-time information at their fingertips about service issues, weather and machine operability.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read how unified endpoint management is crucial for IoT-heavy utilities.

How to Keep Mobile Devices Healthy

Because so much of this work is done outdoors, durability is the first barrier to making sure devices are running smoothly. Rugged technology is crucial in making sure devices will continue to operate in harsh conditions. Between weather and general wear and tear from the outdoors, any mobile device has to have that outer layer of protection to stay functional for organizations. 

It’s not just the outside of these devices that needs to be taken care of, it’s the inside as well. Security is a big concern for utilities, which can suffer major setbacks if service to customers is interrupted. As these threats grow ever more complicated, having a next-generation endpoint security solution can secure the comprehensive defense that organizations need. Multiple layers using intelligence to keep ahead of potential breaches can help utilities avert disaster, writes Jeff Falcon, who leads CDW's security solution architect team.

“By drilling down into the specific details of an incident, such as who the target is, what the attacker is trying to exploit and what other kinds of incidents may be taking place, a next-gen endpoint solution can identify the intent of an attack,” Falcon writes. “With this information, an organization can prioritize the mitigation of high-risk vulnerabilities.”

For organizations that have a complex mobile program, a mobile device management solution may be a good option. Experts can tailor services to the utility’s needs, managing the entire lifecycle of the device from purchase and software updates to security. Maintaining the health and longevity of each device is crucial in optimizing the value for utilities.

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